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Our songs are about people. We hear stories. We put the story into songs. Events, celebrations, funerals, so that singing and dancing about everything is how we maintain our culture. We don’t write things down like you mob. Our songs are our history books’

Regina Kantilla

Through Chairman Gibson Illortaminni the Tiwi Land Council recently found an old cassette of Tiwi men singing. It was sold in shops around the country 40 years ago. Many Tiwi will remember Ted Egan – he worked with Aboriginal people in the Territory for many years. When we heard that Ted had recorded these songs we went looking for him.

When recently interviewed Ted Egan said "I recorded the songs in 1976 in Sydney, where I ran the Aboriginal Artists Agency. The Tiwi were in Sydney heading for New Zealand and the South Pacific Festival at Rotorua. Tim Bowden from the ABC organised the actual recording, using very basic gear - probably just a Nagra! On the front cover of the album is Aloysius Puantuiura from the Jikilarrwu clan on Bathurst Island. His very nice portrait photo was taken by Uwe Steinward.

Ted told us he had the original photo and gave it to Sister Ann for the Patikitjali Museum last year. Ted went on to say "I recall that Raphael Apuatimi was there, Leo Tungutalum, and Phelan Kantilla. There were six men and six women in the group to New Zealand. At Sydney airport I had to carry - actually carry - each of the six women down the escalator - they simply refused to try to do it alone. Raised a big laugh. They would not let any of the Tiwi men carry them, but I was held to be OK!!!"

There are seven songs in total. These songs are available to download from the following link: -

Audio Cassette Songs of the Tiwi Side 1

Audio Cassette Songs of the Tiwi Side 2

1. Ingwati the Honey Bees; Timulani the Mosquitoes; Boat Song Aloysius Puantulura; Boat Song Ralphael Apuatimi

2. Kulama Song - Cyclone Tracy

3. The Murderers Song

4. Timulani the Mosquitoes; Train Song

5. Kulama Song - The Aeroplane

6. Kulama Song - Mourning For A Dead Brother

7. Crocodile On The Watch


The TLC has heard that today's song men still know these songs and would like to record them side by side with a view to helping cultural maintenance through the preservation of the old songs and singing styles - and making them available to the wider community. If you are interested in this, please discuss with our anthropologist Helen Haritos when you see her on the islands.

Now that is genuine Aussie Music!

Music forms an integral part of all aspects of life on the Tiwi islands. The Tiwi people sing songs about the land which have been handed down through the generations. They sing about many aspects of their lives, including hunting, cooking, family, celebrations, ceremonies, animals, and plants.

Ngarukuruwala, which means ‘we sing songs’, is a choir drawn from the Wangatunga Strong Women's Group at Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island.  However, the women don't really see themselves as a choir; they don't really rehearse or perform, but just come together to sing. The women share a strong connection through the songs they know, create and sing together almost every day. They perform at ceremonial and social gatherings, with their songs reflecting important community events and telling traditional stories about land and heritage. They not only perform at local events such as the Tiwi AFL Grand Final, but have also performed at the Sydney Opera House, NT Parliament House and the Darwin and Sydney Festivals. Being part of the Wangatunga Strong Women's Group gives the women a sense of pride, identity and belonging. Young women are encouraged to join the group to learn the songs and about the old language and culture. Ngarukuruwala CDs can be purchased here, with the proceeds helping to support the women in future projects.