Songs of Home: The Unique Indigenous Musical Exchange Bringing Cultures Together
For both the Anmatyerr people from Central Australia and the Kam (in Chinese, Dong) people of Liping county in Guizhou province, China, the art of singing is strongly associated with thoughts and feelings of ‘home’.
Last month saw a unique collaboration between these peoples, where women from the Anmatyerr and Warlpiri language groups performed alongside women from the Kam Chinese minority, showcasing their distinct Indigenous musical cultures at a world-first concert held at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music titled Songs of Home.
Anmatyerr and Warlpiri are the main language groups at Ti-Tree in the Northern Territory, and feature traditional songs called awely and yawulyu. Led by cultural leader Clarrie Kemarr Long, the women performed songs in these languages that relate to their homelands, and the family relationships that bind the songs, lands and people together.
The Kam minority people officially number up to 3 million in China, and for many Kam people the first language spoken is a dialect of Kam—a Tai-Kadai family language that is completely different from Chinese and has no widely used written form.
In this awe-inspiring performance, a talented group of Kam women performed songs from a number of Kam musical genres including the choral Kam Big Song, a style of music that was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009 under the title “Grand Song of the Dong Ethnic Group”.
Songs of Home was a remarkable celebration of the richness and depth of Indigenous musical traditions, and one that breathed life into the singular relationship between song and concepts of ‘home’.
If you wish to know more about this collaboration and the song traditions of the Kam and Anmatyerr groups, information about the Songs of Home book is available here.