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Recirculating Nyungar-language songs to enhance social cohesion

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Title: Recirculating Nyungar-language songs to enhance social cohesion
Authors: Bracknell, Clint
Issue Date: 02 Mar 2017
Description: Song is of central importance in Aboriginal Australian cultures and Aboriginal communities engaging with language researchers often prioritise the documentation of songs. Even in areas where Aboriginal languages are endangered and traditional songs rarely performed, songs hold inherent potential to nourish culture, language and wellbeing. In the later stages of a study of Nyungar music from the south-west of Western Australia, the author presented a group of relevant senior Nyungar people with a fragmentary but rich collection of archival songs in the endangered Nyungar language and asked what should be done next. Summing up sentiments of the whole group, Russell Nelly said ‘Well, we got to have all of ‘em [Nyungar people] singing these songs!’ While the repatriating archival song material to Indigenous communities is a common research practice, there is little research on how to effectively use archives to encourage the performance and vitality of Indigenous song in urban/rural contexts where Indigenous language and traditional music are critically endangered.
Many of Australia’s endangered Aboriginal languages could have a better chance of surviving in song, as has been the case with languages no longer spoken but still sung in the Northern Territory. Learning, sharing and performing songs are achievable short-term goals for endangered language communities and the participatory, performative nature of music provides opportunities to enhance social cohesion and share distinct Indigenous cultural identities among Indigenous groups and with the general public. As younger Nyungar people are increasingly motivated to reclaim cultural heritage it is critical that this commence while the oldest generation of Nyungar people familiar with Nyungar language and song are still able to participate in urgent efforts to rectify the intergenerational transmission of song and language. Current research on the recirculation of Nyungar-language songs serves to highlight the proven benefits to social and personal wellbeing emanating from strong attachment to Indigenous cultural traditions. It also expands existing understandings of how song and language contribute to Indigenous wellbeing and social cohesion in a uniquely large, dispersed and urban/rural Indigenous context.
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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