Before British colonisation there were around 250 Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia. Now that number has fallen to below 60 and with the few people that speak them passing, often without a chance to hand down their knowledge, that number is expected to keep declining unless people like Gina Williams help to preserve them.
Singer-songwriter, Gina Williams along with ‘overseas Noongar’ Guy Chouse, have released an album entirely in the Noongar language. Kalyakoorl (Forever) is an attempt to preserve the endangered dialect as well as evoke a sense of pride and awe in listeners.
“This is primarily a Noongar project. There are less than 240 speakers of this language left, so it’s a very rare language and the album is informed by four principles and they are Koort (Heart), Moort (Family), Boodja (Land) and Koorlangka (children and legacy),” says Gina.
Not only did she have the daunting task of writing, performing, and recording the music, she also had to learn it, which is no easy feat as Aboriginal language has been compared to classical Latin in the grammatical sense.
“I feel really privileged. I feel really humbled to be able to sing and perform in language. It’s something that’s taken me a long time to learn and also not just that but to have permission and the blessing of elders in our community to do this,” says Gina.
“It’s really important. It’s not just about standing up and singing these songs, they’ve got to have some kind of substance to them and you can’t do that without community blessing.”
The album, which was released 4 April, was described by Cam Findlay from The Music as “Lyrically emotive and culturally integrated, Kalyakoorl is also well constructed, swinging between thematic elements and melodies with ease,” – “melodies” that wouldn’t exist without Guy.
“He’s what I call an overseas Noongar; he was made in Malaysia and born in Australia. He spent over 25 years living in the Kimberley region and working with our mob in music, he’s loved and adored by the entire community basically and I feel really luck to work with him,” she explains.
“His guitar work is just so precise and so beautiful. It breathes life into these tunes. It’s great.”
For more information on Kalyakoorl and to purchase a copy, visit www.ginawilliams.com.au.