Kaytetye Language and Culture Songs

Kaytetye Songs from Neutral Junction School & Tara Community

For 20 years Music Outback Foundation has had the privilege of working with senior elders and Kaytetye teachers at Neutral Junction School and Tara community, collecting stories and writing songs through regular songwriting workshops on country with Kaytetye elders, musician Steve Berry and linguist Myfany Turpin. This broad collaboration has over time produced an archive of critical importance, as Kaytetye is an extremely vulnerable language at great risk of being lost, making this unique language song writing project an important cultural repository for the stories it holds.

The songs in this collection were written in the Kaytetye language from the start, (pronounced Kay-titch) often using the very words captured in the original stories told on country by Kaytetye elders. Over the years this ongoing collaboration has produced a wonderful collection of authentically written Kaytetye language songs – songs that have become a highly valued addition to Kaytetye literature and local learning resources.

Whether telling traditional stories or recounting cultural memories ages old, the stories contained in these songs have been contributed by Kaytetye people in order to be written into songs accessible to Kaytetye speakers and non-speakers alike. A critical audience for the songs are the children at Tara community. These children are potentially at risk of losing touch with their language, and for them these songs represent an unbreakable link with not only the Kaytetye words, but the traditional stories they tell.

Most of the stories contained in these songs were contributed by the late T. Thompson, a Kaytetye elder of great renown and a man who dedicated much of his life to preserving Kaytetye culture. Also passed away too soon was the wonderful A. Ross – a Kaytetye teacher, mother and dedicated culture-keeper of the Kaytetye people. Music Outback Foundation, including Steve, Myf and all the friends of Neutral Junction school dearly miss the old man Thompson and Ms. Ross. Their contribution to the preservation of Kaytetye language and culture was immense and remains of great importance. In listening to these songs, those of us lucky enough to have been there when they were written will always remember these incredible Kaytetye leaders and special human beings with every word.

Of course, this collection necessarily contains recordings and images of both T. Thompson and A. Ross, and Music Outback Foundation very much appreciates the willingness of family members for us to continue to use these culturally sensitive recordings and images. Their use, along with the songs, will help sustain Kaytetye language and culture in the long term, something that is especially important for today’s Kaytetye children.

We dedicate this collection to the old man Thompson and the wonderful Kaytetye teacher Ms. Ross. Their memory will live forever both in our hearts, at Tara Community and at Neutral Junction School.

Click on the songs in the list to the right to listen to the songs and view lyrics, chords and translations, and enjoy the video below of Neutral Junction School students telling the traditional story of the Moon Man in Arelpe Nharte Erlkwe.

The Kaytetye language is owned by the Kaytetye people of the Northern Territory. These resources are published here for the purposes of Kaytetye education and language maintenance and have been developed following cultural protocols of prior informed consent, attribution to Kaytetye people, communities, cultural integrity and the sharing of benefits.

Music Outback Foundation would like to thank the Batchelor Institute Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics (CALL) and ILA for support in making these Kaytetye language songs and translations available here, a project that is in recognition of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. The NT Dept. of Education and the University of Sydney have also given support for the production of these resources.