Week 1 of the June 2017 Desert Feet Tour…

We had two missions: run a program at the two primary schools in Newman, and inspire and engage young folks at the East Pilbara Youth Centre after school.

Schools Program

The brief – blend musical inspiration with some education, add liberal doses of NAIDOC celebrating and local Martu Wangka language, stir it up with some video film clip production and pour into a bunch of eager young minds! We visited Newman and South Newman Primary Schools. 2 or 3 classes in each school, each day!

The Team – Angus, Keeley, Richard, Ewan, Clifton (Martu rockstar, advisor, translator), Duke (Language Officer from KJ).

The Team: Angus, Keeley, Duke, Clifton, Ewan, (missing Richard).

Fruity Rhythms

Angus drew up a plan to teach the youngsters how to sight-read rhythms. It’s called Fruity Rhythms, where the sounds of different fruit match the rhythms of different musical notation.

  • Crotchet – plum
  • Pair of Quavers – man-go
  • Four Semi-quavers – wa-ter-me-lon
  • …and so on.

He has a method that works the kids through the different rhythms, gets them involved in creating different combinations, and then switches out the fruit for the musical notation. Every single teacher we saw raised their eyebrows in disbelief as the kids as young as 6 were sight reading accurately!


Angus’ old music teacher and friend, Louise Bell showed us this brilliant method on our April 2017 School Holiday Program.

The meaning of Ruka Ruka

Then we worked with Duke (Language Officer with KJ) to translate the meaning of the Wild Dingo Band song  Ruka Ruka.

Ruka Ruka, written in Martu Wangka.

It’s a song about longing for home, being lonely and homesick and thinking about spiritual homelands that are still living without you, but they miss you as much as you miss them. It is a common theme for the Wild Dingo Band songs – but each tune has a different poetic slant to it, they are layered with meaning and double-meanings of words. It’s why they are so popular with their Martu fans. Duke finds them really hard to translate because of the poetry in them, and Clifton (one of Wild Dingo Band’s songwriters) finds it hard to explain to non-Martu people. We just don’t think the same way about land and country and home.

At first, we thought to teach the kids to sing the chorus to the song in Martu Wangka…but then realised that it’s pretty hard for non-Martu kids (and adults) to pick up! So with Duke’s help, we thought to create a semi-translated version:

I miss home, I need to go back home.

Our homes over there are living.

Kakarra, Kakarra, Kakarra (to the east)

Ruka Ruka-rna (I’m here, at sunset).

Argh…but is that cultural appropriation?

Here we were – 5 whitefellas, teaching kids about Martu Wangka – and 4 of us don’t even speak it! We asked around for Martu facilitators to help, but the folks we knew were busy. I felt really nervous about it, but finally got to speak with our cultural advisor Clifton about it, who had talked with others. And…he was wrapped! Martu are proud of their language and culture, and were happy for us to develop this idea of a workshop to convey the ideas, language and meaning in the song. So – where possible of course we invite Martu speakers to deliver the workshops, but if that doesn’t work out, we’ve asked, and been told, that it is OK if we do it. Phew.

In the Martu language jungle!

Fruity Rhythms, Ruka Ruka and then onto learning to sing some Martu Wangka words…to the tune of In the Jungle:

In the desert, the Sandy Desert, Marlu ngarrinpa

In the desert, the Sandy Desert, Marlu ngarrinpa

In the desert, the Sandy Desert, Parnka ngarrinpa

In the desert, the Sandy Desert, Parnka ngarrinpa

In the desert, the Sandy Desert, Karlaya ngarrinpa

In the desert, the Sandy Desert, Karlaya ngarrinpa

Do you know what the words mean? You might have to stay tuned for the video to find out 😉

Richard ‘Richo’ Watson is a bloomin’ legend. He has a creative spark coupled with engineering know-how and give-it-a-crack attitude. He was supposed to be the Tour Coordinator for this whole Tour, but had some business in Perth pop up to interfere with these plans. He could only be with us for the first week, in Newman, as we worked in Newman and South Newman Primary Schools.



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So – we used him up before he had to fly home to Perth. We combined his film-making skills, Green-Screen movie-making know-how and musical abilities into our workshops with the kids in the schools in Newman. He’s in Perth now, editing up a film-clip we’ll send back to the schools to show the kids what we did that week. Check out this one he made with the kids in Jigalong (it’s pretty rad!). It’s going to get it’s premiere viewing at the NAIDOC Concert in Newman, 15th July at Capricorn Oval.

After a week of workshops and practising, we performed the songs with our new schoolkid buddies at assemblies at both schools – thanks guys and gals, you did such a great job!

I was nervous, but you guys kept your cool and sang loud and proud of Martu Wangka! The rockstar himself, Clifton Girgiba from Wild Dingo Band joined us, it was so cool that it all came together so well, Martu Wangka & English, kids and rockstars. The kid were wrapped, teachers were wrapped, principals were wrapped and us?


Youth Centre

Every afternoon from 3pm to 6pm we run music sessions at the East Pilbara Shire Youth Centre, with a view to building skills amongst those crew, and maybe even recording a song or two. There was a Blue Light Disco scheduled for Friday night…who knows, maybe even we could get a band happening to play at that?!

Well. We did. Jordan, Jayden, Ezekiel, Gerald and Jarras worked hard over three days to write, learn, record and then perform their song Jilanya! Recorded and mixed by Keeley, produced by Angus and facilitated by Duke 🙂 it’s being mastered as I type…watch out for a special blog post to listen to it!

Great work guys and gal!