Meet Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, who craft Noongar lullabies with Koorlangka
The duo's modern take of children's lullabies and songs sung in the Noongar language is sure to a highlight of SOTAstream, one June 1st.
It's National Reconciliation Week this week, and if you're struggling to find some new music to take a listen, may we suggest some of the incredible Indigenous musicians to share new releases this week? There's Miiesha, whose tender debut record is Nyaaringu is a moment of personal reflection – and the accompanying strength – for the Woorabinda-raised woman, including interludes by her late Grandmother. There's also new work by Alice Skye, who puts out career-best music with Grand Ideas, which comes with artwork by Prime Minister of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, Aretha Brown.
Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse's latest record Koorlangka isn't explicitly new – it came at the tail-end of February this year – but it's one worth diving back into, perhaps lost to many amongst the madness of a world descending into the COVID-19 pandemic. It's the first instalment of a four-part Noongar song cycle titled Kalyakoorl – which translates to 'forever' in English – with each sub-section focusing on a specific principle close to their hearts, and close to the hearts of their communities: Koort (Heart), Moort (Family), Boodja (Land) and the recently-arriving opening, Koorlangka (Children/Legacy).
It's a collaborative project between Noongar woman Gina Williams and long-time collaborative partner Guy Ghouse; the former being a musician dedicated to spreading the Noongar language throughout West Australia – and beyond – after learning the language was at-risk of dying out, something which as she explains to The Guardian, encouraged her to enrol in a course to learn her ancestor's words. "In my first class I remember feeling a bit sick from embarrassment and shame; I’m a Noongar and I have to come to a Tafe course to learn my own language! I was the only Noongar in the class," she explained.
Ever since, her work has flirted with the Noongar language, and its intertwining with contemporary music. As a solo musician, her work moves with sensibilities littered across earthy folk and indie, honouring the dense history of her past through melodies that weld themselves with this earthy potency that makes her work almost indulgently rich. "We can honour something that’s sad and really heartbreaking, but we can do it in a beautiful way that brings dignity and integrity to a language that’s on the brink of being extinct," she continues in that aforementioned The Guardian interview, and you can hear that through her work – a combination of sombreness and boldness finding themselves amongst one another, and creating some incredibly special music while they do so.
Koorlangka is something different though, and something Williams hopes will encourage the younger generation to reconnect with the Noongar language in their future, and ensure the whisper that is left of the language could soon blossom into a large, chanting shout. It's a collection of old-fashioned lullabies and children's songs performed in the Noongar language, modernising classic tales from both Indigenous and Anglo-Saxon backgrounds and adapting them for Indigenous Australia; Williams' vocal moving between Noongar and English as twinkling instrumentals from Guy Ghouse, acoustically backing the soothing and comforting vocal of Williams as it swirls and dances around.
The music itself may not be too accessible to the average reader – we doubt many Pilerats readers would be interested in children's music, and we're not too sure how many have kids of their own they could play this to – but that's unimportant, as Koorlangka represents something mightier and more essential to West Australia's history, and how it's preserved in the years to come. As WA's music world continues to grapple with international limelight, Indigenous musicians – and their language and stories – are continually locked out, and that's something Gina Williams is fighting to change.
"I grew up not knowing anything about my true history. I’ve had to go back as an adult and learn. I don’t regret this, but it means I’ve had to claw territory back. I wanted to learn the language, to write songs so that I could teach my children. It’s an incredibly beautiful language – when I hear Noongar language I hear music, it literally sings to me."
Take a listen to the collection of tracks below, and catch Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse at the incoming SOTA Festival SOTAstream, which will bring some of the state's best acts – including Williams and Ghouse – this incoming WA Day, a.k.a. Monday June 1st. Find more information here.
Follow Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse: FACEBOOK