Jurtbirrk is a song genre from Croker Island and the adjacent area on the mainland, in Northwest Arnhem Land. The songs are composed and performed in the Iwaidja language, and inspired by love – affairs and intimate, even sexual relationship between men and women, one of the most common everyday topic in any culture. The sometimes cheeky songs help us to learn about the ‘love-life’ of the Aboriginal people of Northwest Arnhem Land. The Jurtbirrk songs usually composed by one person, performed by one to three men, accompanied by clapsticks (arrilil) and didgeridoo (ardawirr).
Since you are on this website, I suggest you are most interested in the didgeridoo accompaniments. The playing style used with the Jurbirrk songs were described as ‘A’ type by Alice Moyle. This style is widely known as ‘Western Arnhem Land style’, or ‘Mago style’ by didgeridoo enthusiasts, however the didgeridoo playing styles of West Arnhem Land are more colourful and vivid than we could describe them by one term only. An interesting feature of the instrumental accompaniments of Jurtbirrk are the swapping of two didgeridoos during the song session to match the singer’s vocal tone and the melody of the song. As far as I know, there are two different didgeridoo types are recorded on Croker Island: the lower pitched urrunburr, and the higher pitched yidalka artawirr.
Unfortunately, the Iwaidja language is highly endangered today, there are only about 150 people speak it, most of them are living in Minjilang, the small Aboriginal community on Croker Island. The booklet contains the musical transcription of the songs, including the artawirr accompaniments. If you would like to update your collection with a unique CD, do not miss Jurtbirrk, since this is the only known recording of the Love Songs of the Iwaidja People.