German-Indigenous musical flows at Ntaria in the 1960s
Tiger Tjalkalyeri’s rendition of ‘Silent Night’, or what is tradition anyway?
Keywords:Arrernte musical culture, Hermannsburg Mission (Australia), musical flows, authenticity, ‘Silent Night’ (Christmas carol), Tiger Tjalkalyeri
This article focuses on aspects of Indigenous musical life in the 1960s at and around Ntaria (formerly Hermannsburg) in Central Australia, and isolates one flow between German missionary sources and the Indigenous musical culture—the Christmas carol ‘Stille Nacht’ (aka ‘Silent Night’), which became ‘Inguwa inturtai’, now also known as ‘Hymn 44’. I explore some of the meanings that are invested in a particularly striking yet ambiguous deployment of that song by Tiger Tjalkalyeri, and argue that, in a setting where white Australians have approached Indigenous music with their own classificatory expectations, an ‘Indigenized’ German Christmas carol could have a strange power. ‘Inguwa inturtai’ could upset and unsettle white Australian attitudes towards the ‘authentic’.
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