German-Indigenous musical flows at Ntaria in the 1960s

Tiger Tjalkalyeri’s rendition of ‘Silent Night’, or what is tradition anyway?


  • Andrew Wright Hurley School of International Studies, University of Technology, Sydney



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’.

Author Biography

  • Andrew Wright Hurley, School of International Studies, University of Technology, Sydney

    Andrew Wright Hurley is a Senior Lecturer in the School of International Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. He has published on popular music and cultural history in German and Australian contexts. His book publications include The Return of Jazz: Joachim Ernst Berendt and West German Cultural Change (Berghahn Books, 2009) and Into the Groove! Popular Music and Contemporary German Fiction (Camden House, 2015).


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How to Cite

Hurley, A. W. (2015). German-Indigenous musical flows at Ntaria in the 1960s: Tiger Tjalkalyeri’s rendition of ‘Silent Night’, or what is tradition anyway?. Perfect Beat, 15(1), 7-21.