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What to SEE: Kalyakoorl, Ngalak Warangka regional tour

4 July 2023

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse are travelling around Western Australia to bring Noongar language to life through song.

There’s something magical about listening to Ballardong Noongar singer Gina Williams and guitarist Guy Ghouse performing their original songs and covers of classics in Noongar.

In their show Kalyakoorl, Ngalak Warangka (Forever, We Sing), the duo takes audiences on a journey through the four principles of koort (heart), moort (family and community), boodja (land and connection to country) and koorlangka (children and legacy).

Williams’ storytelling weaves the show together, complete with translations to ensure that every audience member becomes part of the renaissance of the Noongar language that we are currently witnessing.

Now audiences in Borden, Harvey, Paraburdoo, Tom Price, Cockburn, Esperance, Manjimup, Kwinana, Cue, Meekatharra, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Narrogin, Merredin and Mandurah will have the opportunity to catch Kalyakoorl, Ngalak Warangka.

Ahead of the mammoth tour Gina Williams took some time out for a Q&A with Nina Levy.

Nina Levy: Gina, how did you meet Guy? And how did you come to collaborate?

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse. Photo: Jarrad Seng

Gina Williams: We’ve known each other for decades; I was working for GWN as a journalist and Guy was playing music. We started working together on various music projects in 2008 and focused on writing language songs as a duo in 2012.

NL: Tell me about your songwriting process – what kicks it off? And how do you get from the initial spark to a song?

GW: For us, there’s really no one way that we write and there’s never any telling what will kick off the process.

Sometimes Guy will have an idea about a melody, and I’ll write some lyrics and it all lines up. Sometimes I just sing something and Guy frames music around it. Occasionally we will set ourselves to write something specific and other times we just bounce ideas around and see what lands.

We also work with people, helping others to write songs and I think that has a really big and important impact on our writing, because the more you write for others, the more you give others the more you seem to have come back to you.

Always, Guy and I are working on something – I think it’s one of those things where we keep doing what we do and we never seem to run out of inspiration or things to write about.

NL: Your friendship seems very playful. Why do you think your artistic partnership works so well?

‘Music is a powerful way for us to talk about difficult things.’ Photo: supplied

GW: Our friendship IS playful. We average 100 schools’ incursions a year (we’ve done around 650 to date and some weeks we will see up to 2000 children). Plus, touring, plus gigging in our own right and writing new works, we spend a LOT of time together, and because of this it’s important to have fun. We were both born in the same year and have similar soundtracks and we giggle at similar things. It all just works, and I think that is what translates on stage.

NL: Tell me about Kalyakool, Ngalak Warangka – what inspired you to make this particular show?

GW: Kalyakoorl, Ngalak Warangka means Forever, We Sing. I love the notion that this is never about what separates us. It’s always about connection, and what brings us together. From the cradle to the grave, we all have soundtracks, and this is a show where we can honour our connections to people and places in story and in song.

NL: Addressing intergenerational trauma is an important part of what you do as musicians but it’s difficult subject matter to deal with in the context of a performance. How do you talk about traumatic content in a way that looks after everyone, including yourselves?

GW: Music is a powerful way for us to talk about difficult things, honour traumatic memories in beautiful ways that bring our stories dignity and integrity. It’s taken me a while to make sense of this, to unpack this notion. I think I’ve come to realise that, while we don’t minimise intergenerational trauma, it has become possible for us to stand in the intergenerational strengths of our ancestors.

NL: One of my favourite songs of yours is “Bindi Bindi” – can you tell the readers about that song?

GW: Oh I LOVE that song as well. Bindi Bindi, the butterfly, is one of my favourite critters. What I love about her is that she’s proof of second chances – just as the caterpillar thinks her time is up and it’s all over, she discovers she’s got wings and she can fly! I also love that butterflies and caterpillars eat well, take lovely naps and always wake up beautiful! (It’s genius, isn’t it? If only life were that simple…)

‘We’re seeing our language awakening and it’s a beautiful thing.’ Photo: supplied

Our language has been a bit like a butterfly. Once, everyone spoke the language of the land, in this case Noongar language. When the settlers came, Noongar people were forbidden to speak our language, and since you cannot separate language from culture, everything got turned down to a whisper. But! It hasn’t died, it’s just taken a nap, and now we’re seeing our language awakening and it is a beautiful thing.

NL: What are some of your favourite Noongar words?

GW: Three favourite words:

  1. Kalyakoorl – means forever, but HEAPS of forever. Kalyakoorl is eternal and all encompassing, kinda like an “everynow” if you could have that as a word (always was, always is, always will be).
  2. Kaya – Hello/Yes (powerful, positive word).
  3. Boorda – Soon. Our belief is we will continue to cross paths (in this life and the next) but when we say “boorda,” it’s the hope of a promise that we will see each other again soon. How beautiful is that?

Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse will be performing Kalyakoorl, Ngalak Warangka (Forever, We Sing) at the following venues (not all booking details available yet – head to CircuitWest’s Shows on the Go Facebook page and Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse’s Facebook page for updates):

Borden Pavilion, Borden, Friday, August 11, 2023
Harvey Rec & Cultural Centre, Harvey, Saturday, August 12, 2023
Ashburton Hall, Paraburdoo, Friday, August 18, 2023
Tom Price Community Centre, Tom Price, Saturday, August 19, 2023
Hamilton Hill Memorial Hall, Cockburn, Friday, August 25, 2023
Esperance Civic Centre, Esperance, Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Manjimup Town Hall, Manjimup, Friday, September 01, 2023
Koorliny Arts Centre, Kwinana, Saturday, September 02, 2023
Cue Town Hall, Cue, Wednesday, September 06, 2023
Meekatharra Town Hall, Meekatharra, Thursday, September 07, 2023
Goldfields Arts Centre, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Saturday, September 09, 2023
Narrogin Town Hall, Narrogin, Saturday, September 16, 2023
Cummins Theatre, Merredin, Friday, September 22, 2023
Mandurah Performing Arts Centre (Fishtrap Theatre), Mandurah, Saturday, September 23, 2023

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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