An Indigenous Queensland songwriter has written the first song to be sung in Darumbal language for hundreds of years, he says.
Gracemere local Trent White composed Toonooba, a song about the Fitzroy River in central Queensland, which has also caught the ear of Indigenous singer Gurrumul Yunupingu.
Mr White said the song had been very well received by the local community.
“To actually fill a song with Darumbal language is probably a first for a lot of people,” he said.
Indigenous singer Trent White hopes to share the Darumbal language through his songs. (ABC Capricornia: Alice Roberts)
“There are some people in Rockhampton who still have traditional songs in their family but this may be the first one that’s in a contemporary style on a guitar and played in that way.”
A recording of the song was sent to his idol Gurrumul.
“About a month later, we get a message saying that he was very touched by what he heard and basically gave his blessings to keep going and do your best,” Mr White said.
“I think the heart skipped a beat there when I first got the message.”
He said very few people in the community were fluent in Darumbal but it was his goal to become one of them.
“It’s a language that goes back 40,000 to 60,000 years and for the last 200 years, we’re slowly losing language,” he said.
“When you have a language that old, 200 years doesn’t seem that long and it’s very important to Darumbal people and to me personally that we keep that language going.
“It’s not a chance that I want to let slip by and pass onto my children.”
He said he was mostly self-taught in the Darumbal language.
“I’ve been researching for a good part of 10 years now and Aunty Nyoka Hatfield does a lot of work in schools around Rockhampton and I take my hat off to her,” he said.
“I’ve been on my own personal journey, I have had a little help from family, but mainly now, I’m teaching other family members language — that’s family members who are older than me and ones who are a lot younger.”
He said he was very proud of the song and friends and family had become quite emotional hearing it.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions, a lot of joy, a lot of pride and a lot of sadness too,” he said.
“Language is something we hold dear to our hearts and for someone to get up there and sing a song in language is very personal to friends and family.”
He said music had always been a part of his life.
“My love of songwriting pretty much stems from Gurrumul and what he does with his language and the stories that he tells,” he said.
“But writing songs is what I wanted to do in language … I just wanted to give people a taste of when Darumbal people sing about their homeland, that it can be in language.”
Mr White said he was currently working on a few melodies and hoped to follow up with more songs in the future.
“There’s certainly a lot there, a lot to sing about, so I don’t think I’m going to run out of words anytime soon,” he said.