The text for Badagarang, which was commissioned by Rita Varonen and the Cantinovum Chamber Choir from Finland, is based on five Australian Aboriginal words for “kangaroo”. (There were more than 250 Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia at the time Western civilisation arrived.)
The words are:
- Badagarang – Eastern Grey kangaroo – Sydney (New South Wales)
- Mabi – tree-climbing kangaroo – Ngadjon (Malanda, North Queensland)
- Nganggungu – old boomer (male) kangaroo – Yindjibardi (Pilbara region, north-western Australia)
- Bayiwanarra – Plains kangaroo – Yindjibardi
- Parra – Red kangaroo – Wembawemba (western Victoria)
The opening passage represents a sunrise over the grasslands where the kangaroos are grazing. At first, all that can be seen are glimpses of their ears just above the grass line. With a “tch tch” (tongue click) sound, they then draw themselves up to full height. The piece has a predominance of small interlocking motifs over a pedal or drone bass simulating the traditional didgeridoo’s throbbing fundamental with nasal resonating words in upper parts for tonal colour.
The middle section represents a night scene where the plains kangaroo (bayiwanarra) chants. In the final section (from bar 97) the glissandos, sung on ‘ng’ , represent a kangaroo jumping three times, with each jump a little higher than the last. And finally the kangaroo lands with a ‘tch, tch’ and a stomp.
Performance notes on pronunciation etc. are included with the score. This is an atmospheric performance piece, which could be enhanced with a visual component.