A Song With No Boss

In this presentation we discuss the process of making A Song with No Boss, a podcast and website from archival audio recordings released in November 2022.
Part detective story, part oral history, it is a story of a traditional travelling ceremony that was popular in the first half of the 20 century, performed by men and women across outback Australia (see map). The ceremony was first documented by Daisy Bates who witnessed it in 1913 and referred to it as Wanji-wanji. The podcast and website brings to the modern airwaves 11 legacy audio of the song recorded from 1955—2017 in four states across a dozen language regions.  The podcast also weaves in contemporary responses to the recordings as the song is still widely known by old people; and it contemplates the close relationship between music, memory and emotion.

In this paper we focus on two issues. One, the process of obtaining permissions to use the recordings, which involved negotiations with the communities of the singers, the recordist and the archive (AIATSIS). The second issue we discuss relates to the collection of contemporary recordings made in the course of the project from 2017-2019. We consider the issue of how these can be linked to the legacy recordings in the archives; and how the results of this contemporary fieldwork can be fed back into the metadata of the legacy recordings held at AIATSIS. Many of the legacy recordings do not identify the singers, the song, its social context or meaning in the metadata. The value of feeding this information back to the archival is apparent in terms of discovery; yet how best to do this is a more complex issue.

Myfany Turpin is an Associate professor at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the University of Sydney. She has written a dictionary of the Australian Aboriginal language Kaytetye and documented traditional music of the Kaytetye, Alyawarr, Anmatyerr, Arrernte, Warlpiri and Gurindji peoples of the Northern Territory, Australia. She has published scholarly articles in music, semantics, phonology and ethnobiology; and has produced multi-media resources on language learning and Aboriginal songs.

Clint Bracknell is a musician and researcher from the south coast Nyungar region of Western Australia. He holds an Australian Research Council fellowship as Associate Professor at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and Kurongkurl Katitjin, Edith Cowan University. Clint recently co-translated a complete Shakespearian theatre work and a dubbed feature film in Nyungar, both world-firsts for languages of Australia. He received the 2020 Barrett Award for Australian Studies and is an elected AIATSIS Council member.

No events are currently scheduled. Details of future events will be posted as they become available.

Date & time

Thu 25 May 2023, 12.30–1.30pm


Online only via Zoom


Myfany Turpin, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney
Clint Bracknell, University of Queensland


Maya Haviland


Updated:  15 August 2023/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications