This week on triple j Unearthed I came across so much amazing new music, but one that particularly stood out to me was this one. Ngana Nyunyi is the sophomore single from Tilly Tjala Thomas, an Unearthed High singer-songwriter from Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.
Much of this song is performed in Nukunu language, and it’s exactly this that lies as the heart of this dreamy, folk track. Ngana Nyunyi started as a game Tilly’s father would play with her and her younger sister, asking them “Ngana nyunyi” (What’s that?) and they would reply with the name of whatever that is, but in Nukunu language. It was a way for Tilly’s father to teach his daughters the Nukunu language and strengthen a connection to it.
In the chorus, Tilly Tjala Thomas sings “Wapma yarta, wapma yarta, wapma nhayirringa”, telling us of the Wampa (large carpet python) - an important animal in Nukunu Country. Tilly sings of Wampa being in the land, the skies, and in the waters, something that is at the heart of Nukunu culture.
The music video for the track was directed by Larrakia rapper and producer Jimblah, and in it we see Tilly Tjala Thomas perform the song on Nukunu Country, often surrounded by the beautiful landscapes from the beach to the bushland and in amongst the hills and ranges. It’s a stunning moment to take in as you look at the landscape of the Nukunu Country, while listening to the lyrics and what they mean.
For me, that's what stood out for me this week amongst a lot of great new music. The song has a kind and delicate touch to it that leaves the perfect space for Tilly to fill with the great story of where this song originated and her connection to the words.
Ngana Nyunyi is definitely one to stop and pay close attention to, and I would also say the same for Tilly Tjala Thomas. The emerging artist seems to be giving us a hint of what’s next to come, and has just completed her final year of high school and undertaking a music mentorship with Melbourne/Naarm talent Memphis LK. So hopefully, as we ease towards a new year, we’ll see, and hear, a lot more from Tilly Tjala Thomas, which I am eagerly excited for.