Christina says “I wrote this on the occasion of a weekend big sing in a country town called Canowindra in Western New South Wales. The town is famous for its wineries, hot-air ballooning and its fossil museum where you can see the some of the oldest fossils of fish dating back 360 million years ago.
I was invited to run a singing weekend in Canowindra and the thing I like to do is find songs to teach which have something to do with the history or culture of the area. I also like to find out what I can about Indigenous languages of an area. Australia had more than 700 Indigenous languages and dialects prior to British colonisation in 1788. None except about 20 of these languages are still spoken and certainly, to our shame, very few non-Indigenous people know even a few words of the local language.
So – the local “Wiradjuri” word for “fish” is “guya”. This song pays homage to the fish fossils – “the present and the past are one” – and it is also my way of keeping alive the knowledge and struggle of Indigenous people in this country which to this day is neither fully acknowledged nor reconciled.
I’ve been teaching the song to choirs everywhere. One of my choirs had members from very diverse cultural backgrounds and English is not the common language. But for the duration of the song, we all know that the Wiradjuri word for “fish” is “guya”!
The song starts with the melody, in the second line. Other parts are added on the repeat. There is a deliberate dissonance on the words “past are one”.
Composer: Christina Mimmocchi
Country or Culture: Aboriginal