Waltzing Matilda – Australian Song With A Great History

The song that sums Australia up for most people

Waltzing Matilda – the song everyone thinks of as soon as the word “Australia” is mentioned.   OK, what does it mean?  Where does it come from? And why is it so important in the Australian psyche?

I am not sure I can answer the last point, but I can have a go at answering the first two and probably a couple more in passing.

But before I start to discuss its history and significance, here is a very standard performance of it by Slim Dusty to give you a taste of what I shall be explaining and playing to you in this post.

This is the version that everyone knows – there are a few other versions as I shall show you in the course of this post.

But where did this song come from, and why is it so popular?   Both good questions, the first I can answer, the second?  No idea why it has become such a popular song, representing Australia both for us here in Australia and for people all over the world when they hear it.

OK, it was written in 1895 by a sort of hedgerow wandering poet and singer Banjo Paterson in the   Queensland town of Winton where he was gently flirting with the daughter of one of the local land owners,  Christina Macpherson.  He wrote the words, and she wrote the music – well actually that isn’t really true, she used an already existing folk tune, the from 1806 dating Scottish tune Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea which was well known and much loved in Australia at the time.   Here it is for your pleasure…

It was also derivative of another, even older Scottish folk song apparently, with the wonderful name of…  “When sick is it tea you want?”   which dates from about 1798 apparently.   To be honest I can’t hear Waltzing Matilda in this one, but apparently they are related somehow..

This version is by the Boys of the Lough.

Not surprisingly there are many differing versions of Australia’s national song, which curiously enough has never actually been the official national anthem, which one would imagine it richly deserves to be.  It has been payed by all manner of groups and sung at every conceivable occasion from boozy nights in pubs to highly important national events.  It has also (of course) been satirised in a number of ways, been used by rock singers and so on.. the list of uses is almost endless, and while looking into this post, I was amazed by the weird and wonderful range of versions I came across… some of which I shall shortly post in this article for your entertainment.

The meaning of all those Aussie terms.

First though I thought that perhaps a short glossary might be in order, as not everyone knows the meaning of a lot of the very Australian words in this song, so here goes, a list of what those words mean.

waltzing

derived from the German term auf der Walz, which means to travel while working as a craftsman and learn new techniques from other masters.

Matilda

a romantic term for a swagman’s bundle. See below, “Waltzing Matilda”.

Waltzing Matilda

from the above terms, “to waltz Matilda” is to travel with a swag, that is, with all one’s belongings on one’s back wrapped in a blanket or cloth. The exact origins of the term “Matilda” are disputed; one fanciful derivation states that when swagmen met each other at their gatherings, there were rarely women to dance with. Nonetheless, they enjoyed a dance and so danced with their swags, which was given a woman’s name. However, this appears to be influenced by the word “waltz”, hence the introduction of dancing. It seems more likely that, as a swagman’s only companion, the swag came to be personified as a woman.

The National Library of Australia states:

Matilda is an old Teutonic female name meaning “mighty battle maid”. This may have informed the use of “Matilda” as a slang term to mean a de facto wife who accompanied a wanderer. In the Australian bush a man’s swag was regarded as a sleeping partner, hence his “Matilda”. (Letter to Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Churchill, KG from Harry Hastings Pearce, 19 February 1958. Harry Pearce Papers, NLA Manuscript Collection, MS2765)[23]

swagman

a man who travelled the country looking for work. The swagman’s “swag” was a bed roll that bundled his belongings.

billabong

an oxbow lake (a cut-off river bend) found alongside a meandering river.

coolibah tree

a kind of eucalyptus tree which grows near billabongs.

jumbuck

a sheep

billy

a can for boiling water in, usually 2–3 pints (1–1.5 l)

tucker bag

a bag for carrying food (“tucker”).

troopers

policemen.

squatter

Australian squatters started as early farmers who raised livestock on land which they did not legally have the right to use; in many cases they later gained legal use of the land even though they did not have full possession, and became wealthy thanks to these large land holdings. The squatter’s claim to the land may be as uncertain as the swagman’s claim to the jumbuck.

Funny Versions.

Obviously a song as popular and well known as this one has to have been the victim of a number of satires, so for your pleasure here are a couple to give you a taste of what can happen to such a song.  One an Aussie satire, the other a very, very British one….

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Faux Naif – Women With Kid’s Voices

There are grown women who have made their professional impact by using the singing voices they had when they were still kids.. Very odd.

I recently became very aware of a curious singing style that I had never really given much thought to before, namely grown women who for some reason choose to sing with extremely childlike voices.

Upon looking into this style of singing in some depth, I discovered that it even has an official name, which is, wait for it…. Faux Naif (false childlike) and is both a carefully nurtured way of singing for some singers, and for others, simply because they have never had their voices trained in any fashion.  A good example of this last sort of childish voiced singer is the girl who sang in the French ’60s band, Il Etait Une Fois.  This young woman, Joëlle Mogensen, had a truly childlike voice as you will hear in the following video.

She only joins in in the second chorus, so be patient, it is worth it!

I first heard this song on the car radio as I drove around in France, and for a long time had assumed that it was a kid singing, so I was really surprised many years later when i discovered that it was actually a grown woman.   Shut your eyes, and listen to it again and you will see what I mean.

Anyhow, that is a very good example of the untrained voice type of Faux Naif singing, and whilst it is actually rather forced and ugly I have become very fond of this track over the years – no idea why though.

Blossom Dearie (what a name!) is, or was, a very different type of Faux Naif singer.  This good soul was a piano playing jazz singer.  She also sang in a curiously childlike voice, but in her case it seems to have been as a result of a considered choice, as she sings very well, and obviously has trained her voice and knew how to use it properly, as this video will demonstrate I hope.

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kuus kuus kallike – Arvo Pärt – Beauty

Quite simply, one of the most beautiful lullabies I know….

The Estonian Composer, Arvo Pärt was asked some years ago to compose a lullaby for a CD that Montserrat Figueras was recording of a whole collection of lullabies, ranging from ones composed way back in the 15th century to totally modern ones – which last obviously included this work of Arvo Pärt.

His contribution to this CD was a little song of quite amazing beauty, with the title of kuus kuus kallike.   These words apparently have no meaning in Estonian or any other language, but are simply soothing sounds to be made by the singer of the song to send a kid to sleep.  Whilst I love this song, I rather doubt if it would actually send any kid to sleep, since just as the kid’s eyes were becoming heavy, and sleep was stealing up on it, the singer suddenly goes into a high and loud section of the song, as you will hear in the several versions of this lovely song I have chosen for this post.

So, without any more ado, here is a superb version of this song to whet your appetite.

See what I mean?  Isn’t it beautiful and soothing?

This version was put together by Goeyvaerts String Trio and the singers Kristien Roels, Kris Matthynssens and Pieter Stas.

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Gooseberry Patch – Cheap But Good Cookery Ebooks

Own an ereader and want recipes? Well here you go, The Gooseberry Patch has them!

The hugely successful Gooseberry Patch series of cook books are available now as ebooks.  There are a couple of hundred of them covering just about every aspect of cooking delicious meals for yourself and your family.

These ebooks are as is normal with cookery books, set out subject by subject, so there are a whole range that show you how to cook meat in all manner of ways, how to make puddings and so on, from basic to really quite advanced recipes.

Titles range from “25 Savoury Pie Recipes”, “Christmas Classics Cookbook”, “25 Meat Loaf Recipes”, a whole slew of ebooks with the series name “Circle of Friends” – which are recipes that the two good ladies who started this company have been given by their friends to share with readers.

Gooseberry_header

The Gooseberry Patch has been around now for quite some time, being founded in 1984 by Vickie Hutchins and Jo Ann Martin, who describe themselves as follows:

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What You Need To Consider When Buying An Ereader

Ereader or Tablet? Which should you buy? A bit of help for you here…

It can be very confusing when you think you might like to leap into the world of ereading and ebooks.  There are so many different models out there, and the considerable problem of the various ebook formats as well.

ereaders

To help you a bit in making a choice I shall discuss some of the main considerations you should take into account before parting with your hard earned money and committing yourself to one or other model of ereader.

Does colour matter to you?

The first thing to consider is do you want to read novels rather than ebooks with loads of illustrations or magazines or comics?   If the answer to that question is comics, magazines and other reading matter with lots of colour and illustrations, then you need to consider a tablet rather than a dedicated ereader, as most real ereaders are monochrome, and not really very good to view images with.

There are a number of ereaders with LCD screens which can manage colour OK, but their screens tend to be too small to be really pleasurable to view images with.   But with things such as the iPad and similar tablets, comics, magazines newspapers and coffee table ebooks and similar are a real pleasure to read and gaze upon, given the brilliant colours they can offer you.

If on the other hand you want to read ebooks that are basically text – novels and similar, then probably a real, dedicated monochrome ereader is what you want, as they are specifically designed for this form of reading, and are totally optimised for such ebooks.

So that is your first decision.  Colour and images = tablet.  Text and almost no images = dedicated monochrome ereader.

Screen size.

This is perhaps the next consideration.   If you are suffering from any sort of eye troubles, then the larger the screen you can get is something you should think about. Since if you have a smallish screen, and need the text size to be large, obviously you can then only fit so many words onto the screen at a time, so with a small screen you will be turning pages like a mad thing, but with a larger screen you will be able to have the letters quite large, but still have a reasonable number of words per page.

Currently the only large screen dedicated ereader I am aware of is the Kindle DX, which has a screen that is 9.7 inches diagonally across, room enough to make the letters huge and still have lots of words on the screen, otherwise you should consider a tablet again.

Most dedicated ereaders these days have a screen that is about 6 or 7 inches diagonally, which if your eyes are OK, is much like reading an average paper back.

So, if your eyes are OK, then any dedicated ereader will work for you , if not, consider a tablet with a much larger screen whatever sort of ebooks you want to read on it.

Front light or clip on reading light.

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Hi Stranger – Weird And Spooky Video

This video which apparently is intended to make you feel better, has totally captivated me. A very hypnotic creature.

Here is a truly odd fish of an animation.  Apparently its purpose is to make you feel better if you should be feeling down.

To be honest, I am not sure if it would achieve that simple aim, as it is so darned spooky and off the wall.  Its protagonist is a totally unsympathetic sort of soft and shiny pink naked creature, somewhat humanoid who talks in a very odd voice, sort of syrupy – telling you how much “he” likes you.

Hmmmmmm……….

Oh well, rather than me blathering on about it, I think it best if I simply shut up and let you experience it for yourself – So here it is.

Hi Stranger from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

So, now you have seen (and heard it), I hope you are feeling better, more positive and generally happy?

My Encounter With Tiny Tim… Very Odd…

Many years ago, about 1966 or thereabouts, I was asked by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (who were friends of mine) to do the lighting for their part in a concert that they were going to take part in at the Royal Albert Hall. This was to be a large scale concert, with a […]

Many years ago, about 1966 or thereabouts, I was asked by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (who were friends of mine) to do the lighting for their part in a concert that they were going to take part in at the Royal Albert Hall.

This was to be a large scale concert, with a load of bands and performers who were popular at the time, such as The Doo Dah Band as mentioned above, also The Small Faces, Joe Cocker and many others, and of course as you will have guessed from the title of this post, the extra-ordinary Tiny Tim.

tiny-tim-original

How Lighting worked at the Albert Hall.

Before I get onto Tiny Tim, I should mention how lighting was handled in the Albert Hall in those far off days before the advent of simple touring lighting control boards and rock tour lighting rigs.   Back then in halls such as the Albert Hall, one had to work with what they had rigged, and the actual control system consisted of huge mechanical dimmers down below in the cellars of the hall.   So “Lighting Directors” such as I had to sit upstairs in a small booth high above the audience with one of the Albert Hall electricians sitting beside me who had an old fashioned telephone to pass on to the guys in the cellar what I wanted to have happen with the lighting…

So for example I would ask for the main lighting to be dimmed to create a bit of atmosphere, this command was duly passed onto the electricians in the cellar, who then dashed around setting up the dimmers, so that on my word of command which would be relayed to them by the electrician sitting next to me, they could crank all those huge mechanical dimmers into their new positions, thus changing the lighting on the stage.

Cumbersome to say the least….

Anyhow, on the day of the concerts there was a general rehearsal of all the performers and their sound and lights people, including me of course.

There was also a small backing orchestra there for any performers who might need a bit of support – which included Cocker, and obviously, Tiny Tim.

Cocker did his rehearsal perfectly, not surprisingly  and in due time it was Tiny Tim’s turn.

He came slowly onto the stage with two “handlers” in suits, one of whom carried his ukulele for him.  They walked one on each side of Tiny Tim, each grasping him by his arms, and led him up to the microphone he would be using, and handed him his ukulele and stood a bit back from him.   The orchestra commenced to play his music, and at the right moment, one of his handlers tapped Tiny Tim on his shoulder, and like a sort of performing robot, Tiny Tim went into his act, which he did impeccably.

Then when he arrived at the end of his act, he simply stopped, and stood there immoveable.   His two handlers took him by his arms again, and started to lead him off-stage.   I was standing nearby as all this was happening, and as Tiny Tim was led of the stage, he asked in a sort of little boy voice  “Where are we going?”  to which one of his handlers replied in a gentle voice “we are going home Tiny, home….”   And off they went.

My overwhelming impression at the time was that he was a very sad and strange creature, and I have had no reason to change this impression since.   When you see interviews with him, and look at his very odd shape and appearance (the original pear shaped man), this feeling is only made stronger.   He was seriously odd, but when he wasn’t singing in that memorable falsetto, he actually had a very pleasing baritone voice, as you can hear of you check out an older post of mine in which I included a video of him singing “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime”  (Link to that post).

So to end this little bit of nostalgia, and to give you a better idea of what a curious and sad man he was, here he is in one of the many TV interviews he did after he ceased to be so famous..

An odd and sad creature.