Song of Sickness

© Jacob Stengle 2022

This song tells of the time when many Tanganekald people were struck down by a smallpox epidemic. It was told by Milerum and recorded by Norman Tindale in 1937.
AA 338/11/12 Track 5 Norman Barnett Tindale collection
For permission to use this song, please contact the South Australian Museum Archives.


Tetanala gawanda weratowana

tarnderinara purntai manyurumund

Tertangala gawanda mulanain ngangkar

kuldalai perienglarenar yarumulun

bonkulun peilpiai ngereiluna podopulun

neiyamang not taramang.

This is a peika bak itunar, 'death fear,' 'death approach' song. It was said to have been sung when the mukuwalin or merki 'smallpox' epidemic came to the Tanganekald several generations before Milerum's time, and was taught to Milerum by Kalmurinyeri, a man of the Kanggeilinyeri clan at Kalmurungg, the Needles, near Magrath Flat. The song describes the sudden appearance of a maldawuli (ancestral being) out of the Southern Cross Yuki, like a flash of Iight, too bright to look at. He went westward, and when he arrived at his camp he made a 'smoke signal' and waved his arms as a sign that many people should follow him. People heard a great noise, and looked up meinyanga nampi, saw him move his hand and said, Ha! Peika baki or 'Ah! Death comes.' The smallpox came along and many died because he made this signal. Their spirits followed the maldawuli to Kangaroo Island, which, is the home of the dead. Many bones in the sandhills of the Coorong belong to people who have been 'beckoned to' by Kulda the maldawuli.