Aussie Art Song - Banjo Paterson Edition

by Niq Reefman

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Grey Gulf Water Far to the Northward there lies a land, A wonderful land that the winds blow over And none may fathom nor understand The charm it holds for the restless rover; A great grey chaos - a land half made, Where endless space is and no life stirreth; And the soul of a man will recoil afraid From the sphinx-like visage that Nature weareth. But old Dame Nature, though scornful, craves Her dole of death and her share of slaughter; Many indeed are the nameless graves Where her victims sleep by the Grey Gulf-water. Slowly and slowly those grey streams glide, Drifting along with a languid motion, Lapping the reed-beds on either side, Wending their way to the Northern Ocean. Grey are the plains where the emus pass Silent and slow, with their staid demeanour; Over the dead men's graves the grass Maybe is waving a trifle greener. Down in the world where men toil and spin Dame Nature smiles as man's hand has taught her; Only the dead men her smiles can win In the great lone land by the Grey Gulf-water. For the strength of man is an insect's strength In the face of that mighty plain and river, And the life of a man is a moment's length To the life of the stream that will run forever. And so it cometh they take no part In small-world worries; each hardy rover Rideth abroad and is light of heart, With the plains around and the blue sky over. And up in the heavens the brown lark sings The songs that the strange wild land has taught her; Full of thanksgiving her sweet song rings -- And I wish I were back by the Grey Gulf-water.
Lay of the Motor Car We're away! and the wind whistles shrewd In our whiskers and teeth; And the granite-like grey of the road Seems to slide underneath. As an eagle might sweep through the sky, So we sweep through the land; And the pallid pedestrians fly When they hear us at hand. We outpace, we outlast, we outstrip! Not the fast-fleeing hare, Nor the racehorses under the whip, Nor the birds of the air Can compete with our swiftness sublime, Our ease and our grace. We annihilate chickens and time And policemen and space. Do you mind that fat grocer who crossed? How he dropped down to pray In the road when he saw he was lost; How he melted away Underneath, and there rang through the fog His ear-splitting squeal As he went - Is that he or a dog, That stuff on the wheel?
Bottle ‘O Man I ain't the kind of bloke as takes to any steady job; I drives me bottle cart around the town; A bloke what keeps 'is eyes about can always make a bob - I couldn't bear to graft for every brown. There's lots of handy things about in everybody's yard, There's cocks and hens a-runnin' to an' fro, And little dogs what comes and barks - we take 'em off their guard And we puts 'em with the Empty Bottle-oh! [So it's any "Empty bottles! Any empty bottle-oh!" You can hear us round for half a mile or so. And you'll see the women rushing To take in the Monday's washing When they 'ear us crying, "Empty Bottle-oh!" ] I'm drivin' down by Wexford-street and up a winder goes, A girl sticks out 'er 'ead and looks at me, An all-right tart with ginger 'air, and freckles on 'er nose; I stops the cart and walks across to see. "There ain't no bottles 'ere," says she, "since father took the pledge;" "No bottles 'ere," says I, "I'd like to know What right 'ave you to stick your 'ead outside the winder ledge, If you 'aven't got no Empty Bottle-oh!" [chorus] I sometimes gives the 'orse a spell, and then the push and me We takes a little trip to Chowder Bay. Oh! ain't it nice the 'ole day long a-gazin' at the sea And a-hidin' of the tanglefoot away. But when the booze gits 'old of us, and fellows starts to "scrap", There's some what likes blue-metal for to throw: But as for me, I always says for layin' out a "trap" There's nothin' like an Empty Bottle-oh! [chorus]
The uplift When the drays are bogged and sinking, then it's no use sitting thinking, You must put the teams together and must double-bank the pull. When the crop is light and weedy, or the fleece is burred and seedy, Then the next year's crop and fleeces may repay you to the full. So it's lift her, johnny, lift her, Put your back in it and shift her, While the jibber, jabber, jabber of the politicians flows. If your nag's too poor to travel Then get down and scratch the gravel For you'll get there if you walk it - if you don't, you'll feed the crows. Shall we waste our time debating with a grand young country waiting For the plough and for the harrow and the lucerne and the maize? For it's work alone will save us in the land that fortune gave us There's no crop but what we'll grow it; there's no stock but what we'll raise. [chorus] When the team is bogged and sinking Then it's no use sitting thinking. There's a roadway up the mountain that the old black leader knows: So it's lift her, johnny, lift her, Put your back in it and shift her, Take a lesson from the bullock - he goes slowly, but he goes! [chorus]
Sunrise on the coast Grey dawn on the sand-hills - the night wind has drifted All night from the rollers a scent of the sea; With the dawn the grey fog his battalions has lifted, At the call of the morning they scatter and flee. Like mariners calling the roll of their number The sea-fowl put out to the infinite deep. And far overhead sinking softly to slumber - Worn out by their watching the stars fall asleep. To eastward, where rests the broad dome of the skies on the sea-line, stirs softly the curtain of night; And far from behind the enshrouded horizon Comes the voice of a God saying "Let there be light." And lo, there is light! Evanescent and tender, It glows ruby-red where 'twas once ashen-grey; And purple and scarlet and gold in its splendour Behold, 'tis that marvel, the birth of a day!
Any other time Ask me what you want I'll do anything But today is not convenient Ask me anytime but now . . . . . . All of us play our very best game Any other time. Golf or billiards, it’s all the same Any other time. Lose a match and you always say, “Just my luck! I was ‘off’ to-day! I could have beaten him quite half-way Any other time!” After a fiver you oughta go Any other time. every man that you ask says “Oh, Any other time. Lend you a fiver! I’d lend you two, But I’m overdrawn and my bills are due, Wish you’d ask me, now, mind you do Any other time!” Fellows will ask you out to dine Any other time. “Not to-night, for we’re twenty-nine Any other time. Not tomorrow, for the cook’s on strike, Not next day, I’ll be out on the bike Just drop in whenever you like Any other time!” Seasick passengers like the sea Any other time. “Something I ate disagreed with me! Any other time Ocean-travellin is simply bliss, Must be my liver has gone amiss. Why, I would laugh at a sea like this Any other time.” Most of us mean to be better men Any other time: Regular upright characters then Any other time. Yet somehow as the years go by Still we gamble and drink and lie, When it comes to the last we’ll want to die Any other time! Any other time.
Old man platypus Far from the trouble and toil of town, Where the reed beds sweep and shiver, Look at a fragment of velvet brown - Old Man Platypus drifting down, Drifting along the river. And he plays and dives in the river bends In a style that is most elusive; With few relations and fewer friends, For Old Man Platypus descends From a family most exclusive. He shares his burrow beneath the bank With his wife and his son and daughter At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank; And the bubbles show where our hero sank To its entrance under water. Safe in their burrow below the falls They live in a world of wonder, Where no one visits and no one calls, They sleep like little brown billiard balls With their beaks tucked neatly under. And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl As he goes on his journey lonely; For he's no relation to fish nor fowl, Nor to bird nor beast, nor horned owl; In fact, he's the one and only!
A grain of sand Beneath the blue Egyptian skies, With ramp and roller, guide and stay, I saw the Pyramids arise And I shall see them pass away. I watched when Alexander passed; I saw Napoleon’s flag unfurled - The greatest and perhaps the last Of men whose footsteps shook the world. To each his hour of pride and place, Arab and Persian, Greek and Jew; Mahomet trod upon my face, Darius spurned me with his shoe. And yet I am not Priest or Kin, Sultan or chief in high command. I am that one unchanging thing, And i have spread across the lands . . . . . . And yet I am not Priest or Kin, Sultan or chief in high command. I am that one unchanging thing, I am a grain of desert sand
Santa Claus “HALT! Who goes there?” The sentry’s call Rose on the midnight air Above the noises of the camp, The roll of wheels, the horses’ tramp. The challenge echoed over all - “Halt! Who goes there?” A quaint old figure clothed in white, He bore a staff of pine, An ivy-wreath was on his head. “Advance, oh friend,” the sentry said, “Advance, for this is Christmas night, And give the countersign.” “No sign nor countersign have I, Through many lands I roam The whole world over far and wide, To exiles all at Christmastide, From those who love them tenderly I bring a thought of home. “From English brook and Scottish burn, From cold Canadian snows, From those far lands ye hold most dear I bring you all a greeting here, A frond of a New Zealand fern, A bloom of English rose. “From faithful wife and loving lass I bring a wish divine, For Christmas blessings on your head.” “I wish you well,” the sentry said, “But here, alas! you may not pass Without the countersign.” He vanished and the sentry’s tramp Re-echoed down the line. It was not till the morning light The soldiers knew that in the night Old Santa Claus had come to camp Without the countersign.
Song of the Artesian water Now the stock have started dying, for the Lord has sent a drought; But we're sick of prayers and Providence - we're going to do without; With the derricks up above us and the solid earth below, We are waiting at the lever for the word to let her go. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we'll sink it deeper down: The drill is plugging downward at a thousand feet of level, If the Lord won't send us water, oh, we'll get it from the devil; Yes, we'll get it from the devil deeper down. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we'll sink it deeper Down bidee roodah yo To the devil deeper down Now, our engine's built in Glasgow by a very canny Scot, And he marked it twenty horse-power, but he don't know what is what: When Canadian Bill is firing with the sun-dried gidgee logs, She can equal thirty horses and a score or so of dogs. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we'll sink it deeper down: If we fail to get the water, then it's ruin to the squatter, For the drought is on the station and the weather's growing hotter, Yes, the weather's growing hotter deeper down. But the shaft has started caving and the sinking's very slow, And the yellow rods are bending in the water down below, the tubes are always jamming, and they can't be made to shift Till we nearly burst the engine with a forty horse-power lift. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we'll sink it deeper down: the shaft is always caving, and the tubes are always jamming, Yet we'll fight our way to water while the stubborn drill is ramming - the stubborn drill is ramming deeper down. But there's no artesian water, though we've passed three thousand feet, And the contract price is growing, and the boss is nearly beat. But it must be down beneath us, and it's down we've got to go, Though she's bumping on the solid rock four thousand feet below. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we'll sink it deeper down: it's time they heard us knocking on the roof of Satan's dwellin'; we'll get artesian water if we cave the roof of hell in - we'll cave the roof of hell in deeper down. But it's hark! the whistle's blowing with a wild, exultant blast, And the boys are madly cheering, for they've struck the flow at last; it's rushing up the tubing from four thousand feet below, Till it spouts above the casing in a million-gallon flow. It comes from down, deeper down -- Oh, it comes from deeper down; Its flowing, ever flowing, in a free, unstinted measure From the silent hidden places where the old earth hides her treasure -- the earth is hidin’ treasure deeper down. Deeper down, deeper down, Oh it comes from deeper Down bidee roodah yo From the devil deeper down And it's clear away the timber, and it's let the water run: How it glimmers in the shadow, how it flashes in the sun! By the silent bells of timber, by the miles of blazing plain It is bringing hope and comfort to the thirsty land again. flowing down, deeper down; Oh it flows from deeper down To the tortured thirsty cattle, bringing gladness in its going; Through the droughty days of summer its flowing, ever flowing -- Its flowing, ever flowing, deeper down. Flowing down, deeper down, Oh it flows from deeper Down bidee roodah yo From the devil deeper down
Kileys run The roving breezes come and go On Kiley's Run, The sleepy river murmurs low, And far away one dimly sees Beyond the stretch of forest trees Beyond the foothills dusk and dun The ranges sleeping in the sun On Kiley's Run. 'Tis many years since first I came To Kiley's Run, More years than I would care to name Since I, a stripling, used to ride For miles and miles at Kiley's side, The while in stirring tones he told The stories of the days of old On Kiley's Run. I see the old bush homestead now On Kiley's Run, Just nestled down beneath the brow Of one small ridge above the sweep Of river-flat, where willows weep And jasmine flowers and roses bloom, The air was laden with perfume On Kiley's Run. We lived the good old station life On Kiley's Run, With little thought of care or strife. Old Kiley seldom used to roam, He liked to make the Run his home, The swagman never turned away With empty hand at close of day From Kiley's Run. We kept a racehorse now and then On Kiley's Run, And neighb'ring stations brought their men To meetings where the sport was free, And dainty ladies came to see Their champions ride; with laugh and song The old house rang the whole night long On Kiley's Run. The station hands were friends I wot On Kiley's Run, A reckless, merry-hearted lot All splendid riders, and they knew The boss' was kindness through and through. Old Kiley always stood their friend, And so they served him to the end On Kiley's Run. . . . . . But droughts and losses came apace To Kiley's Run, Till ruin stared him in the face; He toiled and toiled while lived the light, He dreamed of overdrafts at night: At length, because he could not pay, His bankers took the stock away From Kiley's Run. Old Kiley stood and saw them go From Kiley's Run. The well-bred cattle marching slow; His stockmen, mates for many a day, They wrung his hand and went away. Too old to make another start, Old Kiley died of broken heart, On Kiley's Run. . . . . . The owner lives in England now Of Kiley's Run. He knows a racehorse from a cow; But that is all he knows of stock: His chiefest care is how to dock Expenses, and he sends from town To cut the shearers' wages down On Kiley's Run. There are no neighbours anywhere Near Kiley's Run. The hospitable homes are bare, The gardens gone; for no pretence Must hinder cutting down expense: The homestead that we held so dear Contains a half-paid overseer On Kiley's Run. All life and sport and hope have died On Kiley's Run. No longer there the stockmen ride; For sour-faced boundary riders creep On mongrel horses after sheep, Through ranges where, at racing speed, Old Kiley used to wheel the lead' On Kiley's Run. There runs a lane for thirty miles Through Kiley's Run. On either side the herbage smiles, But wretched trav'lling sheep must pass Without a drink or blade of grass Thro' that long lane of death and shame: The weary drovers curse the name Of Kiley's Run. The name itself is changed of late Of Kiley's Run. They call it 'Chandos Park Estate'. The lonely swagman through the dark Must hump his swag past Chandos Park. The name is English, don't you see, The old name sweeter sounds to me Of Kiley's Run'. I cannot guess what fate will bring To Kiley's Run For chances come and changes ring I scarcely think 'twill always be Locked up to suit an absentee; And if he lets it out in farms, His tenants soon will carry arms On Kiley's Run


This album was a project that took around a year to complete.
Using the poetry of Banjo Paterson, I set music to it to reflect the text.
In very few instances, I took out a word to maintain flow of the music (Kiley's run) and added my own lines (the intro for Any other time)
Where the mood of the work has humor, the music emulates this (Bottle 'O)
Where the mood is dark and powerful, the music emulates this (Grey gulf water)
The creation of this album was also a challenge I set myself to play moving basslines & chords simultaneously on the left hand side of my digital accordion while either singing or playing trumpet with the right hand (essentially performing 3 parts simultaneously for live renditions).
Some brief notes on each piece are below:

Grey Gulf Water
An Evocative work about the gulf of carpentaria. There's no chorus in the poetry, so I made a haunting instrumental chorus, adding ocarina and whistling to it.

This is a humorous work about a man who collected recycled bottles to fuel his drinking habits. I incorporated beer bottles and jawharp to add to the sense of humor.

Lay of the Motor Car
We had lots of fun with this one, adding street sound effects and interrupting the last chorus with a little dialogue that Robbie (my drummer) brought some great humor to.

The Uplift
I wanted to create a lively outdoors soundscape to this one… I had an image of the 7 dwarfs whistling while marching off to the mine… So we recorded a men's choir for the choruses. Then in the studio, we decided to change the key for the last chorus and quickly realized the choir wasn't recorded to that pitch… So we tweaked them up a tone and… They sounded like oompa loompas… we loved it!!!

Sunrise on the Coast
This work describes the beauty of dawn and the emergence of the sun. The music starts in a minor key and when the sun finally appears in its glory - the key changes to major. I use 2 different instrumentals to keep each verse fresh.

Any other time (contemporary intro added)
One of the reasons I picked this one is because I feel it's relevant to current life…
Many of us feel too insecure to admit defeat or errors, and then too busy to give others our time or work on our inner selves.
I like how the chorus/subject line is only short. Each verse contains 3 of them and I changed the last melody line to lead into the instrumentals.

Old man platypus
When Europeans first encountered the platypus, they thought it was two animals sewn together, so I sewed 2 time signatures together. 7/8 - 4/4.
Then the challenge was to write a melody that was still catchy.
Again there was no chorus, so I turned one verse into a bridge, added some instrumentals and an improvisation.

A grain of sand (lyrics slightly changed)
Paterson traveled to Egypt as an honorary vet and a commanding officer during WW1 and probably found the inspiration to write this riddle from the landscape there.
I wrote the music to sound middle eastern, adding the percussive instruments known as the riq & tar.

Santa Claus
This is a conversation between Santa and a sentry. Santa is denied entry because he doesn't know the password… So I imagine the soldiers miss out on their presents that year…
To create a Christmas feel, I composed in carol style, adding bells when Santa sings, cathedral organ & choir for the last verse and a trumpet obbligato part.

Song of the Artesian Water (chorus slightly added to)
Holidaying at Dagworth station near Winton, QLD, (Also the place where he wrote ‘Waltzing Matilda’) Paterson recounted the drilling of an unusually deep bore (3335 feet) in this work.
The water came out at 90°C and spurting nearly 5 million litres a day.
Water management wasn't as stringent then as it is now…

Kiley's Run
It's interesting how the mood totally changes throughout this work. Starting with a cheerful nostalgia, it slides into a sigh and then a downtrodden recollection. It's about the good times and then the downfall of a cattle station and its owner. The music starts with a gallop and as the sentiment changes, the music slows and the melody becomes more melancholy.


released February 13, 2020

Poetry by Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson
Music & Arrangements by Niq Reefman
Album artwork by Angelica Breviario
Graphic design by Jared Micallef
Recorded at Sleepwalk Studio, Coolum, QLD
Mixed at Spark 1 Studios, Maleny, QLD.
Mastered by Trevor Stefiuk at AUM Mastering

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Niq Reefman (Trumpet, keyboards & synths, accordion, vocals, whistles, recorders, ocarina, effects, beer bottle, jawharp)
Christchurch st Lawrence Choir (Santa)
Caloundra Chorale (The Uplift)
Aaron Giffin (Beer bottle - Bottle-O)
Jacinta Rose (Violin - A grain of sand)
Robbie Amhaz (Drums, percussion, Vocals - all tracks except Santa)
Philip South (Tars & Riq - Old man platypus)


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Niq Reefman Sydney, Australia

Niq trumpets like a singer, keyboards like a bass player, sings like a narrator and ukuleles like an electric guitar - his musical performance is best described by picturing “Tim Minchin, flying a trumpet through a thunderstorm”.
He spreads songs of beauty, mirth, camaraderie, inspiration and action to a world that craves the social zest of an Irish pub and the hopeful melodies of nature.
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