‘King Stingray’: Music that transcends language

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‘King Stingray’: Music that transcends language

King Stingray
Words by Bryget Chrisfield

Music is in their bloodline.

Two members of King Stingray – frontman Yirrŋa, whose name translates to ‘place of stingray’, and guitarist Roy Kellaway – are descendants of Yothu Yindi: Yirrnga is the nephew of the ground-breaking musical collective’s late frontman, Dr M Yunupiŋu, who passed away in 2013, and Roy is the son of bassist, Stu Kellaway – these boys have been jamming onstage with Yothu Yindi since they were toddlers and have been official touring members since 2017.

Hailing from Yirrkala in north-east Arnhem Land (population approx. 800), King Stingray is composed of five Yolŋu (Aboriginal) and balanda (non-Indigenous) mates. They sing in both English and Yirrŋa’s native language, Yolŋu Matha.

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Yirrŋa’s vocal performance is guttural and powerful, capable of stirring up repressed emotions that need processing – yidaki vibrations should be able to help you out with that as well. Yidaki (didge), bilma (clapsticks) and rock music –  what an intoxicating brew!

‘Hey Wanhaka’ (the equivalent of ‘Yo, what’s up?’ in Yolŋu Matha) – King Stingray’s first ever song release, via The Chats’ Bargain Bin Records – is a party. “There is something here, so beautiful and clear/ I stay true to my roots and I wanna stay here with you” – these lyrics pretty accurately summarise King Stingray’s overall vibe.

Standout track ‘Get Me Out’ (“…of the city”) – with its wailing refrains – has visceral impact; especially during lockdown listening: “The sun goes down in the distance/ I wish that you could see this/ That I’m lost in the city… The colours are changing/ I know my home is never far away/ Get me out of the city.”

During ‘Let’s Go’, we can feel the intense draw of Central Arnhem Highway – described by Kellaway as “the backbone of good times” – promising great adventure once King Stingray hit the road: “When I think of you I leave my troubles far behind…”

Campbell Messer’s limber basslines feature prominently throughout and are noticeably brilliant, particularly during the funktastic ‘Milkumana’. This standout track’s suspended pauses, used to great effect throughout ‘Malk Mirri Wayin’, channel Midnight Oil – can’t wait to experience this one live!

The boppy, meandering ‘Camp Dog’ expresses King Stingray’s affection for their community dogs (aka “the kings of the streets”) before the acoustic ‘Life Goes On’ closes out like a tuning rod for the soul.

With one foot firmly planted in history and the other continuing to honour their ancestors’ legacies, King Stingray’s music transcends language. On their debut self-titled record, King Stingray build a bridge for culture to enter the mainstream, but, first and foremost, they are an exceptional band like no other.

Label: Cooking Vinyl
Release date: 5 August