I.B.I.S (Lore)

Listen to I.B.I.S: Tup Song (Sardine Song)

  • Torres Strait Islands
  • Music, Highlights

This track features the First Nations' languages, Kala Lagaw Ya (Western region, Torres Strait Islands) and Meriam Mir (Eastern region, Torres Strait Islands).

This a cappella, contemporary 'sit down' song is about a game of catch between the people and the sardines or little fish.

Tup Song (Sardine Song) Synopsis

'Tup Song (Sardine Song)' is a contemporary ‘sit down’ song and dance about a game of catch between the people and the little fish. It is based on the traditional form of sit down dances, while being created for the purpose of story telling in a typical western theatrical setting. Traditionally, sit down songs and dances are an important and fun means of passing down knowledge to the younger generations - including language and cultural practices, as well as traditional dance technique and movement motifs.

Today we see many Torres Strait Island Artists exploring cultural and social thematics using traditional art and craft forms, while incorporating contemporary objects. This practice is seen in the work of Artists such as Ken Thaiday Senior and more recently in the practice of weaving using debris that is washed up on island shores. Ghost Net art seeks to highlight the tragic environmental impact that the millions of tons of discarded fishing nets has on the the oceans’ sea life.

In Tup Song (Sardine Song), choreographers Deborah Brown and Waangenga Blanco have repurposed sardine tins as rhythmical, percussive body instruments, similar to how the Kulaps, a traditional Torres Strait Island percussive instrument, would be used. The tins playfully catch the light on stage, like little fish swimming under the Island sun. These props also serve to illustrate the irony of imported tinned sardines stocked within the I.B.I.S store, while thousands of local sardines school around the islands.

You might like to learn the 'Tup Song (Sardine Song)' sit down dance.

Lyrics with poetic translation

Please note that this track features both First Nations languages Kala Lagaw Ya (Western region, Torres Strait Islands) and Meriam Mir (Eastern region, Torres Strait Islands).

Tup is a Meriam Mir word that means sardine or a small fish. All other lyrics are in Kala Lagaw Ya.

Nitha - Ngoi Gar - “you” “us/we”- is a call and response between the seafarers and the fish. The people call out that there are fish here: Wapi Wapi Ina e ... The fish (sardines) have lots of bones: Koi noeral wap. The fish are calling out "we're inside the tins now": Ngoi gar ina tina nu muiinu. But some are over there in the deep water: Wara napa adhal malunu. The little fish out in the deep gleefully call out Ngoelmunika a a gasamka launga: You can’t catch us!


Nitha (call)

Ngoey Gar (response)

Nitha (call)

Ngoey Gar (response)

Waapi waapi ina eh

Waapi Waapi ina eh

Koey noeral waap (men)

Koey noeral waap (men)

TUP TUP TUP (men)

Ngoey gar ina tin-ah nu muiinu (women)

Wara napa adhal malunu (women)

Ngoelmunika a a gasamka lawnga, gasamka lawnga.

Koey noeral waap, koey noeral waap (men chant underneath above line)

TUP TUP TUP (men. Women join on final call)


Repeat from

Waapi waapi ina eh ...

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