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by igor


Waltzing Matilda

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When I was about 5 years old, my grandmother gave me a set of those old 78 rpm “records” titled “Songs Many Lands”. For some reason this song was always my favorite… to the point I don’t even remember anymore what other songs were in that collection. I think I liked it because of the spooky ending with a ghost… what small boy wouldn’t?

Fast-forward some 45 years and half the world away. I came up with an arrangement of the song for acoustic guitar using an open tuning. I wanted to be able to tell folks something about the song when I’d play it, so I went and looked it up. That’s when I discovered that the lyrics were written by a man named Banjo Paterson. That was intriguing.

Following the Wikipedia trail I learned not only the story behind the writing of the song, but also what the uniquely Australian expressions mean. And I realized that the song has nothing whatever to do with going dancing with a pretty girl named Matilda!

The whole history is is pretty nicely documented by the National Library of Australia (, so I’ll leave it to you to follow the detail trail if you’re interested.

Messing about with the banjo as I do, I thought there that since it was written by a man named Banjo, somebody should arrange the song for banjo. I went trawling the net and found nothing over a period of a couple of years. So I thought, well, why not me? And commenced working on the arrangement you hear here.

I actually have had it around for a number of years, but have not shared it widely until now for a really nutty reason: despite well documented historical fact that the song was written in 1895, Carl Fischer Music Publishers managed to copyright it as an original composition in 1941 (music piracy is nothing new!) Their copyright expired only recently.

And so, with hats off to ol’ Banjo Paterson and Christina Macpherson, here’s my arrangement of the unofficial Australian national Anthem “Waltzing Matilda”… an Australian song played by an American of Hispanic descent living in Russia playing the banjo, which originated in Africa.

Hang on to your billy can.

a photo

Guest said

Well right done Robert

jip's avatar
jip said

superbly done - nice one

thetworegs's avatar
thetworegs said

I have a soft spot for this song as my daughter is called Matilda....a lovely rendition Bravo!

Greg Connor's avatar
Greg Connor said