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Educational Resources

Mark Atkins & Erkki Veltheim:


MotherTongue, MotherLand by Sunny Kim (lead artist, vocals, percussion), with Mindy Meng Wang (guzheng, vocals), Gelareh Pour (kamancheh, qeychak, vocals), Aviva Endean (clarinets, vocals).
Portrait of Mark Atkins outside in a mountainous setting looking to the right of camera

Mark Atkins

Image: Matt Byrne

Written by
Rosie Pentreath
Published on
13th April 2023

Let’s get creative!

Creative Activity 1 – Listen to and Perform Frog Song

Have a listen to Frog Song from Mark Atkins and Erkki Veltheim’s Nightfalls.

·      What is the song about?

·      Do you hear any non-musical sounds in the song? What are they?


Let’s listen to songwriter Mark Atkins telling us a bit about Frog Song, from Nightfalls.

·      Is Frog Song a real story, or is it made up?

·      Why is the setting a swamp?

·      What is the hidden meaning of the song that Mark explains in the video?

Perform Frog Song by singing along with one of the recordings above, or by singing accompanied by piano, guitar, or ukulele, using the provided resources:

Frog Song Piano and Guitar

Frog Song Piano and UKE

You can also download the accompaniments as a PDF for printing:

Here are the lyrics to Frog Song:

Verse 1

Sitting on a bank by a swamp
Bucket, bone, and a line
Gonna get a feed tonight
Chookies on the coals, alright

And that moon shines through
Them tall tea trees
Swingin’ in the breeze
(Swayin’ in repeats)
And them frogs sing that song
That only frogs yeah
Verse 2

Well I got that fire goin’
Casting some scary shadows
Swamp creatures singing
“There’s something in the dark”
And under a full moon
That fog rolls in
I’m up on the bank and I’m
 Verse 3

Sittin’ on that bank by that swamp
By that fire
I had a dream
And I dreamed all them frog creatures and them swamp
“There’s something in the dark”
Sittin’ by a fire with me
And there was pop and nan and mum and dad
There was uncles and aunties and cousins and nephews and brothers and sisters
And an old camp dog
Chewin’ on someone’s shoe
Verse 4

Thinkin’ on the years and time gone by
There’s tears in my eyes
Coz I’m standing right there
Where that swamp used to be
A lot of memories
Sittin’ on the bank by a swamp

Creative Activity 2 – Guitar Accompaniments for Your Song

Now it’s your turn to write a song about a time that you heard a particularly Australian animal! Your song can be about the animal, or it can be a reflection on what you were doing at the time – Mark’s Frog Song is a bit of both (and as you’ve seen, lots of hidden meaning).

To make it easier for you to write the song, we’re providing you with guitar loops to three different song accompaniments!

Have a listen

Have a listen to each song accompaniment, and then download the loops: use the accompaniment you like best!

Accompaniment 1

Accompaniment 2

Accompaniment 3

Download the Songs, Loops and Session files:

Putting your accompaniment together

Each song accompaniment above was already organised into a structure of verses and choruses. However, if you like, you can create your own. Follow the tutorial here to find out how!


If you play guitar, or another chord-playing instrument like keyboards or ukulele, you can write your own accompaniment!

Creative Activity 3 – Toplining

Toplining is what it’s called when you have an accompaniment for a song, and you write the lyrics and melody! If you search on the internet or on YouTube, you’ll find loads of tutorials on toplining. Feel free to check those out, but we suggest that you simply use the backing track and your ear.

Remember, your song should be about a time that you heard a particularly Australian animal. Your song can be about the animal, or it can be a reflection on what you were doing at the time. Here’s how to begin in your DAW:


As shown in the video, you can add a drum loop to the backing track to change the vibe of your song.

In addition, you could find or make recordings of the animal that your song’s about, and mix them into the final recording, just as Mark and Erkki did in Frog Song and all of the other pieces in Nightfalls.

Presentation of Learning

While students will make recordings in this project, which can be shared on the school’s LMS, collected as an album/playlist for sharing with parents, or played as the school bell, this project also lends itself to live performance.

The accompaniments assembled in Creative Activity 2, above, can be used as backing (“karaoke”!) tracks for performance in concerts, school assemblies, or other public events. Since many students will use the same backing, performing song after song may not provide enough variation for a dedicated concert, so careful programming may be required.

Australian Curriculum Mapped Outcomes

Year 7 and 8 Music


Investigate the diversity of music composed and/or performed by First Nations Australians, considering culturally responsive approaches to Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property rights.

Listening to and performing Frog Song by Mark Atkins, students learn and understand the hidden story behind the song: the history of the oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander movement, communication, and cultural expression.


Perform music using relevant vocal and/or instrumental techniques and performance skills.

Sing Mark Atkins’ Frog Song, and optionally perform accompaniment on keyboard, guitar, or ukulele, as authentically as possible.



Compose using the elements of music and compositional devices to communicate ideas, perspectives and/or meaning, and notate, document and/or record the music.

Topline (write the melody and lyrics for) a given guitar accompaniment, in the style of Mark Atkins’ Frog Song, and on a similar topic.

Reference: View here

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and create, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Low view of Australian Outback landscape with red dirt texture heavily feature and dry grassy hill in the distant background