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  ISSUE 164


The multi-award winning National Indigenous Times is an independent newspaper and receives no government funding whatsoever. Our print edition is published every fortnight, but because of the public interest nature of our reporting, we ensure all of our stories are available online at no cost. Thus, we rely entirely on advertising and subscriptions to survive, and hope you'll consider subscribing to NIT's print edition to help us continue our work, or even just browse our Online Shop.



Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu poses for a photograph after a sound check at the Song Summit Sydney S3. (AAP Image/Tracy Nearmy).

Yunupingu’s voice creates waves throughout the world
Issue 151 - 17 Apr 2008

By Amy McQuire


Issue 151, April 17, 2008: Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’s voice is creating waves far beyond his home on Elcho Island at the tip of the Northern Territory.

Although he is not new to the music scene, his debut solo album Gurrumul has already made a splash and the ripples are not just touching Australian shores.

He has already been named as the new voice of Aboriginal music and is being hailed by critics all over the world.

Mr Yunupingu’s long-time musical collaborator and album producer Michael Hohnen told NIT last week that the response, particularly domestic, had been amazing.

“I actually thought Australia was a bit of a racist country and that overseas would pick it up,? Mr Hohnen said.

“It started charting a little bit...and now it’s selling everywhere to all sorts of people. The ABC Classic station has been playing it as well as Triple J... it goes right across the board in the terms of its listeners.?

Blind since birth, Mr Yunupingu showed signs of musical promise at an early age when he learnt to play a toy piano in a couple of days.

“Everyone was thinking, what is going on here?? Mr Hohnen said.

“It was something special, then as he grew up a little bit he used to follow his uncle to church and play all the gospel songs on an acoustic.?

With no access to a left-handed guitar, he taught himself to play it backwards.

“Basically it was seen by his family that he was very naturally gifted musically,? Mr Hohnen said.

“But as he was restricted, he used to stand around and listen. Culturally he was also bought up really well musically.

“He had that combination from a very early age - of doing church music and cultural music.

“Elcho Island also has a very strong musical history, with the Soft Sands and the Warumpi Band.?

Mr Yunupingu has already been a part of Australian music history.

He was a member of one of Australia’s most famous Aboriginal bands Yothu Yindi and was a central figure in the Saltwater Band.

But according to Mr Hohnen, it was time for him to embark on a solo venture.

“In Yothu Yindi he was never a front person. He was always Tribal Voice he plays a heck of a lot of things - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals etc, but he was never seen as Yothu Yindi,? Mr Hohnen says.

“Saltwater Band was his band but it was shared with all his other brothers and another clan. It was his but this album is totally him. He plays just about everything on it. He’s doing nearly all the backing vocals except for one song. It was really his, before it was a collective that wasn’t focused on him.

“In Indigenous culture, especially up here, to be big-noting yourself kind of means coming out and being the front person before your time. Culturally it is not really the thing that’s done.

“I think he felt it was ready and it was time to do something like this.?

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