Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island readers of this post are advised that the following media release and links within contains images and voices of people who have died. The family of Gurrumul have stated: “The family have given permission that following the final funeral ceremony, his name and image may once again be used publicly to ensure that his legacy will continue to inspire both his people and Australians more broadly.”
Gurrumul (Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, also known as Dr G. Yunupingu after his death) achieved remarkable success as a multi-instrumentalist and an extraordinary vocalist over his altogether too short a life. He first achieved prominence in the band Yothu Yindi with their anthemic call for Aboriginal rights, ‘Treaty‘, in the early nineties but later went on to have an incredibly successful solo career, indeed becoming the most acclaimed and highest selling indigenous performer ever in Australia.
Gurrumul died in 2017 but had finished recording an album, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow), which is now due for release on 13 April 2018, along with a film of his life and art.
The first single off the record, ‘Djolin (Musical Instrument)’, is a beautiful amalgam of traditional Aboriginal sounds evinced by Gurrumul’s gorgeous vocals along with an orchestral sweep, redolent of modern European composers such as Philip Glass or Michael Nyman:
It is truly a beautiful piece of music with its revolving, hypnotic sounds that evoke the sounds of the outback with percussion sticks and Gurrumul’s singing in his native Yolngu tongue, contrasting with European instruments such as trumpets and strings.
Long-time musical collaborator and friend Michael Hohnen said of the recording:
“Last year we sat and listened to these recordings over and over again, from beginning to end and piece by piece, pulling them apart and putting them back together until all elements shone. We had finished the incredible process, preparing to release it and then we lost him. We had played many of the pieces live over the past few years of touring and planned how the pieces would work before we recorded them in the studio. He was immensely proud of what we achieved on this album and it is an emotional experience for all of us to present this final enormous chapter in his story with this musical statement.”
You can preorder the album here.
The film, ‘Gurrumul’, is a portrait of an artist on the brink of global reverence and the struggles he and those closest to him faced in balancing family, country and traditional life with an international music career. Blind from birth, he found purpose and meaning through songs and music inspired by his community and country on Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land. Living a traditional Yolngu life, the film is a story of the clash of cultures behind the making of an Australian icon. ‘Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)’ completes the musical legacy of that story. Here is a trailer of the film, which received a standing ovation during its international premiere last week at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival and has rave reviews ahead of its public release in cinemas on April 25.
Photos: 6 Seasons Productions