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Dr Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

1970 – 2017

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (1970–2017), a man of the Gumatj clan of north east Arnhem Land, was born blind but learned to play guitar, keyboard, drums and didgeridoo as a child. He performed with Yothu Yindi from 1985 to 1992, when he formed the Saltwater Band. Gurrumul shot to prominence in 2008 with the release of his debut album Gurrumul, which was nominated for four ARIAs and won two. Critics raved about his unearthly voice, his successful fusion of music styles and his authentic Aboriginal sound and stories. The Age critic called his release, Rrakala (2011), ‘the definitive Australian folk record of our times’; in a cover article Rolling Stone called him ‘Australia’s most important voice’. Gurrumul sang about Gumatj stories in Yolngu, but his song ‘Gurrumul History’ was in English, the better to spread his story. ‘I like singing about the story properly, singing all the right names of land, and ancestors, because I have to give out the right story. It is like a celebration,’ he once said.

Updated 2018