Obituary: Dr G Yunupingu 1971-2017

Posted on August 2nd, 2017 in Recent posts by .

Dr. Yunupingu-©Adrian Cook

Photo by Adrian Cook

Australia’s most successful and unique Aboriginal voice, Dr G Yunupingu passed away on July 25 at the age of 46, after a long illness.

A Yolngu man of the Gumatj clan from Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, off the Arnhem Land coast, the celebrated singer-guitarist was born blind. Fascinated by music as a child, he learned hymns with the local mission choir, and was provided first with a toy piano accordion and then an acoustic guitar, which the left-handed Yunupingu simply flipped over and played ‘upside down’ – a style he continued throughout his career.

Possessing a natural musical ability and a remarkable voice, in 1989 he was invited to join the seminal indigenous rock band Yothu Yindi, founded by his uncle, the late M Yunupingu. He toured widely with the popular band for three years, both within Australia and overseas, before family members concluded that the on-the-road lifestyle wasn’t good for him. Back on Elcho Island he joined the locally-based Saltwater Band with his friend Manuel Dhurrkay, recording three indigenous-reggae albums.

In 2007, producer-bassist Michael Hohnen suggested that Yunupingu record a solo acoustic album, and the resulting self-titled 2008 release became an international phenomenon, selling 500,000 copies and establishing Yunupingu as a major international artist.

Singing in Gumatj, Galpu, Djambarrpuyngu and English, the ethereal beauty of his transcendent voice captivated millions of listeners around the world. His subsequent albums Live in Darwin, Australia (2010), Rrakala (2011) and The Gospel Album (2015), further expanded his audience.

Yunupingu collaborated with many other well-known artists, performed for Barack Obama, and took part in the Queen’s star-studded 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Seth Jordan

 

For cultural reasons the full name and image of the late artist are respectfully not being published.

 

                                                                                                     

 

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