Gurrumul remembers the Yothu Yindi Lead Singer

Gurrumul made the following comment this afternoon on the passing of the lead singer of Yothu Yindi:

“I respect him….and I love him…. And I miss him. From Gurrumul”

The book reviews are rolling in

Sydney Morning Herald and The Age 11/5/13

By Robert Hillman
ABC Books

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu won't be explained by any book. If the best a biographer can hope for is to make that clear and OK, Robert Hillman does an excellent job in between the stunning photographs and bonus CD of this deeply researched, sometimes surreal story of an extraordinary musician and the ancient culture he has opened to the world.

The problem goes back to the Dreamtime. In spite of decades of well-meaning parallels with creation myths and religious faith, Hillman's conviction is that until any whitefella can trace his story a few thousand generations deep on the same patch of earth, he's just peeking through a keyhole at a concept that defies time as we know it.

After respectful consideration, crucial related concepts of totem identity and clan obligations are effectively retired to adjacent too-hard baskets. The most comical chapter revolves around (and around and around) an interview with Gurrumul's aunties under a pastel sunset at Darwin's Nightcliff markets.

''In Arnhem Land, the crocodile goes way, way back to the creation story. Dhuwa, that is the mother; Yirritja, that is the father,'' Aunt Dorothy explains. ''The crocodile is Yirritja. The crocodile is Gurrumul. So now you understand.''

''Do I?'' Hillman wonders.

He understands more than the average Aussie bloke. His Elcho Island chapters include fascinating threads of European history and anthropological sidebars about language and other mysteries of this most ancient of civilisations.

But by writing himself into these scenes as an awkward ''balanda'' clutching his notebook full of all the wrong questions, he gives us permission to approach his subject with wonder and humour, leaving behind the anxious need for atonement and correctness.

Wonder is, after all, what most listeners bring to Gurrumul's music: songs that invoke a strange and timeless web of relationships to nature and kin, sung in rhythms and dialects that have overwhelmed audiences around the world with something other than literal meaning.

Hillman gives us intimate access to that story. He treads softly in the shadows as muso-manager-translator Michael Hohnen leads his blind prodigy in a state of Zen-like calm from Elcho to a Coburg recording studio; from New York's Carnegie Hall to the Queen's Jubilee Concert in London, where Paul McCartney and Elton John pay their respects. He conveys Gurrumul's playful sense of humour and boyish obsessions (Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard), as well as several gripping episodes in which his seemingly irrational priorities flirt with disaster, whether on live French television with some guy called Sting, or in a near-death experience that tests the ground between Gumatj conviction and European rationalism to the limit.

We enjoy the rare privilege of hearing the famously reticent superstar speak, too, albeit only as overheard in shorthand conversation with Hohnen and his business partner Mark Grose - the singer's adopted brother and father, according to Aboriginal custom.

Hillman's only attempt to interview his subject results in another farcical episode, as he waits under a tree outside Gurrumul's house while family members intermittently emerge to report ''Nope. Still asleep.''

By accident or design, the character that emerges is hence defined less by his own personality than through various relationships both within and beyond Hillman's frame. Exactly as in his songs, Gurrumul's ghostly presence in his own story shifts focus to an immeasurably bigger picture.

The Boy's Own adventure is here, of course. In pop's standard terms of fame and fortune, a blind man's journey from banging flour tins on an Arnhem Land beach to $80 room-service steaks at the Waldorf Astoria is amazing. The lavish photo component that spans from Gurrumul's near-naked and scarified great-grandfather circa 1937 to happy snaps with Stevie Wonder and Barack Obama is doubly so.

Accordingly gobsmacked and clearly moved by his subject's powerful spirit and artistry, Hillman can veer towards the purplish end of the prose spectrum. The word ''genius'' is overplayed and scattered references to John Milton, Beethoven and Miles Davis seem at odds with the uniqueness of this very singular artist's vision, style and purpose.

But stars need to be defined as such in the ''carnival of celebrity'' with which the author sheepishly identifies. ''As a matter of fact,'' he confesses as he sweats through another stony silence among Elcho Island locals, ''I feel a certain amount of suspicion about my own motives.''

He needn't. If Gurrumul's life and music comprise an invitation to his country, his culture and their unexplained mysteries, this book is a gracious act of acceptance.

Read more:


John Butler joins Gurrumul on Barunga Festival 2013 Line-up


Barunga Festival 2013 got even bigger today with the announcement of John Butler joining the legendary Gurrumul Yunupingu, at Australia’s most anticipated and historic Indigenous festival. John will perform on Sunday June 9 at the festival which boasts three days of music, sport, dance and traditional activities, celebrating Indigenous culture in all its forms in the unique Barunga community, 70km south of Katherine.

Butler is one of Australia’s most highly respected truly independent artists. His philanthropic organisation, The Seed Fund, has been instrumental in supporting emerging indigenous talent from across Australia, including the Barunga region. It will be a pleasure to have him on the stage at a festival that he has supported so generously in the past. This will be a very special festival event, and not to be missed for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants from around Australia.

Barunga Festival is held over the long weekend, Friday 7th - Monday 10th June. For the 28th year, the community of Barunga will host this much loved Territory event which brings together the musical, artistic, cultural and sporting talents of the greater Katherine region as well as the Top End and Desert regions. The 2013 Barunga festival program will have all the usual festival treats and more details of the 3-day music, sport, dance and traditional activities program will be released soon.

Tickets are now on sale through Moshtix
Organisations wishing to participate in or sponsor the 2013 festival are invited to contact Skinnyfish Music by May 3


Yolanda Be Cool (Feat. Gurrumul) Flume Remix Goes Viral

GGY and Yolanda Be CoolYolanda Be Cool (Feat. Gurrumul) Flume Remix Goes Viral

Gurrumul has gone viral with his Yolanda Be Cool song collaboration ‘A Baru In New York’ remixed by #1 ARIA hitmaker Flume. Gurrumul wrote the lyrics about his totem — A ‘Baru’ is a saltwater crocodile.

Creating an amazing soundscape which brings Gurrumul’s distinctive vocal and ambience to a whole new level, Flume’s ‘Soundtrack Version’ of Yolanda Be Cool/Gurrumul’s ‘A Baru In New York’ was leaked to Soundcloud last Friday, picking up a near 150,000 streams and over 800 shares in less than a week.

“Gurrumul is so impressed with how his song with Yolanda Be Cool was reinterpreted by Flume,” said Gurrumul’s friend and collaborator Michael Hohnen. “Gurrumul and I listened together to the remix, sitting on the floor, in front of a huge stereo system. He proclaimed at the end of it – “that sounds like a crocodile movie”.

“Gurrumul has embraced this song ever since he created it with the Yolanda boys, and even appeared in the beautiful music video. Flume’s managed to create almost electro-orchestral backing, while retaining the sense of history and dignity which is such a quality of Gurrumul’s music.”

This unique collaboration which has brought together three groundbreaking Australian artists, Gurrumul, Yolanda Be Cool and Flume, has already been labelled as an important bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous music, mirroring the cultural contribution made by Gurrumul’s former band Yothu Yindi and the remixes of their 1991 song Treaty.

A Baru In New York’ by Yolanda Be Cool feat. Gurrumul is available now on iTunes including remixes from Flume and Chocolate Puma.

Click here to listen and buy on iTunes

View A Baru in New York (Yolanda Be Cool feat. Gurrumul) Music Video:

A Baru In New York

‘A Baru In New York’ represents an opportunity for Gurrumul, Yolanda Be Cool and Flume to share Indigenous Australian culture with their worldwide audiences. Gurrumul sings about identity, spirit and connection with the land, its elements and the ancestral beings to which he is related. The song ‘A Baru In New York’ is sung by Gurrumul in Yolngu language and is about his totem - the Saltwater Crocodile called Baru. The song was partly recorded in New York and the title is representative of Gurrumul travelling to share his music and culture with the world.

Yolanda Be Cool

Dance music duo Yolanda Be Cool ranks with the highest selling Australian recording artists of all-time with 16 World Number Ones and 14 Platinum Certifications (including the international hit ‘We No Speak Americano’). They have redefined the dance genre of late, creating a niche with family friendly dance songs that are a departure from the usual dance remixes. Industry standard English lyrics are no certainty with YBC releasing a worldwide hit song in Italian and now a song in Indigenous Australian Yolngu language, written by Gurrumul.


Flume is a very young Sydney beat maker who’s grabbed the attention of XLR8R, Electronic Beats, Triple J, FBi and many more in less than a year. After selling out 2 national Australian tours by the end of 2012, Flume is set to hit the road again having played prestigious Australian festivals: Splendour in the Grass, Parklife and Foreshore as well as a very special event in Sydney called Vivid LIVE at Sydney’s most famous venue - The Sydney Opera House. He’s still busier than ever producing – recently releasing an original with Anna Lunoe called ‘I Met You’, remixes for Hermitude (Elefant Tracks), The Aston Shuffle and Ta-ku as well as putting the finishing touches on his debut album.


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