Gurrumul Yunupingu 1971 – 2017
Gurrumul was raised on Elcho Island, off the coast of North East Arnhem Land, as a member of the Gumatj clan. Born blind, his powerfully emotive yet fragile voice has affected the public unlike any other Australian artist. His songs covered themes of identity, spirit, connection with the land and its elements across multiple Yolngu languages as well as English. The depth of his music, his stage presence, combined with his captivating high tenor voice incited emotion, compassion and a feeling of peacefulness within Australian and international audiences alike.
In today’s world where the media and the music industries are centred around hype and fashion, Gurrumul is a unique celebrity who has stood the test of time, one who could “change the way you breathe” (Brisbane Courier Mail, 2008) and forever altered the way people from around the world interact with Yolngu culture.
In 2008, Gurrumul first gained international attention when his self-titled first solo album debuted at #1 on the independent music charts and peaked at #3 on the ARIA charts. In 2009, he was named Best New Independent Artist and the album won both Best Independent Release and Best Independent Blues/Roots Release at the Australian Independent Record (AIR) Awards. The album reached Triple Platinum in Australia and Gurrumul’s voice connected with listeners such as Elton John, will.I.am and Sting. His second album Rrakala (2011), hit Platinum and continued the stream of adoration for Gurrumul, with Rolling Stone magazine declaring him “Australia’s Most Important Voice” (Rolling Stone, April 2011).
Gurrumul performed for HRH Queen Elizabeth II, past-US President Barack Obama, Crown Prince Frederick and Princess Mary of Denmark, in addition to being one of only two Australian performers at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace, confirming this multi ARIA award-winning musician’s place as an international star who had transcended cultural boundaries while staying true to his culture.
In April 2018, Gurrumul’s posthumously released fourth studio album, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow). The album debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts, won multiple ARIA awards and the Australian Music Prize. A true testament to his legacy, the Gurrumul documentary released in 2018 has been screened internationally and won the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Award (AACTA) for best documentary, showing a deep worldwide appreciation for his story and songs.