Posts Tagged ‘Gurrumul’


Vivid Sydney: Gurrumul – His Life and Music at the Sydney Opera House

29 May 2013

Last night was my next Vivid Sydney show: Gurrumul.


I had only vaguely heard of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu when I saw his concert listed for Vivid. My better half suggested we go, so I got tickets and then learned more about him. Gurrumul is an Indigenous Australian musician who sings in the Yolngu language (he apparently knows very little English).┬áHe’s from an island off the coast of Arnhem Land. He was born blind. He sings the songs of his people, in their language, though sometimes performed in a Western folk-music way. He plays several instruments, but mostly guitar.

And he sings in a high, otherworldly voice that sends shivers down my spine.

Last night’s show was a world premiere: not only Gurrumul and his band, but with accompaniment by some of the Sydney Symphony. This created a lush, powerful swell behind the songs. Gurrumul’s beautiful singing came through every song, whether it was an Aboriginal chant, or an ancestral tale set to a folk-pop rhythm or a reggae tune. There were video segments of his family explaining what each song was about, which gave the audience context. His songs are not political; they’re expressions of his culture, so that context meant a lot.

Gurrumul reserved his voice entirely for his songs but for a quick thank you at the end. It was a very special show.

Here’s a small sample of a performance from a few years back, to give you a tiny idea of what he was like before he got big in 2008. It might be hard to imagine this with a symphony behind him, but it really worked.