Thursday, 28 February 2008

Songbird in the city

Tonight I heard a songbird sing.

Definitely not the tune of a jungle fowl, which he did sing about, and we hear in the suburbs here quite often; but the voice of a very talented young man with a most beautiful voice singing songs of his country and of his land. Songs with words of colour, images of sunsets and sounds of the wind which totally belie the fact that this young man has been blind from birth. Hauntingly, beautiful music, the spirit of which will stay with you long after the music has stopped. His name – Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, is from the Gumatj nation, his mother from the Galpu nation; and his new solo album is called Gurrumul, which presents songs of his people, culture and land sung in his angelic voice, with elegant backing of guitars and double bass. His solo performances are a rare treat and if you are given the opportunity, should not be missed. You don't need to close your eyes and listen to him sing; but if you do, you will be taken on a journey, far away from where you were.

A former member of Yothu Yindi, his own band, The Saltwater Band, hail from Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, NE Arnhem Land, and are a much loved and most popularly noted Indigenous band, partly because of Gurrumul’s influence and guidance. But this is not Yothu Yindi!

Long-time friend and co-member of the Saltwater Band Michael Hohnen said that Geoffrey’s talent as a solo artist was recognized about 10 years ago. "We played together just with double bass and guitar one day and it sounded fantastic. Gurrumul got really excited about the sound and so we started testing the water doing a couple of live shows supporting other people and we just got an enormous reaction from his family and from people saying 'you’ve got to do more.'"

The album was recorded in Melbourne and was mixed and mastered in Darwin and showcases Gurrumul’s unique way of playing the guitar. "He plays the guitar upside down – so it’s a normal tuned guitar but he plays it backwards. This came about because there weren’t left-handed guitars on communities."

With the release of this, his first solo album, Geoffrey highlights the tremendous talent he has to offer Indigenous music in Australia, and indeed, the world. I think it is one of the most important and beautiful Indigenous albums ever recorded.

Go to the link below and listen to his sound.

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