Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

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Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu in Nov 2012.jpg
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu in November 2012
Background information
Born(1971-01-22)22 January 1971
Elcho Island, Australia
Died25 July 2017(2017-07-25) (aged 46)
Tiwi, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, drums, keyboards, didgeridoo
Years active1986–2017
LabelsSkinnyfish Music
Associated actsYothu Yindi
Saltwater Band

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (22 January 1971 – 25 July 2017), also referred to since his death as Dr G Yunupingu,[note 1][3][4][5] was an Indigenous Australian musician.[6] A multi-instrumentalist, he played drums, keyboards, guitar (a right-hand-strung guitar played left-handed) and didgeridoo, but it was the clarity of his singing voice that attracted rave reviews. He sang stories of his land both in Yolŋu languages such as Gaalpu, Gumatj or Djambarrpuynu, a dialect related to Gumatj, and in English.[6][7] Although his solo career brought him wider acclaim, he was also formerly a member of Yothu Yindi, and later Saltwater Band.[6] He was the most commercially successful Aboriginal Australian musician at the time of his death.[6]

Early life[edit]

The first of four sons born to Ganyinurra (Daisy), of the Gumal clan, and Nyambi (Terry) Yunupingu, a Gumatj clansman,[8] he was born in Galiwin'ku, Elcho Island in 1971,[9] situated off the coast of Arhem Land in northern Australia, about 530 kilometres east of Darwin. He was born blind, never learned Braille and did not have a guide dog or use a white cane, and was said to be acutely shy.[10] When he was four years old, he learned how to play a toy piano and an accordion by teaching himself. A year later he began to play a guitar; despite being a left-hander, he played a right-handed guitar, holding it upside down, which he would continue to do throughout his career.[6]


Gurrumul playing at the West Coast Blues & Roots Festival (2011)

His first solo album, Gurrumul, was released in 2008, debuting at No. 69 on the ARIA Charts and No. 1 on the independent chart.[11] Gurrumul peaked at No. 3 on the ARIA Charts.[12] The album was certified triple platinum.[6] Yunupingu's friend Michael Hohnen produced the album and was his translator. Critics have heaped praise on the singer, describing his voice as having "transcendental beauty". Elton John, Sting and Björk were among his fans. When asked what he would do with any money he made, he suggested it would go to his mother and aunts, following the Aboriginal tradition of sharing wealth.[10]

In 2008 Yunupingu was nominated for four ARIA Awards,[13] winning the awards for Best World Music Album[14] and Best Independent Release.[15] He also won three Deadlys, winning for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year for Gurrumul and Single of the Year for "Gurrumul History (I Was Born Blind)".[16]

In November 2009, he was named Best New Independent Artist, and his album, Gurrumul, Best Independent Release and Best Independent Blues/Roots Release at the Jägermeister Australian Independent Record (AIR) Awards held at Melbourne's Corner Hotel.[17] In 2009 a portrait of Gurrumul by Guy Maestri won Australia's major art prize, the Archibald Prize.[18]

He was again awarded the Australian Independent Record (AIR) Award for Best Independent Blues and Roots Album in 2011 for his album Rrakala.[6][19]

In 2012 Gurrumul was one of the contributing vocalists on Gary Barlow's commemorative single "Sing" for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which features artists from across the Commonwealth. He performed "Sing" live at the Diamond Jubilee Concert on Monday 4 June 2012 together with many of the song's contributing artists.[20][6] In 2012 Gurrumul had conferred upon him an Honorary Doctorate of Music by the University of Sydney.[6]

In 2013, Gurrumul joined Delta Goodrem for a special performance of "Bayini" on The Voice Australia.[21] During the performance, he stated:

Yolngu are deep thinking philosophical people. The words in the song refer to many families sitting together on the beach looking to waves and sea, the horizon, contemplating.[22]

In December 2013, Gurrumul released a live album, titled His Life and Music which was recorded in the Sydney Opera House and released through ABC Music. It was nominated for Australian Independent Record Labels Association and ARIA awards.[23] "Bayini" became the first track by an indigenous musician to reach the top five of the Australian charts.[6]

In 2015, Gurrumul toured the US.[24] He released his third studio album, The Gospel Album on 31 July 2015. It debuted at number 3 on the ARIA Charts. In October 2015, the album won Gurrumul's third ARIA Award for Best World Music Album.[25]


Yunupingu died at Royal Darwin Hospital, Northern Territory, at about 5 p.m. on 25 July 2017, aged 46.[26] He had suffered from liver and kidney diseases for many years.[6] Upon his death he was described as an important figure in fostering racial harmony, and as a voice of indigenous Australians.[6] He received tributes from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, fellow musician Peter Garrett, and the Dean of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.[6]

In April 2018, Yunupingu's fourth studio album Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) was released. It is an album four years in the making and was completed by producer/arranger Michael Hohnen.[27] A documentary film titled Gurrumul was also released, which Luke Buckmaster reviewed, stating that: 'For Gurrumul fans, the film is obviously a must-see. For those unfamiliar, or vaguely familiar with his work, it’s an even greater treat: they will be entertained, enthralled, perhaps in some small way changed.'[28]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications

  • Released: February 2008
  • Label: Skinnyfish Music (SFGU080201)
  • Formats: CD, digital download
3 13 60 9 54 10
  • Released: 15 April 2011
  • Label: Skinnyfish Music (SFGU110402)
  • Formats: CD, digital download
3 85 34
The Gospel Album
  • Released: 31 July 2015
  • Label: Skinnyfish Music (SFGU150803)
  • Formats: CD, digital download
Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)
  • Released: 13 April 2018
  • Label: Skinnyfish Music (SFGU180413)
  • Formats: CD, digital download
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Live albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
Live in Darwin, Australia
  • Released: 16 July 2010
  • Label: Dramatico / Skinnyfish Music (0063)
  • Formats: CD, digital download
His Life and Music
(with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra)
  • Released: 6 December 2013
  • Label: Universal / Skinnyfish Music (3764720)
  • Formats: CD, digital download
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


ARIA Music Awards[edit]

The ARIA Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony that recognises excellence, innovation, and achievement across all genres of Australian music. Gurrumul has won 9 awards from 21 nominations.[38]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2008 Gurrumul Independent Release Won
Best World Music Album Won
Best Male Artist Nominated
Album of the Year Nominated
Michael Hohnen and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu for Gurrumul Producer of the Year Nominated
2011 Rrakala Independent Release Nominated
Best World Music Album Won
Best Male Artist Nominated
Album of the Year Nominated
Best Cover Art Nominated
"Gopuru" Best Video Nominated
2014 His Life and Music Best Male Artist Nominated
Best Original Soundtrack Cast Album Won
2015 The Gospel Album Best World Music Album Won
2018 Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) Album of the Year Nominated
Best Male Artist Won
Best Independent Release Won
Best World Music Album Won
Best Cover Art Won
Michael Hohnen for Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) Producer of the Year Nominated
Ted Howard, Robin Mai & Matthew Cunliffe for Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) Engineer of the Year Nominated

NAIDOC Awards[edit]

In 2016, Gurrumul was named NAIDOC Award – Artist of the Year[39]


  1. ^ Avoiding the use of a deceased person's first name is part of grieving practice amongst many Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Use of the title "Dr." is based on the honorary doctorate conferred in 2012 by The University of Sydney.[1] However, most universities do not endorse the use of "Dr." as a title for holders of honorary doctorates; this is also reflected in the obituary published in the New York Times, which refers to him as Mr. Yunupingu.[2]


  1. ^ Honorary awards : Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, The University of Sydney. Last Updated: 17-Feb-2015. (Accessed 2017-08-18.)
  2. ^ Dr. G. Yunupingu, Australian Aboriginal Singer, Dies at 46. The New York Times, Russell Goldman, 26 July 2017. (Accessed 2017-08-18.) "Mr. Yunupingu was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the University of Sydney in 2012."
  3. ^ "Dr G Yunupingu obituary". Guardian Australia. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Dr G Yunupingu: Australia's most prominent Indigenous musician dies aged 46". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Singer Dr G Yunupingu dies aged 46". The Australian. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Marshallsea, Trevor (26 July 2017). "Dr G Yunupingu: An exquisite singer who 'spoke to the soul'". BBC. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  7. ^ "Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunipingu". dB Magazine. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  8. ^ Hillman 2014.
  9. ^ "Australian indigenous singer Dr G Yunupingu dies". BBC. 26 July 2017.
  10. ^ a b McMahon, Barbara (17 July 2008). "Aboriginal singer beats poverty and prejudice to top Australian charts". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 April 2014.
  11. ^ National Indigenous Times – Issue 156 Gurrumul CDs to tap into UK Archived 23 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ The ARIA Report issue 1021
  13. ^ Aria Awards
  14. ^ SBS news Arnhem Land's Gurrumul wins ARIA award Archived 22 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ 2008 Aria Award Winners
  16. ^ Northern Territory News[dead link] Gurrumul Deadly at Awards
  17. ^ "Yunupingu Wins AIR Awards Triple". 25 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  18. ^ "Archibald Prize 09". Art Gallery of New South Wales. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  19. ^ Australian Independent Record Labels Association Ltd (AIR), 2012
  20. ^ "The Diamond Jubilee Official". 4 June 2012. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012.
  21. ^ McCabe, Kathy (27 May 2013). "Delta to sing Gurrumul's indigenous anthem Bayini on The Voice tonight". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  22. ^ Ferreira, Nuno Saque (10 May 2012). "Gurrumul featuring Sarah Blasko – Bayini – UK single release July2nd". #AltSounds. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  23. ^ "gurrumul-his-life-and-music-cd". December 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  24. ^ "Gurrumul announces USA Tour 2015". Archived from the original on 26 July 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  25. ^ "Courtney Barnett, Hermitude, Tame Impala Lead 2015 ARIA Award Nominations". Nastassia Baroni. 7 October 2015. Archived from the original on 7 October 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  26. ^ Aikman, Amos. "Singer Dr G. Yunupingu dies aged 46". The Australian. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Djarimirri by Gurrumul". Readings. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  28. ^ Luke Buckmaster, Gurrumul review – stirring and soulful ode to Australia's most important voice,' The Guardian 15 February 2018
  29. ^ a b "Discography Gurrumul". Australian Charts Portal. Hung Medien.
  30. ^ "Discografie Gurrumul" (in Dutch). Belgian Charts Portal. Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  31. ^ "Discographie Gurrumul". French Charts Portal. Hung Medien.
  32. ^ "Discographie Gurrumul". German Charts Portal. Hung Medien.
  33. ^ "Discografie Gurrumul" (in Dutch). Dutch Charts Portal. Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  34. ^ "Discographie Gurrumul" (To access, select "charts" tab) (in German). Swiss Charts Portal. Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  35. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2011 Albums". ARIA. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  36. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2012 Albums". ARIA. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  37. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. 23 April 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  38. ^ "ARIA Awards Search Results - Gurrumul". ARIA Awards. ARIA Awards. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  39. ^ "First Indigenous nurse graduate among winners at the 2016 NAIDOC awards". ABC News. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 11 July 2016.

External links[edit]