George Burarrwanga

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George Burarrwanga (/bɑːrəˈwɔːŋɡə/, 1957 – 10 June 2007),[1][2] known in life as George Rrurrambu (/ɹəˈɹæɱbʉ̯ː/) and George Djilangya (/d͡ʒəˈlæŋgjə/),[3] was a Yolngu man from Elcho Island in Arnhem Land. He was an icon of Aboriginal rock music, and was most well known as the charismatic frontman of the Warumpi Band.

Burarrwanga's musical career began in the late 1970s in Central Australia, when he helped form the Warumpi Band, which was also made up of Sammy Butcher, Gordon Butcher and Neil Murray.

In 1983 they released the single "Jailanguru Pakarnu" (Out of Jail),[4] the first rock song ever released in an Australian Aboriginal language.[5]

Three albums, Big Name No Blanket (1985), Go Bush (1988) and Too Much Humbug (1996), followed, including the anthemic songs "Blackfella/Whitefella" and "My Island Home", the latter of which was made famous when it was covered by Christine Anu in 1995.[5]

Burarrwanga performed at a number of major music festivals, including WOMADelaide, the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the indigenous music events Stompen Ground in Broome and the Garma Festival in Gove.

After the break-up of the Warumpi Band, Burarrwanga launched a lower-key solo career, performing to sellout crowds at the Festival of Darwin and appearing live on national television for the Yeperenye Federation Festival in Alice Springs during 2000. He then launched a solo reggae album, touring throughout the Northern Territory and then to Europe in 2002.

Throughout his career, Burarrwanga was active in promoting reconciliation and cross-cultural understanding between black and white Australians. In later years, Burarrwanga largely returned to traditional life, attending funeral and circumcision ceremonies with his father, a Gumatj clan leader. He was a proponent of combining the technical experience of white Australia with the knowledge of the land of the Aboriginal people to achieve more successful outcomes.

In 2007, after his death at the age of 50, he became known as George Burarrwanga for cultural reasons.[5]


  1. ^ "Former Warumpi Band frontman dies". ABC News. 10 June 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2007. 
  2. ^ "Father of Aboriginal rock remembered in traditional ceremony". ABC News. 11 June 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2007. 
  3. ^ The liner notes for Too Much Humbug
  4. ^ "Warumpi Band on australianscreen online". Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "Lead singer of Warumpi Band dies". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 June 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2007. 

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