Gurrumul – The Documentary @ Hayden Orpheum

Image by Adrian Cook

Last night we went to the premier of Gurrumul, the Documentary about the life of Dr. G. Yunupingu at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Mosman. We joined Director Paul Williams, Gurrumul’s musical collaborator and producer Michael Hohnen, his brother Jonathan Yunupingu and Sarah Blasko at this special screening. Following the film there was a conversation about Gurrumul’s life, music and legacy. The event also featured a brief musical tribute by Jonathan, Michael & Sarah, who performed material from Gurrumul’s new album ‘Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)’.

The Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Mosman is at one extreme of the life lived by Dr G. Yunupingu, A Yolngu man from Galiwin’ku ( Elcho Island ). I first met Dr G when I was sent to cover – one of my better assignments – the tour of the band Yothu Yindi throughout the East Arnhem Land communities. A member of the band his true talent was yet to shine. In fact he was so shy the other band members had to gather him up and place him in the middle of the group shot I took of the band at their base in Yirrkala.

Yothu Yindi, Indigenous Band, Yirkala, Northern Territory, 1991.

I remember the day I heard his first album, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, I was driving, the morning presenter on ABC’s 702 played a track called Djarimirri ….. sung in language ….. I had to pull over the music was so powerful. As Sting has said “its the sound of a higher being” I have since been lucky enough to see him in concert at The Enmore theatre and The Opera House where he played with musicians from the Sydney Symphony, both memorable and life enhancing.

This from the book Gurrumul – His Life and Music by Robert Hillman ” What Gurrumul’s voice brings to his songs is a beauty wrought by a culture that has endured for millennia, holding fast to its integrity over two thousand generations.”

” Gurrumul performs in English on occasion, but the full vigour of his voice is only revealed when he sings in his mother tongue. Maybe he feels a greater confidence in the meaning of the words shaped in Galpu, but I think it’s also to do with the sheer love of the language he’s used since infancy. He sings from the inside in Galpu. These are the words that first drew him into the world, first fashioned the shapes and feelings that have been with him ever since. Without sight, the words would have come to him with a greater intimacy, perhaps a greater sensuality than a sighted child would experience. Tis there in Gurrumul’s song of longing Withathul that feeling of the words being caressed as they emerge.”

Hit the link to watch the trailer ….


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Comments 2

  1. Wow, what a night.

    First a superb performance of one of new songs from the album to be released tomorrow. An amazing new composition.

    Then a most wonderful documentary film capturing not only Gurrumul’s music and personna in a candid and at times humorous way, but also his community on Elcho Island, his family, his inspirations.

    What emerges is not only a profile of probably the greatest indigenous musician Australia has ever seen, and his inspirational soul and music brother in Michael Hognen, but also a community steeped in spirituality expressed through music and songs passed down over tens of thousands of years.

    An inspirational exploration of Gurrumul’s ancestral responsibilities to his family and his tiny dignified community; to preserving the ancient songlines, and to creating new ones for future generations.

    This is above all a joyous celebration of a most beautiful man and his culture. A must see.

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