Gurrumul, An Unlikely International Star, Reaches U.S. Ears

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Australian musician and singer-songwriter Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who goes by simply Gurrumul, is an international star. He has sung a duet with Sting, performed for Britain's Royal Family and President Obama and even graced the cover of Rolling Stone, who called him "Australia's most important voice." That's remarkable for a man who was born blind, is extremely shy and doesn't speak much English.

Gurrumul's songs, like his own life, encompass a span of human experience as great as any on earth. His native language is unintelligible to all but a few thousand people in northern Australia; a generation ago his people roamed the bush. On the other hand, he has been to New York, to Paris and to London. And while his lyrics invoke the myths of his people, thoroughly unfamiliar stuff to Western ears, the music is essentially acoustic folk, inspired by tunes from the U.S. and Britain.

Gurrumul's self-titled debut album, which originally saw release in Australia in 2008, hit shelves in the U.S. this week. This singer does not give interviews, but his bass player and producer Michael Hohnen spoke with NPR's Robert Siegel about how the Australian star's songs encompass a span of human experience as great as any on Earth. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

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Source: NPR


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Comments [2]

Janey from Greenville, SC

Thank You WNYC. Thank you for introducing me to Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Pure passion and the voice of an Angel.

Jul. 25 2014 10:22 PM
Julia Hewitt from Worcester, Vermont

I loved the piece about Gurrumul Yunupingu. I also take issue with two important details.

The lead-in to the piece begins, "Despite being born blind and speaking a language that few on Earth understand, Australian singer-songwriter Gurrumul has become, as Rolling Stone puts it, the most important voice of his nation." Despite being blind? Subtext? A person with blindness would ordinarily be unable to accomplish such a feat.

And then typically wonderful Robert Siegel assumed, in conversation with Yunupingu's friend, that Yunupingu lives at home with his parents. Really? As if a person with blindness would be incapable of living independently. I am surprised and disturbed that NPR failed to report about Yunupingu with the same sensitivity it usually affords–– oh, everyone.

Jul. 25 2014 05:07 PM

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