Mark T. Grose, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Sting, Michael Hohnen, Susan Dhangal Gurruwiwi
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…this well-constructed film is quite a good memento of his life…
The late indigenous singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu had the voice of an angel. He was also, despite – or because of – being blind from birth, a gifted multi-instrumentalist. His talent shines through in this documentary, as does his integrity.
Though very much a respectful and admiring portrait of its subject, Gurrumul is not a hagiography, and it also shows his difficult side – exemplified by the time he failed to turn up in Darwin to head off on a massive U.S. tour. On the other hand, Western popular culture looks garish and shallow when contrasted here with the timeless depths of aboriginal tradition, and there are admirable aspects to Gurrumul’s stubborn refusal to play the media game. He was also very shy, and English was his third or fourth language, so while his beautiful songs transcend language barriers and speak eloquently for themselves it’s good to hear people who knew him well reminiscing here. They include his aunt and other family members, and especially his manager Mark Grose and musical collaborator Michael Hohnen from Skinnyfish Music.
When Gurrumul died last year at just 46, he had been suffering from liver and kidney diseases for many years (though that’s not mentioned in the doco). His music is of course his enduring legacy, but this well-constructed film is quite a good memento of his life, from childhood through Yothu Yindi and Saltwater Band to his stellar international solo career. The latter encompassed orchestral accompaniment at the Sydney Opera House, a brief collaboration with Sting… but it’s the footage from his beloved home turf on Elcho Island, off North East Arnhem Land, which will probably resonate most strongly.