Gurrumul and Indigenous languages offer windows into Australia’s past and present

Gurrumul

The late Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is the highest selling Indigenous Australian musician in history. Djarramirri is the first-ever album in an Australian Indigenous language (actually two Indigenous languages) to make number 1 on the charts.

By Emma Murphy

July 6, 2018

'The late Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingul is the highest selling Indigenous Australian musician in history. Released in April, Djarramirri is the first-ever album in an Australian Indigenous language (actually two Indigenous languages) to make number 1 on the charts.

'The album brings together traditional Yolngu songs with orchestral accompaniment.
Like the film, the album was finalised weeks before Gurrumul’s death, having been four years in the making.

'Gurrumul was widely praised for taking his languages of Galpu, Gumatj and jambarrpuyngu to the world stage. But, while he reached a fame far greater than many before him, Australian languages have featured in popular music of different genres for decades.

'In 1983, the Warumpi Band released what is thought to be the first recorded rock song featuring an Australian language: “Jailanguru Pakarnu”, which is Luritja for “Out from Jail”.

Since then, contemporary Indigenous music has gone from strength to strength

'In 2016, Gawurra, another Yolngu artist, released “Ratja Yaliyali” (“Vine of Love”) in Gupapuyngu. While contemporary, it references an ancient songline from Milingimbi,
Gawurra’s home island off the coast of Arnhem Land. ...

'Ratja Yaliyali' by GAWURRA - Official

'Other musicians who have brought Australian languages onto the big stage include
Yolngu hip-hop artist Baker Boy, Emily Wurramara, who sings in Anindilyakwa, and Shellie Morris. ...

Djolin (Musical Instrument)

'There is a rich tradition of songs as a form of record-keeping that did not end with invasion and colonisation. It is no surprise, then, that songs also tell the story of interactions with settlers and colonial power. ...

'Jailangaru Pakarnu' - Warumpi Band

Marryuna - Baker Boy ft Yirrmal

Saltwater People Song - Shellie Morris & the Borroloola Songwomen

Emily Wurramara - Ementha-Papaguneray (Turtle Song) - Greenpeace - Save The Reef

More of Emma's article here.


GreenLeftWeekly Author Emma Murphy's profile

'Emma Murphy is a linguist who supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
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