Sunday, May 24, 2009


Last night Deeplode went to the old Palais Theatre in St. Kilda. A beautiful venue which is now the subject of a development plan.
He hopes any development is done well.
But he went to hear Gurrumul Yunupingu.
Deeplode listened, Deeplode shed a tear or two, Deeplode jumped to his feet and gave, along with a full house, a standing ovation for something electric and spiritual.
Gurrumul firstly though silenced a Melbourne crowd packed into one of our favourite venues (Paul Kelly packed it out the night before.) and gave us something never before heard or experienced.
If you have not heard Gurrumul sing then you must... at least to understand the stories he tells.
Here is a review of his London concerts which sums it up nicely.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
Union Chapel, London
* Robin Denselow
* The Guardian, Monday 18 May 2009

It is dangerous making predictions, but here goes. Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu - better known as just Gurrumul - is going to be the next world-music celebrity. He is a blind Aboriginal songwriter who sings in the Yolngu dialect of the Gumatj clan, but this compelling British solo debut proved he has the ability to move from the remote territories of Australia's Arnhem Land to the world's concert halls.

A slight figure sporting cropped hair and a black jacket, he sat motionless throughout the concert, singing and playing acoustic guitar but never saying a word until the final thank you. "He won't talk‚" explained his producer, Michael Hohnen. "But I can feel that he's happy."

Yet Gurrumul totally dominated the hall, from the first notes until the standing ovation. Backed by a classy acoustic band comprising a string quartet, a second acoustic guitar and Hohnen's double bass, he started out like an Aboriginal answer to Nick Drake, with a soulful and emotional treatment of what could have been a sturdy western folk melody, but with lyrics that dealt with the importance to the Gumatj nation of the orange-footed scrubfowl.

It is this unlikely mixture that explains Gurrumul's appeal. His singing was gentle and heartfelt, his lyrics (translated on a screen beside the stage) dealt with subjects ranging from the forces of nature to his ancestors, and yet the melodies were so straightforward and powerful that any western songwriter would have been jealous. Folk, soul and gospel influences were all there, along with a dash of reggae, and he ended with a personal song in English, I Was Born Blind, the screen showing images of his own history. Gurrumul deserves to become a star.

About this article
World music review: Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Union Chapel, London
This article was first published on at 00.01 BST on Monday 18 May 2009. It appeared in the Guardian on Monday 18 May 2009 on p34 of the Reviews section.

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