ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Beautiful Voice: Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Updated on March 23, 2011

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Gurrumul Yunupingu is a man of few words, at least publically. Notorious for avoiding interviews or indeed, any sort of self-promotion, he appears to have not much interest in fame and is concerned with making money from his music only in so far as it can offer security and help his family.

Thus far in his career he has won an Aria, made it to Number One on the iTunes Australia roots music chart, performed with Elton John, Sting and had the critics and public alike raving about his 'angelic' voice and musical talent.

Most of the talking in interviews is done by his friend and producer Michael Hohnen, whom he calls a 'brother'. As Hohnen tells it, they had to pull out of a planned US tour because on the day of departure Gurrumul simply wouldn't get on the plane. He didn't wish to go. According to Hohnen, there's a frailty about the reticent star that he wouldn't elaborate on.

Indigenous Australians belong to what is probably the oldest surviving culture in the world, yet, statistically, they are also the most vulnerable group in our Nation. The brute facts are that 45% of Aboriginal men and 34% of women die before the age of 45. 71% die before they reach the age of 65. At 40,the singer is now nearing the danger age for developing health problems. Certainly to this listener at least, there is a sweet, deep melancholy in Gurrumul's voice that suggests an understanding of suffering and loss

Gurrumul sings in Yolngu language, but this scarcely matters as the emotional expression is universal. For a restful experience, take a few moments out...turn up the volume, shut your eyes, hit the play button, sit back and let your mind take you where you where it wants to go. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I did.

Gurrumul with his friend Micheal Hohnen.
Gurrumul with his friend Micheal Hohnen.

Gurrumul's Story

β€œAll instruments – whether it is piano, guitar, bass, yidaki, drums – all of them I like playing. I just love music.”

Born on Elcho island, Arnhem land, in Australia's Top End, Gurrumul has been blind since birth. However, he was not sheltered as a child but rather surrounded by a very supportive family and community who encouraged what was an early interest in music.

When as an infant his mother bought him a toy keyboard, he took to it immediately and taught himself to play. Left-handed, he was later given a guitar at age six and learnt to play with the strings upside down. By the time he was a teenager he could play a variety of instruments and word was spreading about his musical abilities beyond the immediate community.

In need of a drummer, acclaimed indigenous band Yothu Yindi had heard about the wiz kid from Elcho Island and Gurrumul was asked to join the band on an International tour. The venture was successful for both parties, however one day Gurrumul just announced he was resigning from the band because he wanted to play guitar and keyboard instead of drums.

Returning to Elcho Island, Gurrumul met Micheal Hohnen, former member of Melbourne band, The Killjoys, who had escaped to the Northern Terrority to expand his horizons. Working with local musicians running workshops, Hohnen teamed up with an Employment Project Manager, Mark Grose and seeing how important music was to the local youth, together they developed the idea of setting up a record label.

Hohnen was deeply impressed by Gurrumul and suggested he do some work on his own, independent of the band he was currently with. After some very successful live solo performances, a recording was made and Gurrumul's career was off and running.

Gurrumul's home at Galinwinku on Elcho Island, is a remote community isolated from most of Australia, however, it is the largest Aboriginal community in northeast Arnhem Land and culturally rich in indigenous arts. As far as Gurrumul is concerned, the music of his Island home was, and continues to be, a signifcant influence in his life.

These are songs that I sing for all my families, and Yolngu. When I sing it is like I am singing for my fathers and mothers and aunties and my clan. It makes me feel strong and happy, like I am giving people a message and a good feeling.

Elcho Island
Elcho Island


Deadly Vibe website

Australian Story, ABC


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Jane Bovary profile imageAUTHOR

      Jane Bovary 

      7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      I must have missed that would have been good. Thanks MPG.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I saw Geoffrey on Spicks and Specks on ABC1 earlier this year and loved his music. He is a beautiful person, thanks for introducing him to HP readers Jane.

    • Jane Bovary profile imageAUTHOR

      Jane Bovary 

      7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      DeGreek and Petra, thanks very much for your comments. Gurrumul is a bit like an oasis in that sea of hype known as the entertainment industry.


    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      What a great story. Thank you for letting us know "it is still possible".

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thank you for introducing this man to me. Never heard of him before. Lovely sound :-)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)