Wednesday, October 19, 2011


A couple of weeks back, I listened to Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu's albums Gurrumul and Rrakala, back-to-back, over three days, courtesy of my father-in-law.

The music press has salivated over Gurrumul's work, declaring him the greatest voice Australia's ever produced. Sting's been stung, telling all who still treat him seriously that Gurrumul is a higher being. Punters twist 'n shout. I, though, have been underwhelmed. I almost feel guilty for feeling this way. UnAustralian. Unsupportive of indigenous Australia. Racist.

It's just that so many of his tunes are repetitive and flat and uninteresting. I never wept. I never fell unconscious. I didn't want to fly to Yolgnu country and become one with a brolga.

Can listeners split their reaction to Gurrumul's voice from the fact he has been blind since birth (his eyes are like opals) and comes from a remote corner of the country? Maybe not. With Gurrumul, you get this romantic package, a gateway and invitation into a world you've turned your back on, intentionally or unintentionally. Buying an album, you feel you're supporting something bigger than yourself, maybe easing indigenous pain. His long fingernails add to the mystique. And all the lyrics go over our white heads and that is so cool.

Saying all that, 2 or 3 of his tracks are gorgeous, their lullaby-like power haunting. And Rrakala's stunning gold cover and the inside sleeve shot depicting Gurrumul having his forehead painted white by an elder in a white dress, whilst a cousin/brother/friend looks on, is richly evocative.

Still, I don't need another Gurrumul album. I'm not interested in seeing him live. I don't want to read another hyperbolic review. Personally, I want Garrett to wake up, step out politics' back door and reform the Oils.


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