Trib­ute to a beau­ti­ful singer taken too soon

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DOC­U­MEN­TARY

Gur­ru­mul (PG) Stars Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu Di­rec­tor Paul Wil­liams Re­view Leigh Paatsch Mov­ing, mes­meris­ing and gen­uinely from the heart, the ex­tra­or­di­nary new Aus­tralian doc­u­men­tary holds a mir­ror to the unique life and mu­sic of the late indige­nous singer­song­writer Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu.

The sub­ject, a blind Yol­ngu man from El­cho Is­land, signed off on the fi­nal cut days be­fore his re­cent sad pass­ing at the age of 46.

Tribal elders have al­lowed its re­lease to hon­our his legacy, a rare ex­cep­tion from Yol­ngu lore re­gard­ing men­tions and de­pic­tions of the dead.

In his brief ca­reer, the enig­matic Gur­ru­mul crafted a re­fined body of work that con­veys emo­tions, feel­ings and spir­its that are dif­fi­cult to put into words. Hear his voice for the first time, one of his aunts says, “and al­ready the song has told you who he is in the world”.

As for any de­cod­ing of the achingly beau­ti­ful and evoca­tive mys­tique of his sound, Gur­ru­mul him­self would not have a bar of it.

Me­dia in­ter­views, photo op­por­tu­ni­ties, TV ap­pear­ances, live tour of­fers both here and over­seas — all the trap­pings re­quired by a record­ing artist to achieve suc­cess — were mostly re­jected with­out a word by Gur­ru­mul.

The man had his rea­sons. He missed his fam­ily, friends and time alone mak­ing mu­sic too much to al­low for the slight­est in­ter­rup­tion.

The most re­mark­able as­pect of this doco is that de­spite Gur­ru­mul’s un­yield­ing re­fusal to dis­cuss his mu­sic, the time we get to spend in his com­pany here speaks vol­umes for a tow­er­ing au­ral artist taken from his home and his peo­ple too soon.

Late singer-song­writer Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu in a scene from Gur­ru­mul.

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