Monday, 3 June 2013

Vale M Yunupingu

Lead singer of Yothu Yindi, the groundbreaking Yolgnu rock band from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, has passed away from renal failure aged 56.

In the early 1990s Yothu Yindi were inescapable. They did the unthinkable for a band of indigenous Australians - have hit records with a fusion of traditional Yolgnu sounds (such as digeridoo and clap-sticks) and R&B-infused rock, sung partly in English and partly in Gutjamati, the language of his people.

He did a great deal to educate Australians regarding the plight of Aboriginal people in Australia and was one of the leading campaigners for reconciliation between the indigenous people of Australia and the current Australian government.

By trade he was a teacher, the first indigenous person to gain a Bachelor degree from Deakin University. He was also the first indigenous school principal in Australia. With the help of Paul Kelly and Peter Garrett, the song "Treaty" hit the top of the charts (thanks to a fiery remix from Filthy Lucre) in 1991 and the album Tribal Voice became a multi-platinum seller.

Yothu Yindi were inducted into the ARIA hall of fame in 2012 and Mr Yunupingu gave an induction speech. At that stage he looked very frail and sadly nearing the end. He had been suffering from renal failure and was on dialysis treatment. He died on Sunday June 2, 2013 at his home in Arnhem Land. His vitality, vibrant music and passionate work for both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians will be missed.

Vale Mr Yunupingu.

EDIT: This post has been edited to remove the photo and Mr Yunupingu's first name. We apologise for any offense caused to any indigenous readers.

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