Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu isn’t exactly a household name, but he is a singer you should know. He is a blind, aboriginal Gumatj singer from Elcho Island, a small island off the northern coast of Australia that is about a 100 square miles and has its own dialect, a language called Gumatj. With the voice of an angel, he sings songs about peace, love, and brotherhood with an innocence that reminds me of early Milton Nascimento.
Gurrumul, as he’s known, opened his U.S. tour in New York City last month under the aegis of none other than composer/producer Quincy Jones, who posted a video on Facebook singing the praises of this “unbelievable” artist. This musical godfather describes Gurrumul’s voice as “one of the most unusual and emotional and musical voices that [he’s] ever heard.”
As part of his tour, Gurrumul performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival last week. And though he’s been largely unknown in America, Gurrumul has already sold over 500,000 copies of his albums worldwide, mostly in Australia. The New York Times raved about his recent NOLA performance, so it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be hearing more about him.
For those of us lucky Angelenos, Gurrumul comes to the El Rey Theatre tonight, together with his band, before they head up to the Bay Area to conclude their first-ever U.S. tour. His tour schedule a few years ago was canceled, due to sudden illness, so if you happen to be in LA, tonight is your chance!
Click here for the rest of Gurrumul’s 2015 tour schedule.
A BBC feature on Gurrumul with his producer/interpreter, Michael Hohnen. Notice how he plays his guitar left-handed and upside-down. Listen with your ears and heart, and you’ll believe.