Gurrumul Yunupingu provides silent charisma
SINCE emerging on the scene as a member of Yothu Yindi, Aboriginal singer Gurrumul Yunupingu has gone on to become one of the most iconic artists in Australian music.
As well as having a host of awards to his name, Gurrumul has drawn other well-known artists to collaborate with him, including Sting and Delta Goodrem.
His inclusion as one of the headline acts at the inaugural Boomerang Festival looks set to make the three-day event into something very special.
Long-time friend and collaborator Michael Hohnen often speaks on behalf of the blind singer who only speaks a few words of English.
He has worked with Gurrumul for the past 15 years as a producer and bass player in his band.
"I don't want to overstate his significance as an artist, but there is definitely something going on when you come into his space," Mr Hohnen says.
"You feel different when you are in his presence. He has a silent charisma.
"I feel privileged to work with him. You can feel the weight of expectation on him. He brings with him a feeling of place and his culture.
"You become aware of the depth of his cultural significance.
"When you meet someone significant from another culture such as the Dalai Lama, you can see them switch from their own culture to Western culture, and Gurrumul is able to do the same thing."
Gurrumul does not do many live shows, and Mr Hohnen says the Boomerang show will be a quiet and intimate affair.
"But there will be a place in the middle of the concert that is more informal, and when he will be more accessible to the audience," he says.
"He is looking forward to being on the big festival stage with a big sound system and production.
"Gurrumul played Bluesfest three years ago and he loved performing there, and he loves Byron Bay.
"The fact that Boomerang is a multi-arts festival will change people's perspective.
"He will have family there, so it will put the songs in a whole new context and hopefully people will get more out of the experience."
As for working with other artists, Mr Hohnen says Gurrumul's recent collaboration with Delta Goodrem was especially significant.
"The production on that work was really high-end and sophisticated and Gurrumul really enjoyed that aspect of the work," he says.
"Seeing someone like Delta learning language and take on the character made Gurrumul and his family very happy.
"They were happy to see that surge of interest and to see another artist take it on in such a serious way. It was really very important to him."