Australia's most prominent Indigenous musician dies aged 46

Dr G. Yunupingu is due to be celebrated in a documentary about his remarkable life. Source: Skinnyfish Music

Musician Dr G. Yunupingu has died at just 46 years of age after a long-running illness.

Australia’s most prominent Indigenous music artist, who shot to global stardom in 2008, is being mourned by family and friends as a “genius and wonderful human being”.

His full name is being withheld for cultural reasons, as are images of the star.

The singer and accomplished guitarist and musician was from the remote community of Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, which is 500 kilometres east of Darwin. He was a member of the band Yothu Yindi during his teens, having learned to play the guitar at the age of six, but later went solo.

Dr G. Yunupingu won an ARIA Award for his namesake 2008 album, which hit triple platinum in Australia, silver in the UK and charted in multiple countries around the world.

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His label Skinnyfish described the musician as “one of the most important figures in Australian music history, blind from birth and emerging from the remote Galiwin’ku community … to sell over half a million copies of his albums across the world, singing in his native Yolngu language”.

“His high tenor voice and aura-like persona create emotion, compassion and a feeling of peacefulness and longing with audiences in Australia and around the world,” the statement read. The musician performed for world leaders including former US President Barack Obama and at the Queen’s diamond jubilee concern.

ABC News reported that Dr G. Yunupingu’s friend Vaughan Williams said the artist had been staying in Darwin.

Williams said he had been contacted by people who were concerned that the musician had not been getting renal treatment for the Hepatitis B he contracted as a child, which had caused the singer to suffer from liver and kidney disease. The singer had battled his illness for years and in 2012 was forced to cancel a number of European performances as a result, including one at the London Olympic Games.

Williams told ABC News he had taken the singer to Royal Darwin Hospital last Thursday. He was told of his death on Tuesday afternoon. 

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Prominent Australians paid tribute to Dr G. Yunupingu as word of his passing emerged.

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The singer’s family is expected to be offered a state funeral, reports said.

A documentary about his life is due to premiere in August at the Melbourne Film Festival.


Did you ever get the chance to see him perform?