The fourth and final studio album by Dr G Yunupingu, the Yolŋu singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from northeastern Arnhem Land’s Elcho Island, became the first Indigenous-language album to top the Australian chart. A tribute concert called Buŋgul(or Bunggul,which means meeting) was a mesmerising, emotionally affecting sensation.
Buŋgulat the Sydney Opera House. Photo © Victor Frankowski
The entire set of Dr G’s posthumous chart-topping 2018 album Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)was played live by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to Dr G’s pre-recorded, multitracked voice as nine male Yolŋu family members danced, sang or played clapsticks and yidaki. The title track is about the rainbow serpent as a creation figure, a way of seeing his mother, Daisy, of the Galpu clan. Sung in Dhangu, the lyrics translate in part as: “I dry my child in the sun / On the ground where I gave birth.”
On his first solo album, Gurrumul, which introduced the world to his transcendent voice after stints as a musician in Yothu Yindi and the Saltwater band, Dr G imagined this mother-son relationship from his view: “I am a Rainbow child,” he sang. Born blind, with an innate...