Singer Gawurra Gaykamangu is in a class of his own. His voice is resonating around the world due to his modern twist on his ancient Yolŋu language.

11 June 2019

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Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Catfish Records, Gawurra Aboriginal Corporation Pty Ltd.

‘The way he combines contemporary singing with the songlines of his people is spine chilling,’ Gawurra’s Managing Director Kevin Garant said.  ‘When he sings people are mesmerised. They have never heard anything like his sound before. He has a very unique musical talent and pitch that is deeply emotional.’ 

Gawurra, who is from Milingimbi (Yurrwi) in North East Arnhem Land, is becoming a global phenomenon singing in language. 

He hit the mainstream in 2016, when he won the Northern Territory Pop Song of the Year, four National Indigenous Music Awards and an ARIA nomination. But first and foremost he is a respected Milingimbi songman.

‘I have been working on my style all my life to make it my own. I want people to learn and sing my songs,’ Gawurra said.

He is passionate about sharing his culture, traditional knowledge and love for his people and country.
 
‘I’m making a pathway for my people,’ Gawurra said. ‘It’s important for me to help connect black and white Australians and to make everyone feel good about music and language. It is important that the world learns about our culture. That is important to me,’ Gawurra said.

Language is at the heart each performance. ‘I like the audience to learn words of my Guynupingu language. It’s fun for everyone. I make them move. Make them laugh. Make the audience cry. You’re pulling the heart string. It is emotional for everyone to come close. It feels good to share my music.’

Such is his reputation that Gawurra has been invited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to travel to the US mid-West as a part of the department’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program’s International Year of Indigenous Languages Speaker Series 2019.

‘I am proud that I am a Yurrwi man, an Aboriginal man, and I am so happy I have been invited to speak in America. I always want to share my knowledge.’

‘I am traditional man. I sing for ceremonies. I sit and teach music. Sometimes it’s hard in the music world. I tell artists you have to work hard and be true and sing from your heart,’ Gawurra said. ‘I want to help them for their future.’

‘At first it was a big deal for him to leave his small community, where he is a leader and has an important role singing in all the important ceremonies and as a mentor, teaching music,’ Kevin said.

Gawurra has managed to bridge two worlds. ‘He has big goals to create pathways for future artists, particularly Aboriginal performers,’ Kevin said. ‘He has made it his business to learn about the industry and has his own music company Gawurra Catfish Corporation, which he operates out of Melbourne, because he is interested in the economic and artistic development of his people.

‘He's put in a lot of hard work and the timing is right for him. There’s a consciousness across the whole world about first nation cultures and the younger generations in particular are really open to it,’ Kevin said. ‘There hasn't been an Indigenous artist that has captured people’s imagination like him.’ 
 
You can hear Gawurra’s unique sound in this video:

 

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Catfish Records, Gawurra Aboriginal Corporation Pty Ltd.

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