“Today we mourn the loss of a great Australian, Dr G. Yunupingu who sadly passed away yesterday in Royal Darwin Hospital at age 46 after a long battle with illness,” the singer’s record label Skinnyfish Music said.
“Dr G. Yunpingu is remembered today as one of the most important figures in Australian music history, blind from birth and emerging from the remote Galiwin’ku community on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land to sell over half a million copies of his albums across the world, singing in his native Yolngu language ...
“The highest selling Indigenous artist in history, Dr G. Yunupingu released two subsequent top five studio albums Rrakala and The Gospel Album, achieved a swag of ARIA Awards, performed across the globe ... and released the first Indigenous language single to reach the top five, all the while continuing to call Elcho Island home.
“Dr G. Yunupingu also gave back to his community as the driving force behind the G. Yunupingu Foundation, creating opportunities for young people across the Northern Territory.
“His legacy as a musician and community leader will continue as his life’s work continues its positive impact on Elcho Island, The Northern Territory, Australia and the world.”
On ABC News, Jakelin Troy wrote: “[H]is legacy to the world is an achingly beautiful body of music in Yolngu Matha, the language of his country, Elcho Island in north-east Arnhem Land.
“Yolngu Matha is the name of a group of languages and dialects. These are among the last 13 or so groups of languages that are still ‘strong’, spoken by all generations in their communities ... They are the last of what is now estimated to be as many as 407 languages.”
Troy noted: “In Australia, Dr G Yunupingu was less likely to receive the basic health care that other Australian children enjoy.
“As an adult he suffered from complications of hepatitis B, a disease that can be avoided by a simple vaccination.
“We lost an inspiring and compassionate leader, an artist and advocate for our endangered Australian languages because his health was compromised through entirely preventable diseases.”
Vaughan Williams, a friend of Dr G Yunupingu, said: “I feel he was trapped in the same cycle of bad health that so many Indigenous people are trapped in.”