Gawurra album


(CAAMA Music)


Gaw resWe Johnny-come-lately settlers seem to have built a wall around indigenous culture, not to protect it, but to isolate it. We can squat here for a lifetime, flitting overseas for “culture hits” and never engaging with what is in our backyards, let alone beginning to understand it. This album is an easy way to start.

Born in Yolngu country in Arnhem Land, Gawurra sings his songs in the Gupapuyngu language, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, with understated beats and added textures. His words have been beautifully translated by Rosemary Lanybalanyba, so we may absorb a unique poeticism that can soar in lyrical flights or be rooted in an earthier realism. The title track, Ratja Yaliyali (Vine of Love), is a homage to the potent bond between Gawurra and his grandmother, sung with moving force, while Guwak (Little Black Bird) is “calling to tell the sun to rise quickly/ for the children’s sake”. As an extra Gawurra offers startling renditions of 10 short traditional pieces that may begin to burn Yolngu songlines into your soul.