HISTORY is one thing. As an educator, storyteller, cultural ambassador, 1992 Australian of the Year, and founder and chairman of the Yothu Yindi Foundation and the Garma Festival of Traditional Culture, Mandawuy Yunupingu’s immense historic legacy, since his father signed a bark petition to the Australian Parliament in 1963 demanding recognition of the Yolngu people is all but carved in stone.
MUSIC is something else. It carries stories of time immemorial, the raw emotions of here and now and messages of hope and change for an eternal future. Songs are forever in the moment. Always with the gift of remembering, always with the power to heal.
The first line of a song that would take the world by storm and that would serve as a reminder to many many Australian’s of the cultural history and politics of Australia. During 1988, as a part of the Bicentennial celebrations, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, visited the Northern Territory for the Barunga festival where he was presented with a statement of Aboriginal political objectives by Galarrwuy Yunupingu (Mandawuy’s older brother) and Wenten Rubuntja. Hawke responded to the Barunga Statement with a promise that a treaty would be concluded with Indigenous Australians by 1990. This statement would inspire a song composed by Mr Yunupingu, members of Yothu Yindi, Paul Kelly and Peter Garrett. The song was ‘Treaty’.
‘Treaty’ was the first ever national top 40 hit released by an indigenous Australian band and rose to #4 on the national Australian singles chart in 1991. ‘Treaty’ was from the ‘Tribal Voice’ album which also charted in the national USA Billboard album chart at #3. It went on to win the ARIA for ‘Single Of The Year’ in 1992.
Yothu Yindi signed to Mushroom Records and Mushroom Music Publishing in 1988. They released four studio albums with Mushroom Records; Homeland Movement in 1988, Tribal Voice in 1991, Freedom in 1994, Birrkuta – Wild Honey in 1997. They also recorded and released two independent albums ‘One Blood’ in 1998 and ‘Garma’ in 2000. In November 2012 Yothu Yindi released ‘Healing Stone – The Best Of Yothu Yindi to coincide with their ARIA Hall Of Fame induction. The album was released through Mushroom’s Liberation Music. Yothu Yindi have remained published by Mushroom Music throughout their career.