Mandawuy Yunupingu, Australian Musician and Educator, Dies at 56
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 4, 2013
Mandawuy Yunupingu, the former lead singer of the Australian indigenous band Yothu Yindi, died on Sunday at his home in a tiny Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory. He was 56.
David Hancock/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
His death was announced by Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard. No cause was given, but Mr. Yunupingu had been treated for kidney disease for years.
He began his career as a teacher and was the first indigenous Australian to be appointed a school principal. He developed what he called the “both ways” educational philosophy, which used both Western and Aboriginal teaching techniques.
His penchant for blending cultures carried over to his music career with the formation of Yothu Yindi in 1986. The band included both Aboriginal and white musicians and won fans with its combination of traditional indigenous sounds and modern pop and rock. Yothu Yindi, which released six albums, toured the United States and Canada and toured Australia with Neil Young.
“The Aboriginal lyric talks about opposites,” Mr. Yunupingu said in an interview with The New York Times in 1991. “It mentions kinship terms. In aboriginal pattern of understanding, you don’t marry within your own clan. You’ve got to marry opposites.” Yothu Yindi, he said, “tries to create that fusion, that interface, from modern to traditional, from present to past.”
In a review of the band performing in Manhattan in 1994, Peter Watrous wrote in The Times, “The music’s chugging power at moments seemed irresistible.”
He is survived by his wife, Gurruwun Yunupingu, and six children.