Dr G, a life stilled, a voice eternal

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By Warwick McFadyen

It was the voice that floated above us and yet went into us, settled there and, having left an impression forever, left to soar higher and higher into the rarified air where sound is only attained by the very few. The shorthand would be to describe it as angelic. But this is not enough. Angels would rip their wings from their body, would fall to earth, to possess this voice. If only for a short time.

The owner of this voice was Dr G. Yunupingu, died in a Darwin hospital, aged 46, this week. He was on earth for a tragically short time. His voice remains through his recordings and performances. It is a solace of sorts.

Blind from birth, Dr G could not bring the colours of the world to his songs, yet he took the other senses – touch, hearing, smell and taste – and like an alchemist turned the elements of a life that began on remote Elcho Island into unsurpassed musical beauty.

His voice took him to the President of the United States Barack Obama and to the Queen, to giants in rock such as Sting and Elton John who spoke of its “transcendental beauty”, and to people in the street. He sold so many albums, won so many awards, and yet his last days were on a beach with a camp of “drinkers”; missing vital treatment for kidney and liver illness.

He sang in his native Yolngu language. It was beautiful. Listening to it was like looking into the clear night sky and imagining the river of stars, sparkling in the deep darkness, were close enough to touch. His voice could, and does, transport you beyond the surrounds of where you are standing or sitting. It takes you out of your reality, if only for a short time.

This is the power of such a voice. This is the force of nature that beguiles and enriches and gives hope through its existence that despite all that is cruel and inhumane, a flame can still flicker, bring light and warmth to the world.

Close your eyes and listen.

Warwick McFadyen is a freelance writer and editor


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