Yothu Yindi


The highlight of the 2012 ARIAs will confirm the claim made in a certain superannuation ad starring human livewire Bernie Fraser: ‘From little things big things grow.’ 

Treaty, the global smash that kickstarted the career of Top Enders Yothu Yindi, grew out of a campfire chinwag with then PM Bob Hawke, back in 1988.

Tonight at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, Yothu Yindi are to be given the ARIA Hall of Fame royal treatment, in what will be a big moment of the glitzy music biz showcase. Kevin Rudd, champion of the Stolen Generation, no doubt, will be chuffed.

But did Treaty make it easier for indigenous musos to get heard — and who’s set to rise to the top?

The kids most likely are the Medics, a hirsute fourtet of moody rockers who’ve just shifted base from Cairns to Brisbane. They were big winners at the recent National Indigenous Music Awards — the edgier alternative to the annual Deadlys — claiming three gongs (Best new talent, album of the year, song of the year) and plenty of sideways glances from every industry player in the room. Keeping it in the family, the father of Medics’ frontman Jhindu Lawrie is Bunna Lawrie of the band Coloured Stone, revered elders in the Aboriginal music world.

In between collecting all the silverware at the Indigenous Music Awards, The Medics and Bunna joined the petite Thelma Plum on stage for a Bob Dylan singalong (of all things!) Plum is a teenager who’s made her mark via Triple J’s Unearthed talent comp, plugging the type of introspective acoustica that’s become the private domain of those with the surname Stone.

On a global scale, no-one can rival the climb of Gurrumul, the enigmatic blind singer / songwriter, a former member of Yothu Yindi and now indigenous music ambassador to the world.

Well, did you play at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert? Huh? No? Gurrumul did.

It’s likely that Dan Sultan can’t be too far behind Gurrumul; the hunky and soulful Sultan has world-beater all but tattooed across his forehead. He was even recruited for half-time entertainment at the 2011 NRL grand final. Talk about being embraced by the mainstream.

An honorable mention should also be given to country crooner Troy Cassar-Daley. While hardly the most radical of artistes — shoot, he even recorded a song about Don bloody Bradman — the genial Cassar-Daley, whose mother is Aboriginal, has established himself as a key player in the local country music scene, a club that’s about as welcoming as a Masonic lodge.

Cassar-Daley doesn’t wear an Akubra, either, and I can’t ever recall him dedicating a song to his ute.

It’s unlikely, though, that all this recent history will be impinging on the thoughts of Yothu Yindi mainstay, Mandawuy Yunupingu, when he steps up tonight to collect his pointy gong.

Mandawuy’s undergoing daily dialysis for End Stage Renal Disease, so he’ll be content with simply getting due recognition for his work. It’s been a long haul: Treaty is now 20 years old.

To get you in the ARIAs mood, have a listen…






INXS. Keep on Walkin’

I was Kasey’s Ghost (Writer)


*Jeff Apter’s latest book is Shirl: The Life of Legendary Larrikin Graeme “Shirley” Strachan (Hardie Grant). You can visit his website at www.jeffapter.com.au.











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  • Reply November 29, 2012


    What a fabulous song!! Treaty still gets me dancing whenever I hear it (even now when I played it!) Congratulations to Yothu Yindi, who well-deserve to be in the ARIA Hall of Fame. And what very sad news about Mandawuy Yunupingu’s health.

  • Reply November 29, 2012


    About bloody time.

  • Reply December 1, 2012

    Tony W

    “Treaty still gets me dancing whenever I hear it”

    Haha, you’re not the only one Dee! We loved it so much at parties we made an extended version by looping the chorus over and over. The whole thing went for about 10 minutes, it was awesome! I had it on cassette for my walkman, and one night I was in a disco in Ko Samui, pissed and wanting to dance but hating the music. I went up to the DJ and said have you got anything else besides techno shit. I gave him my walkman and said what about this. I went back to the bar while he listened to it and pretty soon Treaty was booming through the disco! Everyone went apeshit over it, they’d never heard anything like it, the didgeridoo and the native language chorus, which is mesmerizing when you play it over and over. I never did get that tape back but over the next couple of weeks I heard Treaty coming out of every bar in Koh Samui! I reckon that DJ made a fortune out of selling copies!

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