It’s rare for an
Australian Aborigine to hit the music charts, even in Australia. Such a rare individual
was Yunupingu*,
the front man of rock band, Yothu Yindi, who died this week of kidney disease in
Australia’s remote Arnhem Land, aged 56.

Yothu Yindi became huge
in Australia and gained worldwide fame in 1991 with their album, Tribal Voice
and its single, Treaty, a charismatic example of Aboriginal rock. The following
year, Yothu Yindi performed the song in New York, launching the United Nations’
International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. Also that year, 1992, Yunupingu was appointed Australian
of the Year, not just for being Yothu Yindi’s leader, songwriter, lead vocalist
and guitarist, but because of his role as a spokesman for Aboriginal people.

A university-educated
school teacher, Yunupingu became Australia’s first Aboriginal school principal
in 1990. Said his good friend,
the former Midnight Oil front man and current Australian Education Minister,
Peter Garratt: “Can’t believe he’s
gone, my dear friend. A path breaker and leader. A shining light for his
people. Rest in peace Mr Yunupingu.” 

* Full name and pic have been removed to respect Aboriginal custom.
We also mourn the passing today of Jefferson Airplane drummer, Joey Covington, aged 67.