Ratja Yaliyali

Ratja Yaliyali

Like Gurrumul before him, Yolngu singer-songwriter Stanley Gawurra Gaykamangu powerfully adapts traditional Indigenous songlines for a wide crossover audience. His 2017 debut album enlists Darwin producer Broadwing to combine lush electronic flourishes and vibrant rock instrumentation, creating unexpected contrasts that still manage to foreground the emotional depth of his singing. Recording and performing as Gawurra, the Arnhem Land artist won an early award for the demo of the resounding title track “Ratja Yaliyali (Vine of Love)”. This updated take on an ancient Yolngu songline swells with feeling as Gawurra charts the legacy of departed loved ones. And while he’s singing in Gupapuyngu language, which some listeners may not understand, the emotion and spirit of his delivery is more than enough to be deeply moving.  On track to become a Gaykamangu Buyalamarr Elder, Gawurra sings with palpable wisdom, whether he’s recounting the tale of a penniless relative in “Gurrupurungu Ngarra (Poor man)”, describing a world-building magical bird in “Mulunda (Kingfisher)” or relating the sacrifice made by Jesus on the gospel song “Warrarra”. Yet it’s the diversity of these arrangements that consistently stands out: “Bundurr (Story of Myself)” outlines his family’s history and clan names over rustic banjo and pinpricks of electronic percussion, while “Warrarra Gurrungula (Yellow Sunset)” alternates finger-picked guitar and percussive strumming to render the sun setting over his grandmother’s funeral.  A stirring meditation on connection to land and family—and an object lesson in how emotion can transcend language barriers—this album showcases a truly resonant Australian voice.

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