Artist Profiles: Saltwater Band

Saltwater Band

The Saltwater Band consisted of eight young musicians from remote Elcho Island off the coast of North East Arnhem Land.

Their first album, Gapu Damurrun, showcases two styles of contemporary indigenous music. Contemporary traditional songs(such as ‘Gopuru’ and ‘Bakitju’) that sound as though they were written yesterday but in fact are over 10,000 years old, and new contemporary pop songs such as the reggae/ska influenced ‘Saltwater Music’ and the beautiful ‘Gurrumul History’.

The Saltwater Band was Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, the band’s most experienced member. He toured extensively in the days when he was a member of Yothu Yindi and a major contributor to that band’s very successful Tribal Voice Album.

Gurrumul was a brilliant musician and outstanding songwriter. Saltwater Band gave Gurrumul the opportunity to further highlight and develop his songwriting talents in his own band.

The other major influence in Saltwater Band was Manuel Nulupani Dhurrkay, lead singer, and with Gurrumul a major song writing influence for Saltwater Band. Manuel’s strong vocal leads set the tone for the Saltwater Band’s unique harmonies

Geoffrey and Manuel wrote songs both to entertain and educate their audience, about the strong traditional ties they had with their culture.

Their songs served to pass on to the younger members of their communities their traditional stories and values, and instead of traditional culture being swamped by western influence the traditional culture in this case has adapted to the ‘new way’ and is able to compete with western music. This enables a community to pass on to the next generation the important songs of their culture.

Gurrumul died on July 25, 2017, in Darwin, Australia.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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