• Yidaki (didgeridoo) master and spiritual leader, Mr Gurruwiwi. (Supplied: South Australian Museum)Source: Supplied: South Australian Museum
Tributes continue to flow for the internationally renowned Galpu lore man, who was a master and spiritual keeper of the Yidaki or didgeridoo.
Michael Park

13 May 2022 - 1:16 PM  UPDATED 13 May 2022 - 1:16 PM

NITV News has been granted permission by the family to use Mr Gurruwiwi's last name and images.

The family of renowned musician and Elder Mr Gurruwiwi have remembered the beloved Yolŋu Yidaki player as a "good person".

The senior Galpu lore man from north-east Arnhem lawman passed away on Tuesday night after a long illness.

Mr Gurruwiwi was not just a virtuoso of the instrument who wowed audiences worldwide, but also a healer and artist.

His mastery of the Yidaki, or didgeridoo, was matched only by his craftsmanship: his creations of incredible beauty and power hang in galleries around the country and have been featured in solo exhibitions.

He lived in Birritjimi not far from the town of Nhulunbuy a thousand kilometres east of Darwin. His exact age was unknown but he was estimated to be in his eighties. 

He is survived by his sons Larry and Jimmy and daughters Zelda, Zelma and Lena.

Larry Gurriwiwi told NITV News his father was a humble man of great strength.

“He was a powerful player and he could heal people too - my father was a good person and he had big knowledge.”

Larry Gurruwiwi described how his father passed on the family knowledge from generations past.

“My grandfather, his father, was teaching him all that and he was carrying that knowledge, and my grandfather said 'You can carry this knowledge from me, so you can reach out to the other world.'"

Mr Gurruwiwi’s legacy will live on through his descendants who will carry his ancient Songlines on a new journey.

“My uncles, they got the Songlines, I got it, and my brothers and my sons.

"We have to sing those songs, and we have to help each other like my father helped people around the world and in Australia,” Larry Gurruwiwi said.

“He was the nature man... man he could hear it like when you sit and feel the land he could talk to it, my father was like that.”

Tributes from artists, musicians and followers from around the world have flowed on social media.

Mr Gurriwiwi toured around the globe and collaborated with many artists including Australian Grammy award-winning musician, Gotye (Wouter ‘Wally’ De Backer) of the 2011 smash hit ‘Somebody I Used To Know'.

Filmmaker Ben Strunin captured the collaboration and Mr Gurriwiwi’s life in his 2017 documentary Westwind.

The filmmaker met the master in London during one of his international performances which included Japan, Europe and the United States.

In paying tribute, Mr Strunin told ABC Radio Darwin Mr Gurruwiwi was worshipped around the world by thousands of followers but wasn’t so well acknowledged in his own country.

“You can’t underestimate the influence he’s had on people around the world – some people you know he’s met for a day and played a healing on them and changed their lives and other people he’s been a mentor for decade,” he said.

Mr Gurruwiwis’s distinctive physical presence, his long flowing white hair and beard, and his love of brightly coloured Hawaiian shirts and reflective wrap-around shades only added to the mystique.

Mr Strunin said that character came from a place of deep connection to land, culture and Country.

“He lived in two distinctly different worlds, the spiritual realm is probably hard for people to comprehend, he had a kind of otherworldly almost superhuman presence and a mastery of the natural world and the spirit world," he said.

Mr Strunin said the old song man would often refer to the "the light from God" that he was transmitting through the Yidaki."

“He would stand in front of you and raise the Yidaki a couple of inches from your heart,” he said.

“The resonance would make your whole body shake and feel like there was fire going through your veins and it would increase your blood flow and make you feel quite sparked, quite alive.”

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