It was one of those pleasant surprises that life can dish up sometimes.

I was in Darwin. It was August, a balmy Top End night, and it was festival time.

We were going to a free open-air concert at The Esplanade, and it was to be a showcase of Indigenous music.

Yugul Band were playing when we arrived, and they were great.

Then came the headline act, a band from remote Elcho Island.

The musicians sauntered on to the stage. Obviously, they had done this many times and, despite their isolated origins, were not the least bit nervous.

All stood, ready to play. Then another band member was led on to the stage.

He was led to a chair and sat down.

There was something different about this musician; perhaps something special?

The Saltwater Band began to play, and their Saltwater Reggae was immediately infectious.

And the seated guitarist — he could really play.

But there was something different about him. What was it?

I moved closer to the stage (as close as the security guards would allow).

The guitarist was left-handed. But he was playing a right-handed guitar upside down.

But man, could this bloke play!

The band stopped for a break. The guitarist was led from the stage.

And then the penny dropped. This man, this brilliant guitarist, is blind.

He is Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a former member of the more widely known Yothu Yindi, and he has been blind since birth.

Now he was with the Saltwater Band, which had just won the People’s Choice award at the Northern Territory Indigenous Music Awards. Their star was on the rise.

Saltwater Band completed their performance, leaving me in awe of the skill of Gurrumul.

Nearby, there was a stall selling their first album.

Of course, I bought a copy.

  • “Gurrumul is one of those special artists that only come around every blue moon. He has a voice of an angel that pierces to your core. His music is pure and simple and his talent is indisputable.” — John Butler.
    Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu will perform at the Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre on Monday, June 9. Tickets are $38. You can book by calling 6685 6807.
  • Picture: The cover of Gurrumul, his new solo album.