Why Yothu Yindi & the Treaty Project is celebrating an important legacy

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Three members of the band explain the new project to Myf Warhurst.

You might have seen the name Yothu Yindi & the Treaty Project popping up in a few gig guides and festival line ups in recent months.

With the passing of bandleader Dr M Yunupingu AC, Yothu Yindi as they we once knew them will never perform again. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still celebrate the band’s immense legacy.

“It's sort of like serving up some of the old tunes in a more modern way,” founding member and bassist Stuart Kellaway explains to Double J’s Myf Warhurst.

“Working with a bunch of producers and beats, pulling in family and putting the band back together, basically.”

The importance of the band, their music and message has not diminished over time, which makes a project like this forever relevant.

“'Treaty’ never goes away,” Kellaway says. “People still to this day are asking what's going on, what's going to be in the treaty if there is a treaty. People want to hear the songs of the Yothu Yindi band. We still play back at home in different forms, but this is really exciting.”

 

One of the young artists getting their chance to perform this inimitable catalogue of music is Yirrmal, who is fast becoming a favourite of Australian audiences as a solo artist.

“It's an honour for me to get into this project,” he says. “I'm a big fan of Yothu Yindi, I watched their journey, flying to other parts of the world, and these two old men [Kellaway and percussionist Witiyana Marika] were my mentors. I was watching them, they were smashing the stage!

“But there are a couple of other younger fellas [involved]. Malngay [Yunupingu] was touring with Yothu Yindi when he was 16 or something like that. Yirrnga [Yunupingu] is just a young man who never experienced this kind of world, but he's such an amazing kid and he's got a power.”

The meaning behind their music remains the same, as the band continue to use their platform to educate the world on what they hold most dear.

“We don't own the land, the land owns us,” Marika says.

“We sing that, we celebrate that,” Yirrmal adds. “What Mother Earth has given to us is such an amazing thing. We celebrate the earth of thousands of years.”

Marika believes that a project like this is most important as it keeps the legacy of Dr M Yunupingu AC alive.

“It's good that this mob raised it,” he says of Gavin Campbell’s Razor Recordings, who are behind the project. “It's good what is happening.  Old man who is not around now, it's showing that he has left a legacy. His legacy still goes on.”

“Definitely,” Yirrmal says. “It won't stop.”

Yothu Yindi & the Treaty Project play the Enmore Theatre Friday 12 January.

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