New talent on show in Darwin
Rrawun Maymuru from East Journey. Picture: Glenn Campbell.

In its second year as an Australia-wide event, the National Indigenous Music Awards heralded a new generation of home-grown talent.

Queensland rock quartet the Medics were the big winners in Darwin on Saturday night, taking home three major awards - new talent, album of the year for their debut Foundations and single of the year for Griffin.

Coloured Stone legend Bunna Laurie joined the younger foursome, which includes his son Jindhu on drums, on stage for an excellent rendition of his 1984 song Black Boy.

All night there was a palpable sense of a changing of the guard at the NIMAs, dubbed the "ARIAs for blackfellas."

Elder statesman Mandawuy Yunupingu, of Yothu Yindi fame, presented exciting Arnhem Land outfit East Journey with the G. R. Bururrawanga Memorial Award for contribution to the Northern Territory music industry.

Yunupingu's grandson, Rruwan Maymuru, is the charismatic lead singer for East Journey, who perform their high-energy reggae rock with traditional dancers, clap sticks and a didgeridoo.

Their short set electrified the 2500-strong audience - including at least one record label scout - dancing under the stars at the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens.

The memorial award was named after Warumpi Band frontman George Bururrawanga, who died in 2007 and, like East Journey, hailed from Elcho Island.

Guitarist Patrick "PJ" White later said that the band would take the award back to their homeland as a gift to the community that produced so many talented musicians.

Maymuru also wrote the song Bayini for Elcho Island's most famous son, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who recorded it as a duet with Sarah Blasko.

Gurrumul was not on hand to collect his second consecutive artist of the year award but his producer Michael Hohnen and manager Mark Grose spoke on his behalf.

Hohnen telephoned the global superstar on Elcho Island so he could hear the cheers from his supporters. The producer said that Gurrumul's music was about making great art that would stand the test of time rather than "satisfying the fashionistas".

While the NIMAs shone a light on new talent, the awards also recognised indigenous legends, with a moving video tribute to the late Jimmy Little, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He died in April aged 75 after half a century in the music industry.

Veteran acts Sunrize Band and Lajamanu Teenage Band were also inducted into the NIMA Hall of Fame, with both garage bands without garages capping off the evening with hard-rocking sets.

Other performers on the night included Kalgoorlie's Yabu Band, Triple J Unearthed winner Thelma Plum and country star Troy Cassar-Daley.

Shellie Morris and the Borroloola Songwomen and Warren H. Williams and the Warumungu Songmen earned the traditional music award for their album, The Song People's Sessions.

Pop singer and actress Jessica Mauboy, who was due to present the Medics with the new talent gong, was absent because of illness.

The West Australian

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