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Yothu Yindi performance electrifies Australian music royalty

David Prestipino -

A stirring two-song live performance from Yothu Yindi was the highlight of an all-star concert featuring a who's who of Australian music paying tribute to Mushroom records.

The Mushroom 50 Live event at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night was a celebration of 50 years of the record label, but it was the Indigenous group that roused Australian music royalty in the audience to their feet in raptures.

Indigenous representation has always been integral to the Mushroom brand, and signing Yothu Yindi was essential to the history of Australian music and cementing the group's legacy across the country and abroad.

With a fantastic introduction by Briggs, the Arnhem Land group had the crowd bouncing with a deadly set that began with Djapana (Sunset Dreaming) and ended with their universal hit Treaty, which still carries as much weight if not more in today's discombobulated society.

"Yothu Yindi paved the way for the next generation of Yolŋu artists ... and their legacy is as relevant as ever, maybe even moreso today," he said.

"You heard on the radio, you saw it on the television and tonight you're gonna make some noise for Yothu Yindi."

As electric as Yothu Yindu were, the night's emotional zenith was Dan Sultan's heartbreaking cover of Archie Roach's Took The Children Away, after a video package dedicated to the importance of the First Nations artist and influence.

Playing first solely on piano and letting his soulful voice amplify the importance of the lyrics, Sultan then transformed the song to a show-stopping end, complete with band and strings.

The emotion shown by Sultan was painfully evident and resonated through the arena, packed with an audience to celebrate Mushroom's 50th anniversary and promptly taken on a four-hour journey through the history and legacy of the label in song and stories.

Mushroom Records was founded by Michael Gudinski in Melbourne in 1972 but, despite his passing in 2021, the label lives on.

The all-star mega concert struck a chord with television viewers too, pulling in huge viewership for the Seven network.

Billed as '50 Songs for 50 Years', the concert featured past and present Australian music stars, including Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Kate Ceberano and many more with stunning performances and loving tributes to Mushroom and its late founder and music pioneer Gudinski.

In August Yothu Yindi was immortalised in the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame.

Founding member Witiyana Marika, 62, commented before their induction how they formed to eventually became one of Australia's most powerful and influential bands, with Treaty even topping the Billboard charts in the United States.

"We had this dynamic, powerful Yolŋu-balanda (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) band," he told the ABC recently.

"The mix to show the whole of Australia who we are.

"Balanda and Yolŋu are the same, yin and yang, vice-versa: to tell whole Australia that we are the people for tomorrow, passing the message and going forward."

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