Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was the big winner at the 2008 Jagermeister AIR Awards held at Melbourne's Corner Hotel, where the Aboriginal singer and multi-instrumentalist grabbed three awards.

Yunupingu, who hails from Elcho Island in Australia's Northern Territory, was on hand to receive each of the awards on Monday night (Nov. 24) - for best independent album for "Gurrumul" (Skinnyfish Music/MGM), best new independent artist, and best Australian independent blues/roots album - and performed for the 500-strong audience.

This year has seen a spectacular rise of Yunupingu's star. The Saltwater Band member and former Yothu Yindi artist grabbed the best independent album award at the Oct. 19 ARIA Awards in Sydney, and garnered a mainstream following with a captivating performance on the night. "Gurrumul" tore up the charts the following week, rising to No. 3 from No. 27 on the ARIA albums listing, comprehensively outpacing the album's previous peak of No. 18 back in July.

On each occasion that he graced the AIR Awards podium, Yunupingu, who is blind and speaks little English, was accompanied by his key supporters and collaborators. Speaking from the podium, Mark Grose, co-founder of Skinnyfish Music, gave thanks to his ward for "putting his faith in two white fellas from Darwin for taking his music to the world."

Earlier, producer and musician Michael Hohnen remarked that the major labels had finally awoken to Yunupingu's music, and some had been calling the artist's team asking "how can we help?"

The other multiple winner on the night was Sydney collective the Herd, who took out the best independent artist and best independent urban/hip hop album for "Summerland" (Elefant Traks/Inertia). It was a sweet pair of victories for the act, which is this week celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Elefant Traks label. And until now, say members of the band, they had received no industry recognition by way of awards.

The AIR trophy for best independent single/EP went to the Getaway Plan for "Where the City Meets The Sea" (Boomtown Records/Shock), best independent hard rock/punk album was awarded to Eddy Current Suppression Ring for "Primary Colours" (Aarght Records/Shock), while Peret Mako's "The Devil is in the Detail" (Future Classic/Inertia) was declared the best independent dance/electronica album. Bec Willis's self-titled Shock-distributed independent release was named best independent country album while Tina Harrod's "Worksongs" (Vitamin) won for best Australian independent jazz album.

Guests were treated to performances from the likes of Lior, Felicity Urquhart, Grafton Primary, the Herd, the Getaway Plan, the Drones with Martha Wainwright guesting on vocals, and a four-track set from hot garage rock act Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

Australian Independent Record Labels' Associations' awards recognizes the outstanding achievements of local artists who release their work through an Australian-owned independent record label and distribute their work through a locally-owned distribution firm.

Drinks firm Jagermeister was headline sponsor of the third annual awards event, which was hosted by music TV broadcaster Channel V's presenter Jane Gazzo and Jake Stone, co-frontman with independent act Bluejuice.

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