Australian independent label Skinnyfish Music has struck a joint venture partnership with Mike Batt's Dramatico for a pan-European release of "Gurrumul," the stirring debut from indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. A deal for Japan is also on the slate.

After being approached by two majors, the directors of Darwin-based Skinnyfish Music ultimately decided Dramatico was the best partner to assist the former Yothu Yindi and Saltwater Band member in fulfilling the next stage of his solo career.

"We decided to partner up with Dramatico because they're a label a little bit like us," Michael Hohnen, co-director of Skinnyfish tells Billboard.biz, "only much bigger, more power and with a fantastic distribution network throughout the different territories of Europe."

Yunupingu was one of Australia's music success stories of 2008. The blind singer and multi-instrumentalist won best independent release at the October ARIA Awards, and won the nation's affection for his haunting performance on the night.

"Gurrumul" soared from No. 27 to a peak of No. 3 on the ARIA albums chart in the following week, and is now certified platinum (70,000 units). The album is still hovering in the national top 40 after as many weeks on the chart.

"Gurrumul" has already had a soft release in the U.K. in recent month as an import through Skinnyfish, but Dramatico - with a roster including Katie Melua, Carla Bruni and Marianne Faithful -- will be expected to better exploit the set on U.K. turf.

"We are excited to be working with Gurrumul who we believe is an extremely rare and talented artist with a beautiful record," commented Dramatico managing director Andrew Bowles in a statement. "We are looking forward to introducing the whole of Europe to him and his unique music."

Executives on both sides of the alliance are meeting with partners in Europe in the coming days to map out a roll-out strategy. "We don't want to push or harass anything. It's not the sort of record that you want to," adds Hohnen. "But I can imagine European release dates will be in the next few months."

Skinnyfish will then focus on striking a deal for Japan, followed by the U.S. where "expressions of interest are strong," he adds.

Hohnen and his Skinnyfish co-director Mark Grose signed the deal last Friday (May 8) at Australia House in London. The arrangement comes just ahead of Yunupingu's first public performance in Britain, Wednesday (May 13) at the Union Chapel venue in London.

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