George Rrurrambu

Warumpi Band singer

George Rrurrambu Barrawanga, musician and activist: born Galiwinku, Northern Territory 1957; married Suzina McDonald (two sons, four daughters); died Galiwinku 10 June 2007.

One of the pioneers of Aboriginal rock music, George Rrurrambu was sometimes called "the black Mick Jagger" and "the Aboriginal Bon Scott" for his charismatic and energetic stage manner.

He was a founding member and the grittier of two lead singers in Warumpi Band, the first Australian rock group to have an indigenous-language hit. He co-wrote their songs "Blackfella Whitefella" and "My Island Home", which became an Aboriginal anthem and was performed at the Sydney Olympics by the singer Christine Anu. Rrurrambu was also a strong advocate for indigenous peoples' rights, and reconciliation and understanding between black and white Australians.

Warumpi Band came together in the late 1970s, initially calling themselves Warumpinya Band after a honey-ant dreaming site near their desert town of Papunya, 260km west of Alice Springs. They toured remote parts of the Northern Territory and neighbouring Western Australia, at first relying on covers of songs by Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, before recording "Jailanguru Pakarnu (Out From Jail)" in 1983. The song featured Rrurrambu singing in his first language, Luritja, and using boomerangs for percussion.

The group released its début album Big Name No Blanket in 1984, touring it round Australia and in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu the following year. In 1988 they recorded the album Go Bush! after a month-long outback tour with the band Midnight Oil. Dubbed the "Blackfella Whitefella tour", the event was documented by a film of the same name and Andrew McMillan's rock'n'roll road trip book Strict Rules (1988). The song "Blackfella Whitefella" itself was recorded twice by Warumpi Band, as well as by the Brisbane rockers Powderfinger in 1996 and the Aboriginal crooner Jimmy Little in 1999.

After the success of their second album, Warumpi Band struggled with line-up changes and problems with alcohol (including Rrurrambu's) which were often addressed in their lyrics, along with issues of Aboriginal disenfranchisement but also cultural renaissance. Weathering several break-ups and reformations, they toured Europe and the UK in 1995 and released a third album, Too Much Humbug, in 1996. They made their final live appearances in 2000, the same year Rrurrambu released his only solo album, the reggae-based Nerbu Message.

In 2001, Rrurrambu appeared in an ABC documentary about Warumpi Band called The End of the Corrugated Road. In 2005, he toured his autobiographical one-man show Nerrpu Dhawu Rrurrambuwuy around Australia, and in 2006 made one more album, called Baru, with the Adelaide-based group Birdwave.

When he received news of his incurable cancer, he went back to his birthplace on Elcho Island in the Northern Territory, surrounding himself with friends and relatives who filled his final days with traditional songs of farewell.

Jon Lusk

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam