The untimely death of George Rrurrambu during the week gives us an opportunity to look back at the work of the group he fronted, The Warumpi Band.
From Wikipedia: The band was formed around 1980 by Neil Murray, a Victorian "whitefella" working in the region as a schoolteacher and labourer, George Rrurrambu, from Elcho Island, and local boys Gordon and Sammy Butcher. Over the years, many different people played in the band at various times. The only consistent elements were Murray and Rrurrambu, with Sammy Butcher generally being available so long as band commitments didn't take him too far from home for too long.
In 1983, the band recorded "Jailanguru Pakarnu" - the first song using an aboriginal language in a rock'n'roll format. This created a little mainstream media interest, and the band made a few trips to the big cities of Melbourne and Sydney for gigs and TV appearances.
In Sydney, they built up a loyal following in the Sydney northern beaches pub rock scene, and played as support to Midnight Oil. In 1985 the band released their debut album "Big Name, No Blankets", featuring the track "Blackfella/Whitefella".
The Warumpi Band recorded their second album, "Go Bush!" after the tour, but the strain of balancing family commitments with the band took its toll and they were unable to capitalise on the groundswell created by the Blackfella/Whitefella tour.
1996 saw the release of their third and final album "Too Much Humbug", and a renewed (if brief) commitment including a European tour. Rrurrambu is reputed to have arrived in Paris and been amazed that people in this so-called civilised nation couldn't even speak English - after all, he himself spoke nearly a dozen different languages of the north of Australia.
In the following years, reunion gigs were sporadic, generally for festivals and other one-off appearances. In 2000, Neil Murray decided enough was enough and retired from the band for good, concentrating on his solo career which by that time had produced several critically acclaimed albums.
Here's their first hit, Jailanguru Pakarnu, and then Christine Anu's famous version of their song My Island Home.
Jailanguru Pakarnu (Out From Jail)
My Island Home (Christine Anu from the 2000 Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony)
You can watch a couple more of clips of George with Birdwave here, here and here.