“The nori has landed!’’
So said Ruby Hunter by phone to family each time the singer/songwriter arrived in a new city with her lifelong partner and musical soulmate, Archie Roach.
“We worried about them flying,’’ says Eric Richards, Ruby’s brother.
“We always waited for the call. Ruby would ring and say `the nori has landed’ which was her way of telling us they’d arrived safely.’’
Stuck for a name for this weekend’s music festival, being held in Ruby’s honour, Eric turned to the Ngarrindjeri word for pelican – his sister’s totem – and the Riverland NO:RI Music Festival was born.
“Our grandmother used to have old pelican feathers and use them as a broom,’’ says Eric who was the first to be separated from his four siblings and family as part of the Stolen Generations.
For years, he knew little of Ruby until one day they were reunited in 1981. Ruby had been living homeless on Adelaide’s streets where she met Archie, while Eric was married living in Murray Bridge. That year, they shared their first Christmas together.
“With our spirits, she is still with us,’’ he says of Ruby who died in 2010.
“When I play her music, it feels like she is just in Melbourne or Sydney doing a concert, and she’s still with me and my brother.’’
The first Aboriginal woman to be signed to a major record label, Ruby empowered people through music. She dreamed of creating a platform to help foster the talent of other singer/songwriters and showcase their tradition and culture to the wider community.
“That was one of her dreams and I’m in a position where I can carry that on,’’ Eric, pictured, says.
For the past three years he has worked tirelessly with the Ruby Hunter Foundation and Barmera Council to bring his sister’s vision to life at the Bonney Theatre, this Sunday, October 2.
Archie – one of Australia’s most revered musicians – will headline the festival, a tribute to Ruby’s life and her love of performing.
With Archie, Ruby took her music around the world and sung alongside such greats as Tracy Chapman, Paul Kelly and Bob Dylan. Together they inspired a new generation of Aboriginal artists and were a powerful voice for the Stolen Generations.
Ruby released the first of three albums, Thoughts Within, in 1994. During her career, she was nominated for two ARIA Awards – Best Indigenous Release and Best Blues and Roots Album.
“I would like the festival to become a stepping stone for the younger generations,’’ says Eric, a Support Worker with Centacare’s Personal Helpers and Mentors Service.
“We need to teach the young ones now.’’
For more information about Ruby, visit the Ruby Hunter Foundation Inc.