Home Emotional music Archie Roach on the stage a day after his partner’s funeral: ‘We got through it; I don’t know how’ | australian music

Archie Roach on the stage a day after his partner’s funeral: ‘We got through it; I don’t know how’ | australian music

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Playing at the Port Fairy Folk Festival on March 6, 2010 is something I can’t forget. It was the day after Ruby’s funeral [Hunter, Roach’s life and music partner of 35 years].

We were coming from Berri in South Australia Riverland and the folks at the festival contacted me, letting me know they understood if I didn’t want to play.

Well, I thought about it and thought about it, and for some reason – I don’t know if Ruby was talking to me – I felt like I had to do the show, to honor her memory.

So I said to the crowd in the tent, “If there was ever a time when I needed you, I need you more today than ever.

Someone shouted into the crowd, “You got us, bro.

Shane Howard [from folk rock group Goanna] and many other musicians were also seated at the side of the stage. From time to time, I looked towards them. It was a great comfort – they gave me a lot of strength.

My son Amos was playing bass that day. I said to Amos, “You don’t have to get up if you don’t want to, son. He said, “No, I want to get up with you daddy, I have to do it for mommy.”

“I felt like I wasn’t even there, even though I was talking to the public and playing like I usually do.” Photography: Ferne Millen Photography

We’ve been through that; I do not know how. It wasn’t easy, it was quite a moving sight. I think Ruby played a role somewhere. I don’t think about it much, but when I do, I’m amazed at how it happened. It was very surreal – I felt like I wasn’t even there, even though I was talking to the audience and performing as usual. But I felt safe, I think, being at home in the countryside [Port Fairy is on Gunditjmara land in south-western Victoria, where Roach’s mother was born, and where he now resides].

Then there was a feeling of release. Festival MC Derek Guille said to me, “Thank you for doing this Archie.” I said, “Don’t thank me Derek, I had to, for Ruby.” It just fell on my shoulder. He said: “We all have to mourn the loss of Ruby, Archie.”

I understood what she meant to many people that day. They were listening to me, but they were also crying Ruby.

That day, I realized the importance of the people I sing with and tell stories to on stage. They are more than people who come to listen to me sing songs. I needed them, and they gave me back, that’s for sure.

Archie Roach with Ruby Hunter in 2009.
Archie Roach with Ruby Hunter in 2009. “I didn’t know that, but this would be our last photoshoot together,” Roach says. Photography: James Penlidis/Supplied by Archie Roach via Simon & Schuster