A Stroll down Charcoal Lane with Archie Roach


Archie Roach – Photo Tree Faerie.

This year Bluesfest welcomes Boomerang to the fold – a festival within a festival, bringing the music and culture of indigenous Australia to the forefront, and headed up by none other than the quietly powerful Archie Roach.

If you don’t have goosebumps in the first 30 seconds of an Archie show, then you’re dead.

Eve Jeffery spoke with Archie in the lead up to this year’s event…

It is wonderful that you have re-released Charcoal Lane – was it hard to feel fresh about songs that you have played over and over so many times since the original release?

No, no. A lot of the songs mean more today then when I wrote them.

Do you feel the album will be just a nostalgic trip down memory lane for people who already love the work or do you feel you have a new audience for these songs?

I think that because the 25th anniversary release came with a second disc of songs reinterpreted by a wonderful group of younger artists it has, I hope, garnered a new audience.

Do you think the songs have the same relevance as they did in 1990?

Yeah. I think they do – some of the songs, maybe not all of them.

Do you think the worldview of indigenous people and Aboriginal people in Australia has changed since 1990 or it is same ol’, same ol’?

I think the worldview has probably been informed a lot earlier than Australia itself. Actually looking from the outside in – maybe they have a better view.

How important has music been in changing the way white Australians think about blackfullas? 

I believe music has played a big part in bringing about a better understanding of what has affected us through the years since colonisation.

Who are the performers coming up now who most excite you and give you hope for the future?

So many really that I can’t name all of them – Emma Donovan & The Putbacks from Melbourne, Nancy Bates and Ellie Lovegrove from Adelaide, Radical Son, Briggs… and I just saw the Dusty Feet Mob Dance Group from Port Augusta – now there’s a group to really look out for.

Do you still feel Ruby as a presence in your work?

Ruby played a big part back in the day there’s no doubt about it. When the songs were written for Charcoal Lane, Ruby was the first to hear them; her presence is there in that work. Nowadays I draw my material from what I see, hear and feel about what’s happening in the world and how this country is responding to it.

Do you have some new material for Bluesfest audiences or will they be able to enjoy singing along with your older work?

Yes, a couple of new songs.

Who are you looking forward to catching at Blues?

Emma Donovan and the Putbacks.

Catch Archie Roach in concert at Boomerang at Bluesfest this Easter. For tickets and program information go to

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