Pitjantjatjara man Russell ‘Rusty’ Smith’s music career has taken him around Australia and to all parts of the globe, working with some of the world’s most recognised musicians.
Russell has played Didgeridoo/Yidaki with everyone from the late Uncle Archie Roach, Paul Kelly, Rodriguez and Guy Sebastian to Tommy Emmanuel, the Dandy Warhols and Jane’s Addiction. From the AFL Grand Final stage to the Lorient Festival in France, he has also had personal audiences with Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Richard Branson.
As a charismatic frontman, Russell aims to connect people with his music, and as the late Uncle Archie Roach stated, “As a Pitjantjatjara singer/ songwriter Russell Smith has important stories to tell for all Australians to hear.”
Russell founded Brolga Boys in 1996 and continues to lead the Indie First Nations Rock Band under the name BROLGA. He has brought together a significant band of skilled musicians to write and record his first album. Brolga members include Dave Mudie, Lee ‘Sonnyboy’ Morgan, Matty Vehl, Phil Ceberano, and Bones Sloane.
A debut album, a lifetime in the making and a chance to share his talents as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist - a traditional Pitjantjatjara song man.
Always was, always will be … has been a cry from Indigenous Australians for decades as a statement that their land was never ceded.
"But this is not a war cry," says Russell 'Rusty' Smith, a Pitjantjatjara man who records under the moniker Brolga, "it is a song of acknowledgement of history, reconciliation and moving forward as one."
'Always', written by Rusty and Melbourne-based BROLGA band member Matty Vehl, is a collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous mates, precisely the premise of the song.
"'Always' is my way of writing about the tyranny of colonisation in Australia, today. I wrote this song with Matty Vehl about the history of Aboriginal people but in a very subtle way, and in a very beautiful way. When we wrote the song, we talked about how we'd like to see change in Australia," says Russell.
So too the music video, a collaboration with filmmaker Michael Angus, a mate from Smith's community on Queensland's Tambourine Mountain. Producer and Director Angus has collaborated on many Indigenous projects starting with his first feature documentary 'Ooldea' filmed on Spinifex country, coincidently Smith's mother's country. More recently he has also worked with Busby Marou, on their music video for 'Paint This Land'.
Michael states, "While the referendum for the Indigenous Voice To Parliament is becoming a political hot potato we did not want to make this an overly political statement, ultimately though Rusty wants the country to vote YES!".
"Indigenous Australians have a deep understanding about bringing people together and why that works in a practical way - we chose a barbecue setting for the video because I believe this is just an extension of that cultural framework. It's the Australian way that people gather to connect and to communicate their truth.
"We've mixed digital photography with Super 8 film to reflect that the song has historical references but is also very much about the present and that Indigenous stories and songlines have been around for 50,000 years and still survive today".
The song was produced by Scott Whatman and recorded by Russell Smith, Matty Vehl, Ash Naylor, Phil Ceberano, Dave Mudie, Bones Sloane, Lee "Sonnyboy' Morgan and Andy Sorenson.
On November 11, 2023, Russell Smith will be inducted into the South Australian Music Hall of Fame. He will be just the fourth First Nations artist to be inducted, following Uncle Archie Roach AC, the late Ruby Hunter, and the band No Fixed Address. #RussellSmith #RustySmith #Broga #TooDeadlyRustySmith