It is with a sad heart that I bring word that Terry Napilil Pascoe passed away in Darwin late last Thursday 10th of January 2013.

He was surrounded by family and friends when he passed.

I can’t remember when or where I first met Ngarritj (his classificatory skin name) but it must have been sometime in the mid to late 1980s at his home community of Maningrida in central Arnhem land. We later spent many years, beers, laughs and tears together in the endeavour for which he’ll be remembered by most – the Sunrize Band.

In 2012 Ngarritj – along with his merry band of friends and family that made up the Sunrize Band – was inducted into the Indigenous Music Hall of Fame, an award that recognised their commitment to a lifetime of rock and roll music and much more over thirty years.

The Sunrize Band had many members over the years and joining Ngarritj on stage that hot August Darwin night were his brothers Ben, Andre, Chris and Jacky and Wayne and Reece Kala-Kala, Horace Wala-Wala and, in spirit at least, legendary Arnhem Land guitarist Kenny Smith, who had also been taken from us too soon.

Over the years the Sunrize Band released three albums, Check It Out – Let’s Dance, Lunggurrma and Sunset to Rize. They also made a number of other – as yet unreleased – recordings with drummer and recording engineer extraordinaire Allen Murphy.

Always ready with a smile and a joke, Ngarritj was as much fun on-stage as off. Ngarritj was no wooden bass player following drummer Wayne Kala-kala’s lead. He usually presented on stage with a long traditional feathered headdress and face paint and joined in the wild on-stage antics that made the Sunrize Band a favourite of audiences across the Top End and, on their frequent appearances down south, across the country.

Sunrize Band played extensively throughout the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland and toured with Carlos Santana, Jimmy Barnes, Hunters & Collectors, Painters and Dockers, Paul Kelly, Spy v Spy, Bob Geldof and many more. One highlight was a tour to New Guinea, where, in Ngarritj’s words “Those crazy blackfellas in the audience threw coconuts and bananas at us as a sign of their appreciation.

Ngarritj had another career offstage. Always interested in communication, he was the first graduate from Batchelor College to be offered a production cadetship with the ABC in Darwin, where he first worked as a sound engineer and later as a cameraman. In addition to the hundreds of younger musicians that he encouraged and mentored, Ngarritj was also a teacher of young broacasters through his work at Batchelor College (later BIITE), and with Aboriginal broadcasters across the Top End, including TEABBA in Darwin, PAKAM in the Kimberleys and Pilbara and the widespread BRACs network.

In the days before his passing Ngarritj was busy working on yet another film project. “Stories In Our Songs – Indigenous Musicians of the NT“, a collaboration with ARTBACK NT Arts Development and Touring that features performances by the Sunrize Band and other NT musicians.

Ngarritj is survived by his first wife Debbie and son Terrance Jnr., Joanne and their daughter Annette and Ethel and his adopted daughter Reanne.

Ngarritj left a few words about his most extraordinary life for his family and friends. I will present them here in the next few days. I will also advise of funeral proceedings when they come to hand.  

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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