The year New Zealand's
Mareko and P-Money in
New York, Hayley Westenra in London singing for the Queen,
Salmonella Dub in Australia, a flying squad of bands in Austin,
Scribe at the top of the singles and album charts, the Datsuns
recording with former Led Zep-man John Paul Jones in Surrey, Brooke
Fraser's face on the back of a bus ...
New Zealand musicians
were everywhere this year. It was impossible to miss them - and we
The data can be a bit boring, but there were times this year when most of the albums in the top five were by people who live somewhere close to you. The kind of people who are big enough to make a living out of their music but not so stroppy about it they don't shop in the local dairy.
Our people. Nice
people, like the guys in Nesian Mystik.
You could get silly
with cliches - "came of age", "put New Zealand music on the map" and
that kind of nonsense - but you can't deny it was a very special
year for some.
It was a year when
former TrueBliss member Carly Binding cracked an impressive debut
album, when the songwriting skills of hip-hop acts like Nesian
Mystik were recognised by Apra judges, and when familiar names who
have dominated awards for decades gracefully gave way to a new
generation. It was also a period when some we embraced a few years
ago came back with second or third albums and, even if they weren't
taken to our hearts and credit cards with the same enthusiasm, at
least proved that just carrying on with this music-making thing was
What made a career
viable, however modest, was the business end of the business: Apra
ensuring people got paid when their music got played; the network of
print media and television video shows; organisations like NZ on Air
with their various artist support schemes and now an eye on
In March another pack
of Kiwi bands - the Coolies, Mint Chicks, Pluto, goodshirt, Neil
Hannan Band, the Have and Little Thief - are to play the South by
Southwest Music Convention in Austin and capitalise on the profile
achieved this year.
Meanwhile, back at home most radio stations are not even thinking about the "Q" word from yesteryear and just accepting our own people are not only as good as the imports, but in many cases better - and more often than not speaking directly to the radio programmers' target market.
There is an
infrastructure in place that wasn't there - or at least as
integrated - a decade ago. It means a working musician doesn't feel
And musicians worked
damn hard this past year. The success of Hamilton reggae band
Katchafire was hardly unexpected for anyone who caught them in their
early days. Sometimes three nights a week they went out and found
Roots reggae has never
gone away in this country, but if the year belonged to a genre it
was hip-hop and its close cousins. There was a seismic shift in our
musical culture as hip-hop went mainstream. Out of South Auckland,
Dawn Raid just kept it coming: Deceptikonz, Mareko, Ill Semantics
and a dozen other young contenders who we'll hear more of soon.
Nesian Mystik, King
Kapisi and Scribe were playground, then household, names. We expect
Lady6 and Emcee Lucia to be the same soon. Already the acoustic
r'n'b group Adeaze have a gold-selling top five single with A Life
We were listening
differently and accepting that of course Blindspott would play with
Deceptikonz. It seems hilarious now that a radio station once
promised "no rap, no crap".
And bands came out of
garages and on to stages: the D4 everywhere from London and Tokyo to
the Kings Arms, local contenders the Have, Rock'n'Roll Machine, Mint
Chicks and the Jackass of local rock'n'roll, Deja Voodoo.
If it was a year in which we got louder - Blindspott, Elemeno P, Steriogram, 8 Foot Sativa - we also had the equal and opposite. Singer-songwriters like Damien Binder and Ben King, the delicate charms of the Tokey Tones, the ongoing story of Goldenhorse and the Brunettes.
And never since the
days of the "Dunedin sound" have we seen such a regional outbreak:
Wellington musicians - sometimes it seemed there were only about a
dozen of them - kept reconfiguring themselves for Fat Freddy's Drop,
Trinity Roots, Black Seeds and various DJ outfits. The Loop label
has pulled together some remarkable product, not the least their
present CD/DVD/book which includes award-winning short films and
natty videos alongside gentle electronica and roots music.
Then there were the
people who didn't fit the niches: Moana back with her third te reo
album after touring in Germany, Twinset and expat Nathan Haines who
waved the jazz banner, Sperber and Casey making their own niche
between jazz and ambient ...
And some just kept on
keeping on: betchadupa, Pacifier unleashing a loud tour and equally
ear-punishing live album which resurrected the spectre of their
previous incarnation as Shihad, Sommerset, Sola Rosa, goodshirt ...
So how many dudes you
know rock like this? Not many.
But more and more it would seem.
Kiwi Music Gallery (two pages of photographs from Keith Newman's collection)