Johnny Cooper, ‘The Māori Cowboy’

Johnny Cooper, hero of early New Zealand rock’n’roll, died earlier this month in Lower Hutt, aged 85.

Born in 1929, Cooper grew up on an isolated farm near Wairoa. He was gifted a ukulele by his uncle, who played saxophone in a Gisborne dance band. He began playing along to 78s, and would play in woolsheds to entertain the shearing gangs.

portrait
Johnny Cooper in the early 1950s.
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: PAColl-10069-18-08

Cooper won a scholarship to attend Hawkes Bay’s illustrious Te Aute college. After attending for a time, Cooper was desperate to leave. However, his elders were insistent that he stay in school. So Cooper boarded the train to return to school from Wairoa, and instead stayed on-board and ran away to Wellington. This resulted in Cooper being disowned by his parents: “They said, you’re on your own.”

Cooper stayed in a boarding house and got a job at Karori cemetery. On Sunday nights he sang at cinemas and suburban halls. He dug graves during the day, and met bass-player Willy Lloyd-Jones. In 1953 they formed The Ridge Riders with guitarist Ron James and Don Aldridge on steel. The group wore cowboy style outfits and became known at talent quests and live shows on radio, with appearances in Wanganui and at Linton and Waiouru.

On Sundays they recorded in Alan Dunnage’s Island Bay studio, inside an old shop. A duet by Cooper became the number one 78 of 1954; Look What You’ve Done produced a double-sided hit. Cooper had written most of the song in a day: “I heard someone say ‘look what you’ve done’ and thought that was a crazy thing to say, that it would be good to sing something like that.” The song became a continual request for The Ridge Riders: “Shearing shed or anywhere, every party you went to in that period that was all you heard them play.” The song became a well-known Kiwi party song and was famously sung by Jake and Beth Heke in ‘Once Were Warriors’.

In 1955 Cooper started a solo career in rock’n’roll at town hall jamborees. He made New Zealand music history by becoming the first singer outside of the United States to record a rock’n’roll song when he recorded Rock Around the Clock with a group of Wellington jazz men at HMV’s Lower Hutt studios in 1955. As a country singer, Cooper had originally balked at the idea of recording a rock’n’roll track, and had said “What’s this rubbish? I’m not singing that.” Within a year Cooper was touted as the “undisputed king of rock’n’roll whose record sales are now far in excess of a hundred thousand.” Cooper also recorded New Zealand’s first original rock’n’roll song, Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll in 1955.

poster
F W Larcombe Ltd. Harry Fagin proudly presents New Zealand tour Variety round up, headed by Johnny Cooper, H.M.V. recording and television star. Johnny Cooper rocks ’em! Regent Theatre Greymouth, Wed Thurs Fri Oct 2, 3, 4. Larcombe Print [1957]. [Posters collected by Charles Cabot, for variety, comedy, and music-hall shows and performances in New Zealand. 1950-1959].. Ref: Eph-E-CABOT-Variety-1957-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22699643

Cooper’s musical talent saw him travel around the world, leading three concert tours during the 1950s to entertain Kiwi troops in Japan and Korea.

In 1957, The Ridge Riders drifted apart and Cooper started holding talent shows around small towns, including Give It A Go! Through this, he coached some of New Zealand music’s well-known names, including rock’n’roll idol Johnny Devlin, Midge Marsden (who played in Bari and the Breakaways) and the Formulya, whose song Nature was to be judged the greatest New Zealand rock song of all time.

Cooper moved into entertainment promotion in the 1960s. Good friend and fellow musician Midge Marsden says he did not so much fall from the limelight as ease himself into the shadows. “His private life was exactly that – private.”

Cooper, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, died at his home early in September.

Neighbours of Johnny Cooper knew him as a friendly pillar of the community, who tidied the area and mowed lawns for free. Friends knew him as a warm, modest and humble man, and hold many fond memories.

Syndetics book coverBlue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964 / Chris Bourke.
“Bringing to life the musical worlds of New Zealanders both at home and out on the town, this history chronicles the evolution of popular music in New Zealand during the 20th century. From the kiwi concert parties during World War I and the arrival of jazz to the rise of swing, country, the Hawaiian sound, and then rock’n’roll, this musical investigation brings to life the people, places, and sounds of a world that has disappeared and uncovers how music from the rest of the world was shaped by Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders into a melody, rhythm, and voice that made sense on these islands. The accompanying audio CD wonderfully brings to life the engaging text, underscoring seminal moments in New Zealand’s musical history.” (Syndetics summary)

Early rock & roll from New Zealand. Vol. 5 & 6.

Pie cart rock ‘n’ roll : New Zealand rock ‘n’ roll 1957-1962.

Waiata : Maori showbands, balladeers & pop stars.

Talk: Pixie Williams, The Voice of Blue Smoke

image2
Pixie Williams, c1951

If you haven’t already, come along to the Central Library to see our Pixie Williams: The Voice of Blue Smoke display – it is looking (and sounding!) fabulous.

To round up the display, we will be having a talk on Tuesday 1 October at 6pm. Chris Bourke, author of Blue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964, will be speaking on the significance of Pixie Williams and Ruru Karaitiana’s hit ‘Blue Smoke’; New Zealand’s first pop song. Come along and learn more about the iconic New Zealand track and the woman behind it, as well as the city at the centre of the song’s production – Wellington in 1948.

Syndetics book coverBlue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964 / Chris Bourke.
“Bringing to life the musical worlds of New Zealanders both at home and out on the town, this history chronicles the evolution of popular music in New Zealand during the 20th century. From the Kiwi concert parties during World War I and the arrival of jazz to the rise of swing, country, the Hawaiian sound, and then rock’n’roll, this musical investigation brings to life the people, places, and sounds of a world that has disappeared and uncovers how music from the rest of the world was shaped by Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders into a melody, rhythm, and voice that made sense on these islands. The accompanying audio CD wonderfully brings to life the engaging text, underscoring seminal moments in New Zealand’s musical history.” (Syndetics summary)

You can place a reserve on Pixie’s album, Pixie Williams: For the Record, below:
For the record : the Pixie Williams collection, 1949-1951.

Pixie Williams: The Voice of Blue Smoke

whanau
Update: Our Pixie Williams: The Voice of Blue Smoke display is now open and will be available to view during opening hours on Central’s first floor for the next three-four weeks. A cabinet guide is available here.


On Monday September 16 at 10.30 am, Wellington Central Library will be opening a special display celebrating the life of Pixie Williams. Come to the library to join in the opening and view photographs, instruments, albums and taonga belonging to Pixie. Also available for review will be Chris Bourke’s book The Lost Dawn of NZ Popular Music 1918-1964 which details the story of the making of ‘Blue Smoke’.

In 1949, aged 21, Pixie Williams gave voice to one of the most enduring popular melodies of the twentieth century – ‘Blue Smoke’.

Originally released in early 1949, ‘Blue Smoke’ was arguably New Zealand’s first pop song – the first song wholly written, produced and recorded in New Zealand. It was also a huge hit topping the New Zealand chart for six weeks and selling 50,000 copies. It was played on radio stations and juke boxes around the world and covered by a host of international artists, including Dean Martin. ‘Blue Smoke’ was one of 13 songs recorded by Williams between 1949 – 1951.

Photograph of Pixie Williams

Pixie Williams, c1951.

Born Pikiteora Maude Emily Gertrude Edith Williams (Pixie) on July 12, 1928 in Mohaka, near Gisborne, Williams was raised by her beloved grandparents and enjoyed a happy and musical upbringing until the age of 12, when her grandmother died. As her grandfather had died in 1934, she was taken into the care of her uncle and was required to do a lot of hard, physical work on his farm while keeping up with her school work. At age 14, her natural mother returned to collect her, after relatives expressed concern at how hard she was being worked.

However, not much changed for Williams and she was still worked hard, but managed to save a bit of money and decided to get some singing lessons, because she loved to sing and ‘wanted to do it right’.

At the age of 17, she escaped to ‘the big smoke’ (Wellington) and got a factory job.  Pleased to have left ‘home’, she vowed never to return.

Pixie moved into the YWCA Hostel on Oriental Parade. Her roommate, Joan Chittleburgh, heard her extraordinary singing voice as Pixie always sang in the shower and at hostel piano sessions every Sunday evening. ‘Blue Smoke’ was one of the songs in Pixie’s repertoire.  Through Joan, Pixie’s talents came to the attention of composer Ruru Karaitiana (whom Joan later married), who was looking for a singer to bring his song to life.

Pixie Williams and whanau

Pixie Williams (top) with friends, 1949, YWCA, Wellington.

Karaitiana wrote ‘Blue Smoke’ in 1940 on board the troopship S.S Aquitania, off the coast of Africa. A member of the 28th Maori Battalion Concert Party, it was sung in the desert between battles and became popular at troop concerts and at home long before it was recorded. Evoking the emotion and sadness of parting loved ones heading to war, the song appealed to post-war sentiments.

SS_AQUITANIA

S.S Aquitania in Wellington Harbour, c1940.

Karaitiana’s ‘Blue Smoke’ launched Williams’ career. It was a magical collaboration between artists that nearly didn’t happen. Williams twice turned down Karaitiana when he asked her to record his song. Two months after first asking, she finally agreed – on the condition that the recording didn’t interfere with her Saturday hockey games.

Recorded at Radio Corporation’s newly built Columbus Recording Studio at 262 Wakefield Street, the recording was a true DIY production. Recording engineer Stan Dallas, who built the Studio, experimented to get the best sound and came up with the idea to connect the electric guitar direct to the recording equipment instead of using a microphone – a practice that became the way recording studios worked internationally. And lap-steel guitarist Jim Carter went to night school to learn radio technology and made his own five-watt amplifier for the recording.

With no sound-proofing in the studio, or editing capability available (as artists are used to today), ‘takes’ had to be perfect from start to finish. The strain on Williams ‘unprofessional’ voice, and the musicians, took a toll. It took an agonising nine days to capture over 5 weekends.

BLUE_SMOKE_SHEET

‘Blue Smoke’ song sheet

‘Blue Smoke’ was the first of Karaitiana’s compositions to be recorded. It was the first song ever recorded by Williams and the first release for newly formed label TANZA (To Assist NZ Artists). It was also New Zealand’s first wholly written, produced and commercially recorded song.

Pixie went on to record 12 other songs between 1949 – 1951 with ‘Let’s Talk it Over’ being another hit selling 20,000 records.

Humbled by the attention her recordings were causing, and always the reluctant star, Williams left Wellington for the South Island for a working holiday, ending in Dunedin.

Karaitiana had made the move to Dunedin in 1950, and they reunited for concerts at Dunedin’s His Majesty Theatre. Karaitiana had also penned two more songs which Williams’ recorded at the studios of 4YA Radio Station – ‘Saddle Hill’ (about a famous Dunedin landmark) and ‘It’s Just Because’, written in honour of the troops of K-Force departing for the Korean War.

Williams didn’t return from her holiday and while there she met the man she would marry, Irishman John (Paddy) Costello – with whom she had four children. She had successfully slipped quietly from the limelight.

After the death of her husband in 2006, and diagnosed with dementia, Williams returned to Wellington to live with her son.

At this time, a special project was undertaken by Williams’ daughter, to capture all of her mother’s recordings in one collection for release while she was still alive.

Williams’ family hadn’t heard of the majority of their mother’s recordings so the project was one of discovery, and the chance to capture her music and story for future generations.

Recorded onto brittle 78 Shellac discs, finding the whole collection was the first obstacle. This was made possible by family friend and ’scratchy records’ collector, George Boraman, who had started collecting Williams’ recordings in 1970. When hearing of the project, he was missing one record and, once found, he presented the full collection to Williams’ daughter for remastering.

With no background in the music or recording industry, Williams’ daughter turned to another family friend. Tim Fraser agreed to produce the collection. He sought the services of Mike Gibson, mastering engineer from Munki Mastering, for the arduous task of re-mastering the recordings, and Marcus Wilson, an audio expert to capture the definition and detail that was so difficult to capture. This ended up being another great DIY project reminiscent of the original recording of ‘Blue Smoke’.

Pixie Album Cover

For the Record album cover

On her 83rd birthday on July 12, 2011, ‘For the Record – The Pixie Williams Collection 1949-1951’ was released. Williams’ was wheelchair bound at this stage but well enough to attend the launch and 63 years after the first recording, was honored with a Triple Platinum award for ‘Blue Smoke’ and a Single Platinum Award for ‘Let’s Talk it Over’ from RIANZ.

For Williams, her recording career was very much for the love of it. Like many musicians who recorded with her, she was never paid for her work. She couldn’t read music but taught herself to play guitar, ukulele, the banjo and piano accordion. At age 73, she decided to teach herself the organ – for something to do.

On 2 August, 2013 she passed away peacefully, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and dementia.

“Music – it’s what keeps you going through good times and bad. It kept me sane in the hard times. Forget the pills. When you’ve got music in your life – you’ll be ok.” Pixie Williams

Blue Smoke – Musicography:

The popularity and poignancy of Blue Smoke followed her down the years with TANZA’s first ever recording outlasting the music genre’s that followed.

  • In 1990 Blue Smoke was used in Jane Campion’s ‘An Angel at my Table’, a film adaptation of Janet Frame’s renowned three-part autobiography.
  • Film-maker Gaylene Preston used Blue Smoke to close her movie ‘Ruby and Rata’ released in 1998.
  • In 2001, 52 years after it was recorded, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) in New Zealand APRA members and an invited group of experts voted Blue Smoke No. 17 of New Zealand’s top 30 songs.
  • In 2006 Blue Smoke was used in Robert Sarkies film ‘Out of the Blue’.
  • In 2009, on the 60 year anniversary of the song, The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra released their upbeat version of the song giving it the full ukulele treatment in a special single-disc release also available online.
  • In 2010 kiwi Shelley Hirini released her version of the song which was recorded in Nashville, USA and has a distinct country sound.
  • Early this year Shelley Mac (nee Hirini) in association with Blue Smoke Records and Williams’ daughter, released her tribute album to Pixie Williams titled ‘Do You Remember’. Recorded in New Orleans, USA (to capture that very special jazz and blues sound that Karaitiana and Williams so loved), and in Wellington, New Zealand with Dr Lee Prebble, thankfully Williams got to hear it, and give it her blessing, weeks before she passed away.

For the record : the Pixie Williams collection, 1949-1951.

Syndetics book coverBlue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964 / Chris Bourke.
“Bringing to life the musical worlds of New Zealanders both at home and out on the town, this history chronicles the evolution of popular music in New Zealand during the 20th century. From the kiwi concert parties during World War I and the arrival of jazz to the rise of swing, country, the Hawaiian sound, and then rock’n’roll, this musical investigation brings to life the people, places, and sounds of a world that has disappeared and uncovers how music from the rest of the world was shaped by Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders into a melody, rhythm, and voice that made sense on these islands. The accompanying audio CD wonderfully brings to life the engaging text, underscoring seminal moments in New Zealand’s musical history.” (Syndetics summary)

BLUE-SMOKE

All information and photos included in this post is used with permission from Blue Smoke Records.

An Interview with Toni Huata

Kia ora ano and welcome to our third and final feature in our New Zealand Music Month series of interviews with local Māori musicians. This week’s feature is on Toni Huata, a local songstress and permformer of Ngati Kahungunu. Check it out!

2_Toni_Huata_at_PAO,_Wellington_

Would you like to introduce yourself?
My name is Toni Huata from Ngati Kahungunu , Rongowhakaata, Rongomaiwahine and Lebanon, Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia.

Where are you from? How long have you lived in Wellington for?
I was brought up in Hastings and have been based in Wellington now for around 20 years.

What’s your musical background? What instruments do you play?
I’m a vocalist and performer first then producer, director and voice tutor.  I play the guitar and piano but my voice is my instrument.

How did you learn? What made you want to learn?
Encouragement from family and friends to attend the Whitireia music course as a vocalist, which lead onto Touring Theatre Companies and eventually our own business. I also dabbled in percussion and the drums whilst at Whitireia but just for a tutu.

In what ways have you drawn on your Māori lineage for inspiration for your music?
Every way. My family is who I am and our stories in the past, present and future is what drives my compositions and music.

Are there any themes in your work? What are some of those?
Family, land, culture, love, health, empowerment, loss, children, being a parent, woman and mother, all sorts of things. I’m working on my fifth album Tomokia now so you can imagine we’ve covered a lot.

Where do you feel Māori music is at now?
I feel Māori music is always evolving and is particular to each individual artist in how they wish to express themselves. There are Māori language artists, kaupapa Māori artists and artists that produce music not necessarily with a Māori flavour or language, but are Māori.

What do you enjoy most about performing? Anything you don’t enjoy about it?
I love performing and expressing myself to all. With music I find it tends to be either intimate or big outdoor festival style which require different levels of energy but always with truth. In theatre it is different again, still the truth but in support of a central story. With music the story is in each song. Big theatre productions can make me nervous but I just say my karakia and ask for help to be on top of everything and trust that all will be well.

PAO_concert_Jen_Toni_and_Marisa

Who are some of your favourite musicians? Is there anyone you look to for musical inspiration?
I love many past and present artists for different reasons. Either their voice or their stage persona. Best to see them live in concert.

Who have you enjoyed working with?
I’m working currently with Paddy Free and it is another great working relationship. We also worked together on my single Tahuri Mai (releases on May 24 2013) and 4th album Hopukia (2012). I also love working with Gareth Farr (in RWC 2011, albums Hopukia and Whiti and stage production Maui – One Man Against the Gods), he is so talented and is a laugh in the studio. Past producers I have had many wonderful experiences with and always a good laugh. I love working with long time collaborators and friends Charles Royal and Tanemahuta Gray.

Will you be celebrating NZ music month?
Yes, we are currently in studio starting my fifth album Tomokia. My single ‘Tahuri Mai’ releaseD through DRM and Amplifier on May 24th and to iwi stations May 20th.

Favourite book?
Health, cultural, spritual and self-help books.

If you could listen to just one song forever, what would it be?
That’s a hard one, I love so many pop and Maori songs.

Are there any songs you’d like to cover?
I’m covering ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, a bi-lingual version, on this next album. The Māori lyrics are different to the original English lyrics but this has come by the request of many family members and friends.

Do you have any up-coming Wellington gigs we can get along to? Where can we find out more?
Check my websitefacebook and twitter.

In the near future I’m at the Wharewaka June 8th, then Kahungunu Matariki June 21st at Flaxmere Park in Hastings and in Wairarapa July 5th…

2_Toni_Huata_Solo_opening_for_World_of_Wearable_Arts,_NZ

You can check out some of Toni’s albums right here at the library!

Whiti.

Hopukia.

Te Maori e.

An Interview with Karl Teariki

Kia ora and welcome to the second interview in our series of interviews with local Māori musicians. Here we have an interview with local musician Karl Teariki, helping us to celebrate NZ music month by telling us all about his sweet sounds!

karl grfx

Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am from the tribe of Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Waka o Takitimu, growing up on my ancestral land known to our family as Maunga Kōhatu, but known these days as ‘Royshill’, Highway 50, 15 km south west of Hastings. My marae is Omahu and my hapū is Ngāti Hinemanu. On my father’s side, I also descend from Te Waka o Takitumu in Rarotonga, from the tribe Ngāti Raina with connections to Mauke, Tāhiti and Ra’iatea. Although I have lived in Wellington just over twenty years, I will always be from Heretaunga. The real one, not the one in Upper Hutt. I have worked on many kaupapa Māori albums starting with the iconic band Black Katz led by Ngātai Huata when I was 12 playing cello on the track Mahinaarangi.

What’s your musical background? What instruments do you play?
I first started on guitar when my Mum was getting classical guitar lessons from a well-known Hastings musician, the late James Baker, who was a session player from England, a lovely man and a great teacher. I used to sit in on her lessons after school when I was 6 years old, and I think I just soaked it up like a sponge as kids do. I started playing the pieces my Mum has learned by ear, and she taught me what she had learned. She says she stopped teaching me when I got better than her. A few years later I also learned classical cello from my teacher Alison Hansen, as well as continuing on guitar with Mr Baker, and later at high school with Dave Boston. When I was 15, guitar was definitely cooler, so I put the cello away and transferred what I had learned on the cello to electric guitar. Music has always been a creative outlet for me as has art and ‘The art of Tutu’, my number one passion. Tutu means basically to learn and explore through experimentation.

karl hill small

In what ways have you drawn on your Māori lineage for inspiration for your music?
I have always drawn on my heritage when it comes to composing, from my first release at the age of 17 with a grant from Puatatangi. It was called He Taonga, and combined what I had learned on classical guitar, and my mum and dad also performed on the title track He Taonga. My favourite track from that release was Whakakāhu, which means ‘to assume the form of a hawk’, and combined orchestral elements I composed and were performed on keyboard by my cousin Traci Tuimaseve. I am interested in using the thought processes and concepts handed down from the ancestors and translating those into modern genres for people to enjoy. That was the concept behind the release of PAO, which featured my sons Tangaroa and Te Manea. It was a 5 track EP made with funding from Te Mangai Paho. On that EP I created some Whakatauki, (Maori proverbs) that reflect how the ancestors formed thoughts from observing nature. For example, in the song Ko Te Reo (The Language),

Iti nei, iti nei,
ka hangaia e te manu
tōna kohanga.

Iti nei, iti nei,
ka tipu te pī,
ki te manu tīoriori.

Little by little,
the bird builds
their nest.

Little by little,
the fledgeling grows
into a beautiful songbird.

The thing with whakatauki is they can relate to many things, depending on how they are examined. This one could relate to learning or goal setting; a bird building its nest from little things. Learning is the same, each small thing learned is an achievement that build towards a bigger outcome. I guess themes in my work are to do with my heritage, and how that fits into the modern world. 

Where do you feel Māori music is at now?
I feel that Māori music is continually growing and evolving, depending on the generation that is carrying it. Each generation has its own preferences and tastes, like the word whakapapa which translates to genealogy. It literally means, ‘to become a layer’; each layer / generation has its responsibility to those before and after it.

What do you enjoy most about performing? Anything you don’t enjoy about it?
What I enjoy most about performing my music is to leave a thought or feeling with someone that they did not have previously. An idea can be shared with someone, without losing it.

Who are some of your favourite musicians? Is there anyone you look to for musical inspiration?
I have many favourites but for me it’s about how that piece of music can make me feel, regardless of the composer or genre. I appreciate music that is crafted, but then a three chord song can tell amazing stories. I prefer a music ‘smorgasbord’ over ‘a la carte’ if that makes sense.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working towards the second release from PAO, again featuring the vocals of my sons who will be 14 and 16 when we are finished. A couple of the songs are in English with the rest in Māori. They cover many themes from losing loved ones, returning home, heritage, heartbreak, tutu, and also covers a few favourite songs, including AEIOU written by Wī te Tau Huata in the 1950’s and sung by many a primary school student across the country.

boys-pao-flyer1

If you could listen to just one song forever, what would it be?
That would probably be a song called Nemesis, by a group named Shriekback released in 1985. I like its weirdness and strangeness.

Are there any songs you’d like to cover?
I’d love to cover the following songs from a Polynesian / Māori perspective: UK black – Soul II Soul, Exodus – Bob Marley, Sing our own song – UB40. There are also many beautiful Māori songs I would love to cover one day.

Do you have any up-coming Wellington gigs we can get along to? Where can we find out more?
Get a free download:
PAO on soundcloud.

Karl Teariki on soundcloud.

An Interview with Matiu Te Huki

Kia ora ano! You might remember, I promised some exciting things for NZ Music Month here on our he korero o te wa blog… and here goes! Local musician Matiu Te Huki very kindly answered some (okay, a lot of) questions for us, and told us all about his music and his inspirations. Check it out!

Paekakariki Memorial Hall 2011

Would you like to introduce yourself?
Ko Kahungunu me Rangitane ki Wairarapa oku iwi.
I’m also of Italian, Irish, Scottish and English descent. I’m a dad, I teach kapahaka in kindys and schools and love dogs.

Where are you from? How long have you lived in Wellington for?
I’m from Masterton, lived in the South Island for a while and I’ve lived just north of Wellington in Raumati South, Kapiti Coast for 8 years now.

What’s your musical background? What instruments do you play?
Started as a child on the ukulele, then guitar, sang my way through school in choirs and kapahaka groups. My voice is my main instrument and the guitar is the instrument I play to accompany my voice and to compose music with.

How did you learn? What made you want to learn?
A lovely old man called Pop Joe taught me to play for a couple years (from 10-12 years of age), I’ve been bluffing it ever since. I’m still learning. I learnt guitar because I love music so much and it’s easy to carry around.

In what ways have you drawn on your Māori lineage for inspiration for your music?
I really got into singing at Hato Paora Maori boys college. It gave me a real sense of identity and pride to stand and sing, especially in my native tongue. I still write songs in Maori and use haka, chants and traditional instruments in my music, more than ever now actually.

Are there any themes in your work? What are some of those?
My main themes are about revolution. Internal (evolving, loving oneself, letting go of fear etc) and external (Learning what’s really going on in the world, loving one another and standing up for our rights together…while we still have them).

Where do you feel Māori music is at now?
I feel it is under-appreciated in this country by the music industry. In saying that, a lot of people are ready and hungry for it, especially overseas.

What do you enjoy most about performing? Anything you don’t enjoy about it?
I love connecting with people, uplifting their spirits, inspiring them with my themes and putting myself out there. I don’t really enjoy playing to drunk crowds anymore as I feel most of the time they’re missing the point.

Who are some of your favourite musicians? Is there anyone you look to for musical inspiration?
Warren Maxwell, Ria Hall, Louise Baker, DUB FX are a few that come to mind. I’m inspired by those who follow their hearts, break the rules, and play what they want, not what the industry says people want to hear.

Who have you enjoyed working with?
I loved playing on stage with Fat Freddies Drop for the experience of the big crowds, composing and recording with Anika Moa for her skill and voice and I loooooooove jamming freestyle with people and feeling things fall naturally and beautifully into place.

Will you be celebrating NZ music month?
I’m pretty much gigging every weekend at the moment, I feel I’m having a music year!

Favourite book?
Way of the Superior Man by David Deida.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m developing my solo act, about to come in for winter and write some new stuff and getting ready to tour Europe in August.

If you could listen to just one song forever, what would it be?
Hmmmmm….. I think that would drive me crazy!

Are there any songs you’d like to cover?
I cover a few of my favourites, I’d love to play ‘Killing in the name of” by Rage Against the Machine. In the right environment, of course.

Do you have any up-coming Wellington gigs we can get along to? Where can we find out more?
I post my gigs on my Facebook page and my website is matiutehuki.co.nz.
My next gig in Wellington is at the Southern Cross 18th May, 10pm-12, free entry.

Syndetics book coverThe way of the superior man : a spiritual guide to mastering the challenges of women, work and sexual desire / David Deida.
“What is your true purpose in life? What do women really want? What makes a good lover? If you’re a man reading this, you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself these questions-but you may not have had much luck answering them. Until now. In The Way of the Superior Man, David Deida explores the most important issues in men’s lives-from career and family to women and intimacy to love and spirituality-to offer a practical guidebook for living a masculine life of integrity, authenticity, and freedom. Join this bestselling author and internationally renowned expert on sexual spirituality for straightforward advice, empowering skills, body practices, and more to help you realize a life of fulfillment, immediately and without compromise. “It is time to evolve beyond the macho jerk ideal, all spine and no heart,” writes David Deida. “It is also time to evolve beyond the sensitive and caring wimp ideal, all heart and no spine.” The Way of the Superior Man presents the ultimate challenge-and reward-for today’s man: to discover the “unity of heart and spine” through the full expression of consciousness and love in the infinite openness of the present moment. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

New album and a kōrero with local Māori songbird

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Christchurch musician Ariana Tikao has recently moved to Wellington and is the new Research Librarian, Māori in the Alexander Turnbull Library (Arrangement & Description team). She has just released a new album, From Dust to Light, and celebrated with a pre-release gig at Te Papa recently. We asked her some questions about her whakapapa, her music and her new album.

We hear you’ve recently moved up from Christchurch. What brought you up here and how has the shift been for you?
The job really brought me here, but I have to say, that the earthquakes did have a part to play in creating the idea for a change. I do miss family and Christchurch, but it has been a great move for my career. Working at the Turnbull is a bit of a dream job. Also a new music scene and access to new musicians to collaborate with is really positive.

Have you noticed any differences in the music scene between here and Christchurch?
Um, there are not many venues left in Christchurch now. I haven’t really had time to delve into the music scene here yet in a big way, but I really enjoyed working with Lee Prebble at the Surgery, and I am loving working with Ben Lemi Wood who I collaborated with on the album, and also the other musicians who played on the album: Al Fraser, Brooke Singer and Charley Davenport. I think just being in the North Island now is going to open up new opportunities for me in terms of festivals to play at etc.

In what ways have you drawn on your Māori lineage for inspiration for your music?
It is quite a major theme really. It is my main inspiration. I love singing in Te Reo Māori, it has a real wairua of its own, and I find it very emotional. Many of the stories from my whānau or iwi come through as stories or themes in my music.

What’s your musical background? You play taonga puoro; how did you get into that? What other instruments do you play?
I don’t have a background in western music theory, but lately I have been playing taonga puoro, which I have had an interest in for a long time now. Brian Flintoff makes most of my instruments. They are each a taonga as individuals and you need to get to know them all individually as no two instruments are the same. I also play the Appallachian dulcimer which I really love for its delicate sound, and it is pretty easy to play. Mine was made by Ian Davie of Singing Wood.

Is there a story behind your new album; does it have a theme?
Yes. The title was inspired by a picture of Christchurch from the February 2011 earthquake, where dust rose above the city from the fallen buildings. It is a very powerful image. When I was still living in Christchurch last year, it felt very dark and bleak in the middle of winter and I wrote the song ‘Let there be light’ as a song of hope and encouraging us to move beyond the despair. That became the overall theme of the album ‘From Dust to Light’ but also the subtheme of reviving old knowledge and breathing life into it and bringing it into the present.

Tell us about your job at the Alexander Turnbull Library? What are your favourite parts of your job?
I work in the Arrangement and Description team which is largely a ‘backroom’ kind of activity describing what is in the unpublished collections. We receive collections from donations or purchase and usually need to re-house them into acid-free folders etc and make new records and descriptions for them. I specialise in Māori collections, and really love it. I am working on a new collection of James Cowan papers at present. He was a writer in the first half of the 20th century, and did a lot of writing about Māori culture and NZ history. He even interviewed my Great-Grandfather Teone Taare Tikao. There is a waiata on my new album inspired by a story that our Poua gave to Cowan.

Do you have any up-coming Wellington gigs we can get along to? Where can we find out more?
I will be performing again in Wellington in February (or possibly before then). Eva Street Studio, 2 Eva Street, Wellington on Saturday February 16 2013.  People can keep an eye on my website for details. www.arianatikao.com

While Ariana’s From Dust to Light hasn’t hit the library shelves yet, we do have a previous album, Tuia, for you to enjoy. You can reserve it here!

MI0002035926 Tuia / Ariana Tikao.

We also have the book Tikao Talks, which contains stories from Ariana’s great-grandfather, Teone Taare Tikao. Ariana says the stories are a great source of inspiration for her, and that some of the waiata on her Tuia album are directly inspired by the book.

Tikao talks : ka taoko tapu o te ao kohatu : treasures from the ancient world of the Maori / told by Teone Taare Tikao to Herries Beattie.
Contains many traditions and beliefs never before recorded. As an old man, Teone Taare Tikao passed on to the author knowledge which he had gained as a young man from the old people. (adapted from Smithsbookshop.co.nz)

Another book which has inspired waiata for Ariana is Māori folk-tales of the Port Hills, Canterbury, New Zealand by James Cowan. A story and some lyrics in the book inspired her song Titi Whakatai Arorua, which features on her new album From Dust to Light. Ariana says she loves “bringing old korero to light so they can help form our identity now, and into the future.”

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Photos courtesy of Françoise Padellec.

New Classical Music in October

October’s classical music picks feature a Spanish cello and guitar duo, some never before recorded New Zealand organs, a unique juxtaposition of Bach and Cage, and other quirky and exciting recordings that have recently graced our shelves!

Cover ImageA lesson in love. (CD)
“English lyric soprano Kate Royal devised this stunning collection, which charts the journey of a young girl’s relationship: from the first kiss and thrill of a blossoming love and initial intimacy through to the joy of a love fulfilled, to the disappointment and anger when the relationship breaks down, and ends with the girl’s acceptance and a cheeky sense of optimism about what her future love life might hold. The result is a unique song cycle – a thematic journey through the highs and lows of love, of young naivety lost and emotional maturity gained. Royal leads us through her own personal choice of song, where her innate sense of drama and her passion for musical storytelling brings a fresh and youthful interpretation of the disc repertoire. A Lesson in Love contains a mixture of well-known songs as well as some surprising rarities, with a range of song styles and languages to appeal to a broad audience.” (adapted from amazon.com product description)

Cover imageSinfonie Nr. 1, c-Moll, Urfassung 1865/66 (Linzer Fassung) / Anton Bruckner. (CD)
“With Bruckner’s first four symphonies, Simone Young follows in the footsteps of Georg Tintner in trusting the original text. She has already recorded Sym. 2-4, so this new Sym. #1 completes the mission. In all these early symphonies Young has done well. She has a natural feeling for Bruckner’s long line and doesn’t lapse into episodic music-making even when the work itself tends to be disjointed. Young is so light and fresh in her approach to this formative work, which straddles the worlds of Schubert and mature Bruckner, that even when you recognize the primitive nature of the development sections, listening is pleasurable” (amazon.com review)

Cover imageBachCage (CD)
“A young musician and composer causing a stir, not only on the club scene, but also in classical concert venues is probably a world-first. Tristano’s idiosyncratic and very personal handling of his musical pioneers, Bach and Cage. Perhaps Tristano is one of the first representatives of a new generation of musicians who no longer belong to a specific school. This generation also takes advantage of the fact that practically the whole repertoire of all music ever recorded is available on the Internet. The most diverse kinds of music stand alongside each other, taken out of their typical context and available in some would say, a more democratic form. Tristano makes use of this, stamping his mark on the world of music and providing a fresh and unique sound, unlike anything that has been heard before.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Cover ImageIbérica (CD)
“The highly acclaimed French cellist Anne Gastinel collaborates with virtuoso Argentine guitarist Pablo Márquez in a delightful release exploring the passion and soul of Spanish music. The follow up to her successful Schubert Sonatas and Bach Suites albums sees Gastinel select the pieces and arrange them for cello. The recording includes Spanish Classical music standards by Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla and Gaspar Cassadó. Anne Gastinel records exclusively for Naïve, each new release is hailed by the international press and showered with awards. Achievements include: French Classical Music Awards ‘Most Promising Young Talent 94’ and ‘Best Recording of the Year’; ‘Fnac’ Prize 1995 and 2000; Prix de l’Académie du Disque; RTL Classique d’Or 1996 and 1998; the “Choc” du Monde de la Musique, Télérama (1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002). Pablo Márquez’s recordings for ECM New Series and Kairos have received numerous awards, including the Grand Prix du Disque de l’Acedémie Charles Cros, the Amadeus Prize. Personnel: Anne Gastinel (cello), Pablo Márquez (guitar)”  (amazon.co.uk description)

New Zealand organ music (CD)
“This groundbreaking recording features organ music by some of New Zealand’s most talented composers recorded on a variety of significant instruments around Wellington, performed by Richard Apperley, Assistant Director of Music at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Apperley says ‘this disc is largely a response to the devastating effect of the Christchurch earthquakes on so many churches and organs in the city. Whilst we can do little to protect the organs of Wellington should we experience a similar tragedy, it seems prudent to make a permanent audio recording of some of our finest instruments. The music of New Zealand composers has long been a passion of mine, and I’m thrilled to be able present a disc of this nature.’ The organs include those at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, Sacred Heart Cathedral, St Peter’s Willis Street, St James’ Presbyterian Newtown, St Paul’s Lutheran Church and the National War Memorial. Of particular significance is the Norman and Beard instrument at St James’ Presbyterian church – the building is due to be demolished later this year due to earthquake risk.”  (adapted from Publisher’s description)

Hikoi / Nunns & Dyne. Journey / Nunns, Dyke, Lisik. (CD)
“Two gorgeously textured and sonically stunning works featuring some of New Zealand’s finest jazz musicians and ethnomusicologists. The first work, Hikoi, is a group of improvised dialogues between Richard Nunns playing taonga puoro and Paul Dyne, head of jazz at Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music, on bass. The second work, Journey, which is based upon Hikoi’s improvisations and composed by Dave Lisik, is a work for taonga puoro, bass, piano, tenor sax and electronics. ” (adapted from CD liner notes)