Friday, May 08, 2015

Jack Body announced as A New Zealand Arts ICON.

Tonight I went to the book launch of 'Jack- Celebrating Jack Body, Composer' edited by Jennifer Sheehan, Gillian Whitehead and Scilla Askew, which was held Victoria University. Jack, unfortunately couldn't make the even, being in a hospice with terminal cancer. Brushing aside tears all the speakers talked of his insatiable energy and creativity, Publisher Roger Steele and Contributor Elizabeth Kerr mad...e a number of fitting tributes to Jack's spirit and effervescence.

The event also had one or two surprises. Sir Eion Edgar, patron, trustee and founder of the NZ Arts Foundation announced that Jack had been recently been presented with a Icon Award. There are only ever 20 presented, and only to living artists. Jack's specific medal was passed on from the late Ralph Hotere, with whom jack had collaborated on a series called 'Song Cycle'. Apparently Ralph had rubbed a substance into his medal to bring out the patina. Jack appreciated that. Other awardees include Peter Jackson, Janet Frame and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Jack is the first composer to be awarded the honour.

The audience were treated to 4 tribute works played by Victoria University of Music Piano teacher Jian Lu, and a sax duet by Dita Max called 'Ecstasy for Jack". Steve Garden announced two CDs of Jack's recent composition - "Passing By" (Rattle) and "Songs of Death and Desire"(Atoll). The night finished with some audio from Jack and his most famous work "The Street Where I Live" Performed by Jian and narrated by Jack (via a recording. Jack is a fitting tribute to a unique New Zealand - look out for the Book review on the Groove website very soon.

Sir Eion Edgar, Patron to the Icons, announced the award at the book launch of 'Jack! Celebrating Jack Body, Composer' this evening in Wellington. A formal celebration of Jack receiving the Icon Award will occur at Government House later this year, along with the announcement of two further Icon Award recipients.

Passing By is a double album set of chamber works by one of our most revered and cherished composers, the inimitable Jack Body. With new recordings from NZTrio and Stephen De Pledge, recent recordings from Kronos Quartet, Del Sol Quartet, Stroma New Music Ensemble, New Music Works Ensemble, David Radzynski, and Ensemble Nomad, Passing By is a testament to the career of one of New Zealand’s most inspired (and inspiring) artists.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

NZ's best jazz album announced

This year's Best Jazz Album in New Zealand has been announced in Tauranga as part of the National Jazz Festival 2015.

Auckland band DOG has been crown the winner of the annual award for their self-titled debut album.
Dubbed a jazz super-group, DOG comprises four of New Zealand's most renowned jazz musicians, composers and educators: Kevin Field (piano), Roger Manins (saxophone), Olivier Holland (bass) and Ron Samsom (Drums). They are all music lecturers at the University of Auckland.
The self-titled album DOG has been described as a thrilling and vibrant recording, filled with innovative tracks and improvisation.
Recorded Music NZ CEO Damian Vaughan said DOG's album was a reflection of New Zealand's world-class jazz scene. 
"A wealth of talent and experience went in to creating the album. DOG are masters of this difficult craft and I congratulate them on recording an exceptional album which is well deserving of a Tui."

DOG – dubbed a jazz super-group – comprises four of New Zealand’s most renowned jazz musicians, composers and educators: Kevin Field (piano), Roger Manins (saxophone) and Olivier Holland (bass) and Ron Samson (Drums) are all Music lecturers at the University of Auckland.
The group began playing together in 2014 and were greeted with enthusiastic support, prompting them to release their self-title Rattle Jazz debut album Dog.
The other finalists for the 2015 Jazz Tui were The Jac for Nerve and solo artist Jonathan Crayford for Dark Light, both from Wellington. 

What started as a rehearsal band for students and tutors at the New Zealand School of Music jazz school in Wellington eventually turned into the octet The Jac. The group developed from transcribing and performing charts by New York and San Francisco composers to writing and performing their own music.
The eight-piece’s recording Nerve is regarded as a sharp five-track album that bursts with colour and ideas, taking influence from the older members’ wealth of experience and coupling it with the students’ youthful enthusiasm.

Jonathan Crayford is a stalwart of the New Zealand Jazz scene having spent more than 20 years performing and honing his craft. His latest album Dark Light – a trio recording featuring New York-based Ben Street on bass and Dan Weiss on drums – was composed in London in 2013. It aims to explore the ‘subtle wonders’ and mystery between the dark and light.
Critics dub Street and Weiss two of the most remarkable and sought-after jazz musicians in the Big Apple with the New York Times naming Weiss ‘One of the five Most Promising Drummers of the New Generation’.

And Crayford himself comes with high acclaim, critics calling him ‘profound’, ‘luminous’ and simply ‘terrific’.  His work doesn’t stop at simply composing great jazz albums either; Crayford also has a cinematic opera project in the works – which he is writing and composing – called ‘El Diablo de Cadaqués’ or ‘The Devil Of Cadaqués’.

Recorded Music New Zealand chief executive Damian Vaughan says this year’s line-up of collaborative albums showcases the many talented jazz musicians in New Zealand.
“The result of having multiple-talented jazz musicians come together on an album is superb. The collaborations give each a unique, world-class sound that truly showcases the diversity and brilliance of the New Zealand jazz scene. Congratulations to all three finalists.”
National Jazz Festival president Darryl Haigh says jazz continues to grow in New Zealand and 2015 has a fantastic group of finalists.
“The Tauranga National Jazz Festival is one of the cradles of New Zealand Jazz. It is a privilege for the festival to be the home of the Best Jazz Album Tui. The 2015 finalists are a joy to listen to”
The festival is hosted over Easter weekend and is the longest running Jazz Festival in the southern hemisphere and one of the oldest in the world. It acts as a showcase of both local and international jazz talent.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

Recent previous winners of the Tui for Best Jazz Album
• 2011 - Reuben Bradley for Resonator
• 2012 - Rodger Fox's Wellington Jazz Orchestra for Journey Home
• 2013 - Nathan Haines for The Poet's Embrace
• 2014 - Nathan Haines for Vermillion Skies

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Jenny Wollerman, Michael Houstoun, and Rattle Records proudly announce the release of BETWEEN DARKNESS AND LIGHT

On Friday 1 May soprano Jenny Wollerman and concert pianist virtuoso Michael Houstoun release their new beautiful album Between Darkness and Light to a select audience at Victoria University.  Surrounded by friends, family, academics, Jenny’s students and loyal members of the Rattle Records family Jenny and Michael showcased one of the tunes from the new release, which was conceived as part of a concert for Wanaka’s Festival of light three years ago.  The project features compositions by some of the world's most beloved composers, including Gabriel Fauré, Samuel Barber, Richard Strauss, André Previn, and Claude Debussy.  The title comes from a quote by poet Rabindranath Tagore:   Between darkness and light is where the poet Rabindranath Tagore places “the silent meeting of soul with soul … where the infinite prints its kiss on the forehead of the finite.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On ANZAC Day and the 'ANZAC Spirit'

With the 100th year commemorations of WWI there comes an outpouring vicarious emotion and jingoistic fervour as both individuals and states alike clamour to align themselves with the myth of righteous sacrifice. There are two phrases that will be repeated endlessly in this part of the Pacific: “Gallipoli: The birth of a Nation” and the “The coming of age”. Both really grate with me. I’ve just been in Australia and witnessed first-hand the exploitation of BRANZAC: clothing, ornaments and trinkets, maps, books and TV docs that all point to the honour and sacrifice made by the ANZACs, a cashing in on the “spirit of the ANZACs. That spirit – “honour, sacrifice, mate-ship” is the unashamed currency both the New Zealand and Australian Prime Minsters recently chose to spend in when justifying their decisions and support for troops to return to the same part of the world where all this started: The Middle East. Granted, Iraq is slightly south on the map but the underlying, unspoken rationale for sending the troops is the a same. Commerce - The same driver as gross commercialisation of the ANZACs, and the same driver that brought any of us to Aotearoa in the first place. Cry all you want that I am pessimistic. But understand this: Able Tasman only found New Zealand and Van Diemen’s Land because he was in search of new Trade Routes; The Wakefields were the first mass scale property developers of the South Pacific and chose to exploit the maps of Cook (who was after all a merchant seaman with an explorer’s drive); early settlers came here for the Seal Trade; Early Settlers, although inspired by the ideals of escaping class infested Britain were still aspiring farmers, shopkeepers, publicans and industrialists. The whole point of the British Empire was commerce. So when New Zealand became a colony, and let’s not forget that we were so until the 1940’s, it was primarily for commercial reasons. We looked back to Britain as our market. This only changed when Britain abandoned us in the 1980’s and joined the EC.

New Zealanders and Australians along with every other Commonwealth country and colony fought alongside Britain to protect the empire. Yet we were never under threat here. Neither, was Britain. The war was to stop the expansion of Germany into Europe, to stop the increase of their empire and the collapse of the fragile Austro-Hungarian Empire, which until recently had been a strong German ally. Don’t forget Germany was also a new Empire, being the bastard child of a unity of reluctant Germanic duchies cobbled together by Bismarck only 50 year’s prior, and led by a Prussian Prince, whose line of ancestry went back before the Napoleonic wars and would also later infest itself into the British Royal Family.

So all in all, the ANZACs were sold the myth of Empire defence, they were coerced to join the great adventure. If a nation was born it was as a consequence of war – the loss and devastation of an entire generation of men – of ideas, of innovations, of creativity. My grandmother’s generation suffered not once but four times as a consequence of a greedy, stubborn empire failing to assert itself effectively: WW1, The Great Depression, The Flu endemic and WW2 – all direct results of Empire and commerce and it’s failures. Kiwis signed up to both the first and second world wars, in part because the suffered from an empirical version of ‘little brother’ syndrome and a fear of missing out. It’s likely that Australia felt the same. There has always been a chip on the shoulder and a desire to prove we are equal if not better, and possibly even more ‘English’ than the English. Australia, it seems was quicker to depart from this and quickly established their own cultural identity, but even into the 1990’s New Zealanders were struggling to find a different persona for themselves. The apron strings were as tough as the barbed wire that lined the battlefields of Europe.

In recent years we have observed a resurgence of the ‘ANZAC spirit’, which is meant to be a recognition of above anything else a sacred moral state, to which we can eternally aspire. Let’s break that down, shall we? ‘Honour’: If you mean blindly rushing in to support the idealistic notions of Empire and an even more blind faith in the concept of commerce as the only possible model for life in our land. Throughout my life the clarion cry has always been ‘protect our trade routes, defend our markets, insulate our farmers and nurture our innovators and manufacturers”. Never once, I think, had anyone stopped to question why? Why should we do this? Why should we go to battle so that we could protect the farmers and industrialists? To keep our economy buoyant? To protect our jobs? The jobs that are at the fickle mercy of the capitalists. The greed and devastation of the Great Depression showed how fragile the commercial world is. The recent economic crisis has showed that they have learned little, and yet every time, then and now the commercial barons argue they have little to spare for the workers whilst calling upon them to take up arms whenever their trade routes are in jeopardy. World War 1 was entirely about protection of their Empire. World War 2 was a reaction to the first but could that have been more justified? Was there honour in fighting in that war?

The ‘ANZAC Spirit’ also edifices ‘Sacrifice’. The word, itself implies a religious connection and a noble offering to the gods. Or to God, him/herself! Indeed all denominations of the spoke the rhetoric of ‘God’s Cause’, a language of the crusades, Christians vs. Moslems, either directly or indirectly, over their Sunday pulpits. The war was God’s righteous action and justified in the eyes of the church. Peace through violence was entirely sanctified. And so, even at Chunuk Bair, the most northern ground attained on Gallipoli, imbedded clergy were with the troops, to offer moral hope, assurances of righteous ness and inevitable a service of the last rights. Indeed, in this light, in this Holy Battle of the right Empire against the Wrong Empire: sacrifice was most appropriate. But our relatives, whether they believed in god or any deity, would never have signed on, had they known this. We all know they were simply cannon fodder, lambs slaughtered due to the incompetence of their leaders and the mighty will of the Turks to, understandably protect their lands. And we all know that the ‘great adventure’ and the swelling of patriotic mysticism were the tickets sold. These men did not die for their country, because there wasn’t one. They didn’t die under a New Zealand Flag. They died under a British Union Jack, one that barely acknowledged the small Colony from the South. We know that a sacrifice is often a willing subject, who can lay down life under the full belief that their actions are moral, right and beneficial. I’m not convinced that our troops really believed that once they were in play. Much of their heroic deeds were performed out of necessity and innovation, not for some greater noble cause. Close hand to hand action becomes far more primal in these situations – survival knows no borders or country to the individual.

The final is ‘Mateship’. And there I will agree. In trying times all humans will look to one another for support. It’s a common held belief that Kiwis and Aussies are friendly and willing in nature. This is out of necessity. That same little brother’s chip refuses to allow us to be arrogant, or to brush off any potential mates that we happen across. We always need friends, especially those bigger than us. After all the ANZUS debate, the Four Eyes Debate, a seat on the UN Security Council: these have all been solid arguments for mates who rate.

‘Mateship’ was a quality that saw the ANZACs through very tough times on both the peninsular and later in Europe. Oddly, even in the RSAs and RSL’s they spoke, only in whisper of what they endured (but never to the civvies or family). We know little of their ordeal. The close fraternity that was assembled on the battlefield was, as you’d expect, unique to the times and the place. The ANZAC hospitality was grown on the battlefields of WW1 as a legend, like many of the times, because our laidback attitude and egalitarianism clashed so violently with the cold snobbery of the British Upper Class. WW1 was to be demarcation between the old world order and the rise of Socialism and Fascism. In a way World Ward 2 was also the reeling against that trend, albeit because of the inevitable destruction it was to lead to – racial and religious persecution, absolutism and fanatical devotion, all at the cost of liberalistic idealism and personal choice. One thing that Aussies and Kiwis have managed to salvage from the ordeal is our resolute belief in common sense and the common man. This has been eternally tested,

What drives the need for an ‘ANZAC Spirit’ is the desire to easily hang one’s hat on a catchphrase that summarises, at least in this country, our own national identity. The ‘ANZAC Spirit’ is best personified as a ‘smiling, ready-and-able soldier in a ‘Lemon Squeezer’ (note these weren’t issued in the first world war); a digger prepared to lay life on the line for country and religion (perhaps not so much of that now) and go into lands far and wide in the pursuit of the defence of democracy and individual freedom. We built our colony on the principles of freedom – from religious persecution, from ethnic persecution and from class persecution. Yet we are as guilty as any other in the British Empire of blundering through with righteous fervour, with commerce and profit at the forefronts of our minds, armed with a complete arrogance that God and morality our English inventions and therefore incorruptible truths. The reality is something we’ve only just come to realise, given our own short and bloody history. Our own internal race relations, especially with Asian immigrants and tanga whenua have not always been particularly honourable. Of course we are addressing this. The Waitangi Tribunal rulings, Maori Language Councils and language awareness programmes, Maoritanga and culture in schools, workplaces, even in the All Blacks. We include all ethnic groups in many festivals and in commercial arrangements, in fact we do everything possible to be egalitarian and equal where we can. And if we are not, someone will flag this up and it is considered and dealt with. If anything the ‘ANZAC Spirit’ should not be born of war but of the learning’s we made after the wars – with new immigrations from war ravaged lands we increase our cultural wealth, with new opportunities to trade outside Britain we made new trading partners and we became more interdependent, and more like citizens of the world. Commerce is still a major driver of wars and of conflict. Nationalism clouds the rationale for entering a war. Patriotism further masks the reasons and hides the truth. We should always be wary when the ‘ANZAC Spirit’ is invoked as a flag in which to rally behind - Especially when a politician wants to justify a decision to go to war.

This year we commemorate those who served, and those who fell in the Great War and every war since. And if we’ve learned anything, it’s to question and debate why we should every follow blindly into such predicaments again. All those people were caught up in the selfish, arrogant, and deluded actions of a small group. A hundred years on have we the courage to challenge the leaders of today? Why is violence still the only final solution? Are we not better than this?

Significance of the Poppy
Red poppies made of light cloth or paper are popularly worn on and around Anzac Day as a mark of respect to those who died in the course of service to their country. The poppy has its origins in the early twentieth century, when red or Flanders poppies bloomed over the graves of soldiers in France and Belgium. The poppy is now the undisputed symbol of remembrance, although its design has undergone several changes over the decades.

Poppy Day
The first poppy day in New Zealand was held on 24 April 1922 and it met with much public enthusiasm. In all, 245,059 small poppies were sold for one shilling each and 15,157 large poppies for two shillings each. Some of the money received was sent to the French Children’s League and the rest was used to assist unemployed soldiers in need, and their families, during the winter of 1922. So began the tradition of the Poppy Day Appeal as a means of raising funds for the welfare of returned service people and their dependants.

It was a Canadian poet, Colonel John McRae, who first described the Flanders poppy as a flower of remembrance. During the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first aid post, he wrote the following in pencil on a page torn from his field dispatch book:

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarcely heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.

Colonel McCrae died while on active service in May 1918, but the concept of the red poppy lives on when we use it to salute the memory of those who made sacrifices for their country in wartime.

The sounds of Anzac Day
Every Anzac Day ceremony involves the playing of Reveille and the Last Post and the reciting of the Ode.

The New Zealand Army Band has made recordings of each of these which are able to be downloaded from our Anzac Day sounds.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

WOMAD 2015 - a few thoughts

It’s always to cover a festival like WOMAD.  There’s so much to cram into three days.  But what I can give you are my own personal highlights.  Friday afternoon began with a search for a campsite.  When they say the world comes to Taranaki – they literally mean that!  There were 5,000 pitching on the nearby racecourse this year. 

Estere - Photo Tim Gruar
Ticket sales were fantastic, too – selling out all the three day passes.  Early estimates suggest 12,000 attended over the weekend.  And with three days of near perfect festival weather spirits were high.  I found forgetting the can opener was the perfect icebreaker to meeting my neighbours – four women in their 60’s with a retro caravan – which, ironically was kitted out with everything except that specific kitchen tool!  Behind me was a family of four and two over a group of 20-Somethings.  A perfect slice of this all ages festival audience.  Friday night kicked off with a drum display by Taikoz (who later led ran the kid’s parade), followed by a slightly nervous Estere, who with her MPC Lola, got the crowd moving with her edgy brand of ‘electric blue witch-hop’. 
A VW Tent at thesampsite - Photo Mckenzie

Richard Thompson - Photo - Tim Gruar
On the Todd Energy Brooklands stage Brazilian pop act Flavia Coelho  was a firestorm of passion.  She was only slightly upstaged by crazy Spaniards Che Sudaka’, who were also favourites at the Taste the World tent when they cooked ‘au natural’, with only aprons and guitars!  Head liner Richard Thompson brought the goods –  well practised guitar solos and a mix of tunes from his enormous back catalogue.  My favourite: ‘Guitar Heroes’ which features a melody of styles from Chuck Berry to Django Reinhart, all in one song!”.  

Public Service Broadcasting brought their own corduroy cool and Airfix-kid geekery, complete with ‘40’s newsreels and tv snippets of cosmonauts. 

The ‘Mighty Lion, Senegalese sensation Youssou N’Dour was a worthy, if slightly stock-standard showman.  I expected more than a cookie cutter festival effort. 

McKenzie Interviews Estere - Photo Tim Gruar
Saturday was a crazy blur of interviews and gigs.  A wee highlight was watching my 12 year old daughter IVing Estere.  I did manage to catch the second half of Tahuna Break’s lunchtime chill session and some crazy antics from Children’s jugglers and entertainers Hoop Hooligans.  There will also be embarrassing twitter photos of me dancing along to Puerto Flamenco before dozing off to eerie strains of Indian classical artist Meeta Pandit.   I was blown away by the desert-Hendrix-blues of Niger’s Bombino and went back for their second show.  One festival fave will be the Malawi Mouse Boys, leaping out into the audience and crooning at strangers.  Local boy Mylele Manzanza (Sam’s son) and his Electric delivered two brilliant shows of hard funk. 

Thomas Bartlett (The Gloaming) - Photo Trevor Villers

On vinyl Rufus Wainright''s laboured  Broadway crooning can be an acquired taste but on Saturday night he won over every participant in the Bowl with a repertoire from his own Greatest Hits (‘Not My Best Of") and selections from his mom Kate McGarrigle and Uncle Leonard (‘Hallelujah’, of course).  The extra bonus was watching the whole hour side stage, just 15 feet from the piano.  Not even the wading stage diver /flasher could dampen the moment!  I didn’t get to see Irish band The Gloaming but all reports told me I’d missed another highlight.

Flip Grater - Photo Trevor Villers
I caught up to congratulate newlywed Flip Grater, who paraded her new beau on the Dell stage.  Along with band mates from French for Rabbits she charmed the assembled masses. 

Sinead O'Connor - Photo Trevor Villers
FFR had a slight struggle to do the same on Sunday following a typically flippant hour from Sinead O’Connor,  but they got there.  O’Connor, wearing a Catholic dog collar, cross and an shed load of tats looked like she was spoiling for a fight.  She was initially her usual intense powerhouse self before collapsing into giggles trying to finish “Nothing Compares To U’ at a swing tempo.  Apparently a quacking duck was what set her off!  Oh Well – it’s a festival, eh! 

Bridget Kearney (Lake Street Dive) Photo Tim Gruar
Speaking of, the best acts – at a WOMAD it was always going to be the boisterous party act Balkan Beat Box, who were crazy, mad, insisting that even the oldies in the over 65 stands get up to boogie – and they did!  I had a chat to Puglia’s Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino just prior to their spell-binding set, which included a ‘suicidal’ rope dance that only the Italians could master!  I also had a chat to Trinity Roots who pulled out two solid sets over the weekend mixing their challenging new album, Citizen with old fav’s like ‘Sense not cents’ – which they’d reworked into a trance like 20 minute wig-out.  Quick mention goes to Lake Street Dive, who’d sprinted down from the Auckland Arts Festival to serve up a fine ol’ hour of mostly original retro-soul numbers, retranslating those 60’s Black girl groups into white indie pop with the added vibe of a smoky late night speak easy.  Very cool.
Osadia - Photo Tim Gruar
Featuring in the intervals were Spanish ‘hairdressers’ Osadia.  Looking like a clash of Bjork and a Turkish silk shop they singled out crowd members to doll up with outlandish and fantastical hairdos and face paint.   This year flag-maker Angus Watt came to the party with a brilliant collection of banners, which encircled the grounds and a new feature, a pyramid of red poppies was constructed from audience purchases in fitting commemoration.   When it got dark the blue lights of the strung out sculpture and an ever-changing colour lit ‘couch’ came into their own.  There was also a very cool carnival style café, complete with hula-hoops and photo -op’s with a guru, in the old Pinetun space.  And that was one small commiseration, with the Artists in Conversation section of the programme disappearing this year.  For me there were only two other gripes – more toilets and showers on the campsite please and the food prices, which have been steadily increasing, in disproportion to the portion sizes.  Small, I know.  But not small was the sense of occasion and jubilation. 

WOMAD is over ten Year’s now and a permanent date in my calendar.  Every Year the line ups get better.  I’m sure I missed a few things, but given the size it was bound to happen.  One even no one missed was the Adios performance of Qrquestra Buena Vista Social Club.  Down to four of the originals from the Ry Coder days they showed utter professionalism and grace.  84 year old Omara Portuondo was the consummate show woman having the time of her life.  Through torch songs, tunes of celebration and a raunchy version of ‘Perhaps, Perhaps’ she wooed her crowd, like no other.  It was the perfect way to finish as I walked back up the hill to the car, with the crowd’s cheering in my ears, for the long hall back. 

Qrquestra Buena Vista Social Club - Tim Gruar Back Stage at the Main Stage

Public Service Broadcasting - Photo Tim Gruar
WOMAD stepped up its ongoing no waste campaign this year by eliminating all plastic bottles and issuing goblets (complete with washing facilities) for punters to refill at the bar (beer, soft drinks, smoothies, etc)  Apparently that’s knocked down the onsite tip load to about half of last year’s hall – brilliant!  There will always be criticism that the festival has too many commercial or mainstream acts but the balance is still right.  Like a food court it has a host of national dishes.  It’s only when the large franchises bully in that whole thing goes under and that hasn’t happened yet.  Big cheers to the volunteers, comperes from The Hits and RNZ, who’ll be broadcasting a few shows in the future and did ‘Nights’ on Friday and ‘Music 101’ the next day.  And kudos to TAFT and their publicity crew who also outdid themselves again!  Before the gigs started each day I managed a walked along the waterfront, a spot of shopping in the quirky art shops and a gawk at the Wind Wand.  Next year the Len Lye-Centre at the Govett Brewster Gallery will be open – even more reason to make the journey into an extended stay. Kia Ora New Plymouth!
The New Lye Ly Wing of the Govett Brewster Gallery getting close to completion

Many Thanks to the Ladies at the Label - Lisa and Lucy :, Trevor Villers (photographer -,, Taranaki Arts Festival Trust (

Friday, March 20, 2015

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

On Yer Bike CoffeeBar Kid

The Kid goes adventuring with the Wellington Regional Council.  Listen below.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra

The Kid interviews Age Pryor about the upcoming shows and the debut album 9 years into their 'career'.

The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra Launch Be Mine Tonite

Festival fav's The Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra are about to embark on a national tour in support of their debut, all Kiwi sing-along-able CD "Be Mine Tonight" which is due for release on iTunes and in stores on November 7th. The band has already been on the road and are just back for a quick home visit before heading back out again.  Taking a breather their recent excursion to China and Japan founding musician Age Pryor found a few moments to chat over the blower from his digs in Auckland.  Auckland, Age. Really?  Not Wellington? "Ah, yes.  I relocated up here about 6 years ago to teach music at Unitec part time."  But he's still a Welly at heart, he assures me. 

A few years ago Age led a number of projects including the Woolshed sessions, recorded on Jane Campion's Nelson farm and two solo albums.  These days his main focus is the 'Uke's' (as he calls them), with whom he plays and co manages with fellow musician Gemma Gracewood. "It's incredible," he remarks, "that the band is still together.  As such it's scattered to the four winds these days.  Some are back in Wellington.  I'm in Auckland.  Gemma's based in New York and there's another in Singapore."  Truly international locals!   

The band’s reputation has built up over the years based on a live show of madcap hilarity and spontaneous audience participation. But behind the hijinks is a finely-tuned musical group who've  have truly cemented their place on New Zealand’s entertainment scene. Their unique sound – a choir of gorgeous voices set to magnificent ukulele riffs and licks – is now in hot demand worldwide and they've long been the darlings of festivals and special events with tickets for their shows snapped up almost before they go on sale. The band's original line up has changed little over the years and includes session musicians, a member of twinset and occasionally Brett Mckenzie.

The last time I talked to Age must have been over 9 years ago, when the Uke's first was playing bars and Summer City gigs.  Right from the start the aim of the band was to be interactive.  Age relays tales of playing in morning cafe's and sending people off to their day happy and cheery having sung and boogied away to the Uke's interpretations of well-known songs, reinterpreted for the ukulele.  "The sign of a good song is that it can be played on a uke.  Like a school choir doing Beatle songs because their so easy to arrange.  Ukes have become the ‘new recorder’ - simple, interactive and easy to get into.  I read that we are in the Uke's third age.  The first was the 1920's, then the 40's and 50's when Pacific music was the rage.  And now there are a new generation of performers."  Uke music is everywhere - from the immensely popular Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain to the avant-punk of Amanda Palmer and the skilled quirkiness of James Hill, a favourite at the last International Festival of the Arts.  Hill also features on the new album.  James does a brilliant little solo on Aadarana's "wake Up".  "He recorded it in a hotel bathroom for us, when he was on tour, jammed into a tiny space."  Other guests on this all Kiwi repertoire include Amanda Billing (the recently deceased Dr Potts from Shorty Street). "Amanda's got a great voice, she does choir work too.  She's been in shows like Cabernet.  She'll be touring with us.  We got her to do vocals on "E Ipo" (an old Prince Tui Teka number)."  Although in hot demand by the likes of Fat Freddy's Drop and Neil Finn, of late, star vocalist Lisa Tomlins also found a moment to work o the project, with an old Aotearoa track: "Long Ago".  That one also includes Hawaiian uke specialist Pi’ikea Clark.  Age tells me that Pi’ikea is schooled in traditional Hawaiian music, "from the ones who were the keeper of the knowledge.  He is a really fine player and we really learned a lot from him traditional playing."

Recently the Uke's have toured Asia, opening them up to a whole new audience base.  "We found China very challenging, especially the language.  I don't speak Mandarin.  They don't speak English and even relying on gestures was hard because they do theirs different to us.  But we learned a lot.  Chinese audiences are very polite," Ages says.  Relying on a translator to convey their frivolous banter provided some extra complexities, too.  There were moments of blank-faced embarrassment. "Japan was different as we mainly did festivals and community events.  And English is not a problem.  Also the Japanese are less inhibited once they understand what you are doing.  They know about New Zealand.  So that helped."  So, how will Kiwi audiences react in the coming month when the Uke's arrive in their local halls and theatres?  One thing you can rely on - plenty of fun and hilarity.  "Be prepared to sing your lungs out - From Lorde to Sherbert, you'll know all the songs!"   

The Be Mine Tonight Album Release Tour:

8 Nov – Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin
9 Nov – Stadium Southland, Invercargill
10 Nov – Alexandra Memorial Theatre
11 Nov – Lake Wanaka Centre
13 Nov – Ashburton Trust Event Centre
14 Nov – Roy Stokes Hall, Christchurch – JUST ADDED!
15 Nov – Roy Stokes Hall, Christchurch
21 Nov – Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North
22 Nov – TSB Showplace, New Plymouth
23 Nov – Great Lake Centre, Taupo
25 Nov – MTG Theatre, Napier
27 Nov – Baycourt Theatre, Tauranga
28 Nov – Wintergarden, Auckland 7pm SHOW SOLD OUT! 10pm show still available.
29 Nov – NZ Ukulele Festival
30 Nov – Turner Centre, Kerikeri
5 & 6 Dec – James Cabaret, Wellington

All ticket info can be found at


Friday, November 14, 2014

We're selling records from the Groove Vinyl vault today!

As part of our studio move we've decided we have more in our music library than we need so call us today if you'd like to buy any records.

Styles we have available include: 60's crooners, 60's R & R, Show soundtracks (e.g. Sound of music etc), 70's, 'Solid Gold' style compilations, 80's, Classical, old BBC sound effect records, Motown/soul, and, interestingly, quite a few German records.

Call us on 381 4766 today (or maybe tomorrow) if you'd like to come by Trades Hall in Vivian St, Wellington and grab yourself a Groove souvenir!