This Artsville TV documentary plucks its way through a Kiwi-focused history of the ukulele, from Waikiki to Wellington, using the dream of “godfather of Polynesian music” Bill Sevesi as its starting point: namely “that the children would be playing the ukulele all over the country.” Presenter Gemma Gracewood (of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra) reveals the instrument’s Pacific adoption and burgeoning popularity, and meets acolytes of ‘the uke’: from Herman Pi’ikea Clark to Jennifer Ward-Lealand, to Sevesi strumming with onetime pupil Sione Aleki.
Bill Sevesi was the 'Godfather' of Polynesian music in New Zealand; his impact can be heard in the strum of ukeleles in classrooms across the country. In this 24-minute film Sevesi (born Wilfred Jeffs) narrates his life story, including his childhood in Tonga, making his first guitar, and his role in bringing Pacific Island music into the dance halls of 1940's and 50's New Zealand. Sevesi's bands mixed Hawaiian steel guitar with pop tunes of the day, resulting in sunny hits like 'Kissing Hula'. Watch out for uke player Sione Aleki, Tonga's answer to Jimi Hendrix.
This episode of arts show Mercury Lane features legendary musician Bill Sevesi, and poet Sonja Yelich (mother of musician Lorde). Sevesi takes centre stage: various musician friends join him to reminisce about packing Auckland dance halls in the 50s and 60s (at least until the arrival of 10 o'clock closing). After celebrating his 79th birthday, Sevesi is still as upbeat and music-obsessed as ever, especially when it comes to his beloved steel guitar and ukulele. In the final clip, Sonja Yelich performs her poem Teeth, with wry accompanying visuals from director Fiona Samuel.
Made as a promo for the album of the same name by Melbourne-based musician Lance Ferguson, this short documentary covers a golden era of New Zealand music. The documentary focuses on Ferguson’s grandfather, the late Bill Wolfgramm, who released NZ’s first pop album South Seas Rhythm in 1957. Ferguson talks with another legend, Bill Sevesi, who played with Wolfgramm, and visits Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology, which holds a special significance for him and his family. Included is rare footage of historic TEAL flying boat Aranui in flight.
Gemma Gracewood produced arts series Frontseat over five seasons, then followed it with the ambitious New Artland. Her career has also included stints as radio producer, arts publicist, Metro film reviewer, parliamentary press secretary, and musician.
After a long tenure as a newspaper journalist, Colin Hogg moved into television where he has worked as a writer and producer mainly on documentaries and arts programmes, initially with Greenstone Pictures, and now with his own production company 3rd Party Productions. Hogg was also a regular panelist on the TV ONE advice show How's Life?.
Mairi Gunn began working in the camera department in the mid 80s. Since then she has shot music videos (notably Outer Space for The 3Ds), short films, and the feature-length Gravity & Grace (directed by Chris Kraus). Gunn shot and co-produced award-winning eco-documentary Restoring the Mauri of Lake Omapere, looking at the history and future of a Northland lake.
Ash Turner is a production designer and art director with over 20 year's experience contributing to award-winning features and television dramas, plus short films, commercials and live events. His work includes design for the films Snakeskin, A Song of Good, and Planet Man, as well as award-winning TV drama Ngā Tohu: Signatures.
Kiwi acting legend Jennifer Ward-Lealand began acting at age seven; her first screen role followed at age nine. Since then she has starred in big screen dramas Desperate Remedies and Vermilion to critical acclaim, and appeared in a long run of television shows, from TV drama Danny and Raewyn to Australian comedy show Full Frontal.