This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
Kora’s formation in Wellington in 2002 saw them associated with the city’s burgeoning dub-roots scene, but the Whakatane brothers’ music mix also extends to elements of funk, soul, rock, house and metal. That genre-defying diversity is in evidence on this track from their debut album, as a relaxed reggae intro gives way to stomping electronica-tinged funk rock. This performance video shot in Auckland at AUT’s Vesbar captures the band in their live element, complete with a crowd-pleasing freeze that turns them into a 3D tableau, and strobe-lit climax.
The sweat is dripping and the horns aren’t holding back in this characteristically fervent Jive Bombers rendition of James Brown’s 1979 R&B classic ‘It’s Too Funky in Here'. Kiwi soulman Rick Bryant belts out the instruction — “say it again” — to a willing audience at Auckland’s (now demolished) Mainstreet cabaret on Queen Street, and the band follow suit. The trumpeter has sunnies on, and choreographed stage moves signal The Jive Bombers' intent to bring the funk. The band flared briefly but brightly on the mid-80s pub circuit. The song is from 1984 album When I’m With You.
More than 20 years on, 'Treaty' remains as infectious as it does relevant, mixing haka, hip hop and funk to present a message on Māori sovereignty. Channelling the colours of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, the video creates a fitting backdrop for lyrics delivered via the stirring vocals of Moana and the Moahunters, verses by rapper Bennett Pomana (Upper Hutt Posse, Dam Native), and elements of traditional performance. According to director Ross Cunningham, the set design was inspired by Ralph Hotere illustrations from a book of Hone Tuwhare poems.
In 1973 EMI NZ producer Alan Galbraith saddled up Rockinghorse: a supergroup of Kiwi musicians (including ‘Nature’ composer Wayne Mason) to provide session music for the label’s artists. Rockinghorse found success of their own with the third single from the Throughbred album — ‘Thru the Southern Moonlight’. It won Best Single at the 1975 RATA Awards. The band also won Best Group and their celebrations led to a year-long ban from the Lion Breweries pub circuit. Here they funk up the cowbells in a 1974 end-of-year special, for Christchurch-based music show Pop Co.
After releasing a couple of cassettes and EPs, Hallelujah Picassos unveiled their debut album Hateman in Love in 1992, which included this single. Their genre-bending sound, incorporating elements of ska, hip-hop, punk, and indie rock made them a staple of the Auckland live scene. Frontman Roland Rorschach takes centre stage in the Bruce Sheridan directed video, performing over images of the band playing while being observed by men in white protective suits. Also featured are the talents of Greg Johnson on trumpet, and Alice Latham on saxophone.
The playful ‘Elephunk in my Soup’ was the result of experimentation by Phil Bowering and Steve Garden during spare studio time. The video was directed by artist William Keddell (now based in Florida) while Chris Barrett was responsible for the cinematography and the Len Lye-influenced animations (some scratched directly onto 16mm film in Lye’s style). Made in the days before a local music video industry had really established itself, it was a finalist in the NZ Music Awards. Phil Bowering is on the couch and, of course, he’s got his wash-hose.
'I Need Your Love' marked the biggest hit for the Kaukau brothers, and vocalist Karl Gordon. This performance sees Gordon grooving in satin blue waistcoat and bellbottoms, while Kevin Kaukau sneaks in a few guitar tricks inspired by Jimi Hendrix, on a guitar with an unusual attachment. Rip it Up writer Ken Williams described how the song's "ethereal, even fragile, drone jumped off the radio". It was judged Single of the Year at the 1978 NZ Music Awards; the band can be seen winning the award in the closing minutes of the Ready to Roll telecast from which this clip is taken.
On this mid-80s youth music show, a fresh faced Russell Crowe is the star turn in his early persona as Russ le Roq (the name change to avoid comparisons with his famous cricketing cousins Martin and Jeff). With a hint of an Elvis sneer, Crowe performs 'What's The Difference' with his band Roman Antix, and is interviewed by presenter Phillipa Dann. Lounge jazz act Wentworth Brewster & Co and Hamilton funk rockers Echoes also feature; and Pat and Margaret Urlich from Peking Man talk about their latest single 'Room That Echoes' and its distinctive video.
Wellington funk, soul, reggae act The Black Seeds manage to cram themselves into a single shot for this episode from a series made for secondary school music students. Bookended by stripped back performances of 'Keep on Pushing' and 'Going Back Home', they explain the development of these songs from their origins as bass grooves. Mike Fabulous has cautionary words for aspiring songwriters about the dangers of overcomplicated song structures while Barnaby Weir reassuringly suggests that virtuosity is not an absolute prerequisite for being in the band.