Collection

Nuclear-free New Zealand

Curated by NZ On Screen team

On 8 June 1987 Nuclear-free New Zealand became law. This collection honours the principles and people behind the policy. Prime Minister Norman Kirk put it like this: "I don't think New Zealand's a doormat. I think we've got rights — we're a small country but we've got equal rights, and we're going to assert them." In the backgrounder, journalist Tim Watkin explores the twists and turns of Aotearoa's nuclear history.   

Flow

Kora, Music Video, 2007

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.

Azania

Herbs, Music Video, 1981

'Azania' is an impassioned anti-apartheid song written for the Auckland reggae band by law student Ross France. Led by original Herbs vocalist Toni Fonoti, it helped to establish the band’s political credentials at a time when New Zealand was split by the 1981 Springbok Tour. Azania was the name given to a post-revolutionary South Africa by the Pan African Congress. There are name checks for black African leaders Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela; and the chant “Angola! Mozambique! Zimbabwe! Azania!” was quickly incorporated into anti-tour protest marches.

Long Ago

Herbs, Music Video, 1984

As was often the way in the early 80s, this is a fairly basic TVNZ-produced video, filmed on a studio set to a DIY marae backdrop under red, green and yellow rasta lighting. But the band are natural born performers. There's puffer vests, Hawaiian shirts, and wristbands; and singer Willie Hona’s sleeveless leopard print top worn with bone carving necklace somehow feels just right for the Pacific reggae charms of the music. 'Long Ago' was the title track from the band's third release, which also featured their no-nukes anthem 'Nuclear Waste'.

Nuclear Waste

Herbs, Music Video, 1985

Herbs released this ‘no nukes’ single the same year David Lange smelt uranium, while debating nuclear weapons at the Oxford Union. The video mixes on-the-beach Pasifika dancing with shots of the band performing at Western Springs, and protests against US nuclear warships and submarines visiting Kiwi waters. DIY visual effects show the band looming over Mt Eden Prison, and nuclear explosions punctuate the laid-back reggae beat. From 1984’s Long Ago album, the song was written by then frontman Willie Hona, keyboardist Tama Lundon and Rob Van De Lisdonk. 

French Letter '95

Herbs, Music Video, 1995

In this video, languid Pacific Island imagery (poi, hibiscus, tamariki, breaching whales) and gorgeous reggae pop are contrasted with images of French nuclear testing. There are punchy 'no nukes' slogans and graphics, but a great performance from Herbs does the work effortlessly in this simple, well-crafted video. 'French Letter' was originally released in 1982 and began an eleven week stay on the Kiwi singles charts — despite very little radio play. It was rereleased in 1995 to protest the resumption of nuclear testing: "Let me be more specific - get out of the Pacific!"

Ragga Girl

Upper Hutt Posse, Music Video, 1992

Upper Hutt Posse were the first group to release a hip hop record in New Zealand, with their politically charged breakthrough 1988 single 'E Tu'. On this single from 1992, they make something of a return to their reggae roots. By now the group had expanded from the original four-piece, and included Teremoana Rapley — also part of Moana and the Moahunters — on additional vocals. The song would later appear on the soundtrack of Once Were Warriors, with Posse members Dean and Matt Hapeta (aka D-Word and MC Wiya) making cameo appearances in the film.

What's the Time Mr Wolf?

Southside of Bombay, Music Video, 1991

This jaunty debut single from Wellington reggae band Southside of Bombay is as deceptive as the happy family sing-a-long it accompanied in Once Were Warriors (which turned it into a belated chart hit). Far from being a nursery rhyme, its lyrics are informed by composer and vocalist Ruia Aperahama’s Ratana religion and a belief in the clock ticking towards an end time. Cinematographer Richard Bluck’s Wellington-filmed video captures the band performing on the south coast, cut with archive footage of Aotearoa activism ... as Mr Wolf watches on. The song was produced by Ian Morris. 

Rude Girl

Katchafire, Music Video, 2004

The Citroen DS is considered by many to be the sexiest car ever made, and in the closing scene of this Ivan Slavov-directed clip, its kooky hydraulic suspension is utilized to rude effect. Slavov's editing is deft, and with Katchafire's trademark laidback reggae rhythms thrumming through a smokey speakeasy, it makes for a suitably slinky music video.

Dragons and Demons

Herbs, Music Video, 1981

'Dragons and Demons' is a track from Whats' Be Happen? — the first release from the Auckland pioneers of Pacific reggae. The album had a shot of the Bastion Point protest on its cover, however the emphasis in this song — written by original vocalist Tony Fonoti — is more personal than political as it exhorts people to control mental dragons and demons. Fonoti’s devotion to Rastafarianism made him uncomfortable with the band’s growing commercial success, and led to his departure. ‘Dragons and Demons’ received a new lease of life in 2009 when it was featured in Taika Waititi’s film Boy.