One of New Zealand's hardest working musicians, Sonny Day (John Hone Wikaira) was born in Rawene in 1942 and grew up in the Hokianga settlement of Motukaraka. He moved to Auckland as a 5-year-old and played in bands from an early age. His first major exposure was in the Sundowners, who played at Sydney's Jive Centre rock'n'roll club from 1962 to 1964. After a stint in the Māori Kavaliers (touring the Pacific and France), he became increasingly recognised as a soul and blues musician. He had his biggest hit in 1985 with the single 'Savin' Up'. Sonny Day died on 9 August 2007.
Sonny Day was a working musician from the late 50s to the early 90s, but recorded infrequently. 'Savin' Up', his first solo single, was a soulful cover of a song Bruce Springsteen gifted to his sax player Clarence Clemons — and an appropriate counterpoint to the glitz of 80s materialism. The video, shot in Auckland's Vulcan Lane plus the legendary Birdcage bar, has Sonny in his element, while performing with a band that includes Neil Edwards (ex-Underdogs), Tama Renata (ex-Herbs) and backing vocalists Annie Crummer, Beaver and Josie Rika.
This TVNZ light entertainment series takes its name from a Little Feat song but the music on offer is predominantly country. The set is barn-like but “yee ha” trappings never overshadow the performances (although big hats are in plentiful supply). Actor and musician Andy Anderson is a genial host (getting confessional at one point about his days on the “lunatic sauce”) and there are two numbers from Beaver. Bluesman Sonny Day channels Willie Nelson; the other soloists are Gray Bartlett, Brendan Beleski and Australian singer Annette Moorcroft.
In this episode from the 1990 documentary series chronicling modern Māori music, the spotlight shines on popular Māori vocalists. Singers from several genres feature — from bass baritone Inia Te Wiata to country singer Dennis Marsh, to Bunny Walters, who sang covers on mainstream TV music shows before launching a successful pop career. Jazz and cabaret performer Ricky May is remembered as a special talent, and Sir Howard Morrison reflects on the toll his life in show business took on his young family. Tainui Stephens (The NZ Wars) directed the seven-part series.
The decade of fondue and flares also cooked up colour television. Our black and white living room icons — from Selwyn Toogood to Space Waltz — melted into a Kiwi kaleidoscope of Top Town, Grunt Machine, and Close to Home. And 'our stories' and rights fights — boks, hikoi, nukes and 'nam — echoed onscreen (Sleeping Dogs, Tangata Whenua). Ready to roll?
Tama Renata’s fretwork made him a fixture of the local music scene for over three decades. As well as playing stints for Herbs, funk-reggae act Papa and singer Sonny Day, the self-proclaimed "speed king of NZ guitar" was perhaps best known for composing the iconic theme for Once Were Warriors — and its love song 'Here Is My Heart' (with fellow Herbs members Dilworth Karaka and Charlie Tumahai). Renata was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2012 for his work with Herbs. He passed away on 4 November 2018, a day before he was due to perform at a tribute concert for guitarist Billy TK.
TVNZ ventured back into country music for the first time since That’s Country with this series hosted by actor and musician Andy Anderson. Very much a down home cousin to its big budget predecessor, it bypassed glamour to focus firmly on live performances (with few retakes allowed). Music director Dave Fraser presided over a crack resident band. The guest performers included Midge Marsden, Dalvanius, John Grenell, Beaver, Sonny Day, Hammond Gamble and Brendan Dugan. The music sometimes strayed into other genres. Five episodes were made, but only four screened.
This NZ TV award-nominated documentary tells the story of radio station Mai FM. Founded in 1992 by Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua, its mix of hip hop, r’n’b and te reo soon won ratings success. Original breakfast host Robert Rakete recalls early days when the station was a CD player hooked up to an aerial, while Mai FM's champions argue the station has executed its kaupapa: promoting Māori language and culture to the youth of Auckland, including the breakout phrase, “it’s cool to kōrero!” The introduction by Tainui Stephens was done for Māori TV's doco slot He Raranga Kōrero.
Brit-born Polly Fryer began her screen career in London, at Ridley Scott's commercials company RSA Films. Having done varied production gigs, Fryer headed downunder in 2006; by 2008 she was head of production at Auckland's Desert Road. Inbetween managing the company's development slate, Fryer produced Emmy-nominated docudrama The Golden Hour and worked on TV series How to Look at a Painting. She went solo in 2013.
Xavier Horan is best known for his Westside role as Phineas O'Driscoll, the largest and slowest of a group of career robbers. Horan was nominated for NZ Screen Awards for two of his earliest acting turns: as a yuppie with no time for family, in Toa Fraser film No. 2, and South Auckland TV drama The Market. Then he co-starred in boy racer series Ride with the Devil. The ex boxer has gone on to play criminals (Shortland Street, a gang leader in Alibi), dads (family film Kiwi Christmas), politicians (The Bad Seed), sportsman Sonny Bill Williams (TV film The Kick), and fighters (te reo movie The Dead Lands, film The Last Saint.)