The Warratahs formed in 1986 around Barry Saunders and Wayne Mason (ex-Fourmyula, and composer of the classic 'Nature'). TVNZ arts presenter Nik Brown played fiddle. Following a residency playing covers of country standards at Wellington's Cricketers Arms, the band began recording their own material. Their timeless, Kiwi-inflected, neo-traditional country, and relentless touring made them a beloved and unique presence in the fashion-conscious music scene of the late 1980s. After a few years off, the band reformed, this time without Mason.
The Warratahs were unique in the late 80s NZ music scene — a band playing classic country music with an eye on the mainstream. They enjoyed some chart success but director Waka Attewell's video for their first single almost seems to anticipate that they will make their major impact as a live act — honing their sound on the road in halls, pubs and woolsheds the length and breadth of the land. The location is a school hall in the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn, with a room full of dancers responding to the Warratahs' signature warmth and timelessness.
The second single from Wellington's country crossover kings is a classic tale of lost love and the girl that got away: propelled by Nik Brown's fiddle, with Barry Saunders out front singing it like a cowboy. Director Waka Attewell's music video intersperses the band's performance with shots of Saunders in and around Wellington with a supporting cast of planes, trains and automobiles. The car is a cut-down Holden Belmont and there's a glimpse of the Cook Strait ferry (but the Warratahs' involvement with the Interislander is still a few years off).
Wayne Mason — multi-instrumentalist and composer of The Fourmyula classic 'Nature' — talks about songwriting and his musical evolution in this episode, from a series made for high school students. He demonstrates his piano playing (on an energetic boogie-woogie work out) and a Scandalli accordion on 'High and Dry' (which he wrote in the Warratahs). He discusses the origins of 'Nature', and his songwriting technique (which always begins on a guitar); and muses on his high school band The Fourmyula which took him to Abbey Road, where he met The Beatles.
Although The Tumbleweeds toured beyond Otago only occasionally, they provided many New Zealanders with their first exposure to country music. Almost 40 years into the band's career, Stephen Latty (Opera in the Outback) got some of their songs and memories down for this half-hour film. The band describe influences, costumes, and their own mid-tour double wedding. Country music expert Garth Gibson praises the "quite famous harmony sound" of sisters Myra and Nola Hewitt. Then The Tumbleweeds hit the road for Gore's Gold Guitar Awards, to perform 'Maple on the Hill'.
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.
For nine years TVNZ's Top Half brought local news to Auckland and the upper North Island. In these excerpts there's a tantalising before and after glimpse of a David Bowie concert at Western Springs; the people of Ponsonby worry that their suburb's character is being lost to developers; Dylan Taite finds country rockers The Warratahs busking on Ponsonby Road; and in K Road, there is coverage of a multicultural street festival, and concerns about how encroaching sleaze is affecting local retailers; plus a cute story about a baby orangutan and a camera-shy mother.
Cinematographer Waka Attewell has been shooting images of New Zealand for over 30 years. He began his career at John O' Shea's Pacific Films and later established his own production company Valhalla Films, where he has filmed and directed a run of commercials, films and documentaries.