From modest beginnings at informal sessions at Wellington institution Deluxe Cafe (beside Embassy Theatre on Kent Terrace), the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra has ridden the crest of the diminutive instrument's revival. Live favourites around the country, they have recorded a string of EPs featuring massed ukulele renditions of 80s favourites along with the occasional dash of Kiwiana and more contemporary numbers. Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie was a founder member of the accomplished strummers.
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra's version of Bonnie Tyler's wrenching 70s hit was the title track of their debut EP. In director Tim Capper's video, they manage to take the song to new levels of pathos with vocalist Andy Morley-Hall's quest for a slice of vegan apple and rhubarb tart. The location is a crowded Deluxe Cafe (where the ensemble emerged from informal Thursday morning sessions). Age Pryor contributes the solo and, amongst the group's massed ranks, there's a masked nod to absent member and Flight of the Conchord Bret McKenzie.
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.
The Video Kid was one of many outlets for the musical talents of Bret McKenzie, who has done time in pop-reggae outfit The Black Seeds, the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra and, as half of slightly successful folk-parody duo Flight of the Conchords. The Video Kid released his Prototype, his only album to date, in 2004. Described as folk-electronica-meets-synth-over-satire, it received a nomination at that year's b.Net Awards for Best Downbeat Release.
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.
Bret McKenzie is one half of musical-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. McKenzie and Jemaine Clement found international fame with the cult HBO comedy, which followed the duo's fictional efforts to 'make it' in New York. An Oscar-winner after writing songs for The Muppets (2011), McKenzie's screen career began after a brief role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy helped win him a cult following.