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.
Rip it Up editor and hip hop supremo, Philip Bell (DJ Sir-Vere) drops his Top 10 selection of Aotearoa hip hop music videos. The clips mark the evolution of an indigenous style, from the politically conscious (Dam Native, King Kapisi) to the internationalists (Scribe, Savage). It includes iconic, award-winning efforts from directors Chris Graham, Jonathan King, and more.
This documentary follows the "seven headed soul monster direct from the shores of Wellington" — Fat Freddys Drop — as they rumble their dub-rich sound through Europe like a Houghton Bay roller. Touring to showcase album Based on a True Story, it features rehearsals and performances, eating Italian kai moana, playing concrete ping pong in Berlin, and (in the fifth clip) a jam with Cliff Curtis. Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe lauds the 'fullas' and Mu explains whanau to German journos. True Story sold 120,000+ copies and dominated the 2005 New Zealand Music Awards.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for NZ music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the sun on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who also made follow-up arts showcase The Gravy. These excerpts from the first series show a calvacade of local talent, including an early Flight of the Conchords screen outing.
Nathan Rarere landed a presenting role on What Now? in the 90s, but turned it down because he didn't want to be on TV. Eventually he changed his mind.
Zane Lowe (formerly of Urban Disturbance) and Hamish Clark formed Breaks Co-op in 1997, releasing a debut album Roofers which fused hip-hop and downbeat electronica. They recruited vocalist Andy Lovegrove in 2004 and re-emerged with The Sound Inside which introduced acoustic guitars to their mix and included the summertime anthem 'The Otherside' (Single of the Year at the 2005 NZ Music Awards). Lowe's subsequent emergence as one of the stars of British radio has limited his involvement with the band and he was unavailable for their 2014 reunion.
On their second single, future BBC radio star Zane Lowe and his 90s hip-hop crew proclaim themselves to be an expression of their "headphones and kerbstones", as they dedicate themselves to "knocking down the doors of the hip-hop frauds". Director Craig Jackson provides an appropriately urban setting in which the crew voice their declaration. As his footage alternates between monochrome and colour, deserted cityscapes (including the old Auckland Railway Station) combine with drifting, jazzy notes to make for a aptly impressionistic scoring of the streets.
An early example of Kiwi rap music, 'No Flint No Flame' was recorded for the first time while Urban Disturbance were still known as Leaders of Style. Lead by MC, beat maker, and future international radio star Zane Lowe, the crew are backed on this remake by firebreathers, who often come terrifyingly close to DJ Rob Salmon. In 2015 Lowe was part of the writing and producing team nominated for Best Album at the Grammy Awards (for Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour) — a far cry from the Pasifika Streets he raps about here, 23 years earlier.
This pioneering Auckland hip-hop outfit comprising MC Ollie Green, DJ Rob Salmon and MC/beat maker Zane Lowe began life as Leaders of Style, and contributed tracks to 1992 compilations for Deepgrooves and Flying Nun. After changing their name to avoid confusion with the fashion industry, they went on to release four singles and an album (37 Degrees Lattitude). Lowe’s next musical venture was Breaks Co-Op, en route to international radio fame; Salmon became a DJ in New York; and Green relocated to Australia.
The electronica of Breaks Co-op’s 1995 debut Roofers offered few hints to the more organic sounds of their second album The Sound Inside. Its hit single ‘The Otherside’ is a sun-kissed anthem (and a NZ Music Awards Single of the Year) featuring lush acoustic guitar and a soulful vocal from Andy Lovegrove. Director Tim Groenendaal’s video is an idyllic summer road trip by Holden Kingswood through the Far North and down Ninety Mile Beach (with Zane Lowe’s backseat role prefiguring the step back he would take from the band as his UK radio career blossomed).