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.
Bill Sevesi was the 'Godfather' of Polynesian music in New Zealand; his impact can be heard in the strum of ukeleles in classrooms across the country. In this 24-minute film Sevesi (born Wilfred Jeffs) narrates his life story, including his childhood in Tonga, making his first guitar, and his role in bringing Pacific Island music into the dance halls of 1940's and 50's New Zealand. Sevesi's bands mixed Hawaiian steel guitar with pop tunes of the day, resulting in sunny hits like 'Kissing Hula'. Watch out for uke player Sione Aleki, Tonga's answer to Jimi Hendrix.
This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.
Versatile director Mike Smith has made an enormous amount of New Zealand drama. Highlights of his lengthy television CV include Radio Waves, Duggan, Serial Killers, The Almighty Johnsons, Nothing Trivial, tele-movie Siege and docu-drama Nancy Wake: The White Mouse. Smith also had a big hand in creating Heroes (80s pop band on-the-make show), yokels comedy Willy Nilly, children’s drama The Lost Children and 2013 comedy Sunny Skies. He was also one of the key players in the launch of Outrageous Fortune.
Radio Waves revolves around an Auckland commercial radio station. In this episode, drive-time DJ Win Savage (Grant Bridger) annoys an advertiser and doesn't seem to care. Andy Anderson is a hippy ‘jock’, Alan Dale plays urbane station manager Jack in his screen debut (before finding fame on Australia's Neighbours), and the many women on staff put up with their share of stick from all that male ego. Waves was short-lived — The Bee Gees and flares weren’t enough for viewers to shut the farm gate — but its urban strivers signaled a changing face for NZ on screen.
Radio Waves charted the “lives and loves” of a commercial Auckland radio station in the age of Bee Gees and flares. Grant Bridger (‘Win Savage’) and Andy Anderson played DJs with Alan Dale as station manager; it was Dale’s screen debut, before fame in Australia (Neighbours) and the US (24, Ugly Betty). Devised by Graeme Farmer, Waves was an effort by SPTV to best TV One’s flagship soap Close to Home. While producer Tom Finlayson’s first drama was short-lived, its metro Auckland context — peopled with upbeat urban strivers — signaled a changing NZ on screen.
Actor Jane Thomas John co-starred in the Roger Donaldson-directed After the Depression, part of pioneering anthology series Winners and Losers. She went on to roles in dramas Close to Home and Radio Waves, and did a stint on Shortland Street. She has also acted in and produced dozens of commercials. Thomas John runs public speaking consultancy Now You’re Talking.
Wayne Leonard has directed some of the highest-rated live events on New Zealand television. Since leaving TVNZ in the early 2000s to go freelance, he has continued to be one of the country’s premiere live directors, and helmed TV series ranging from hit panel show Game of Two Halves to My Kitchen Rules. In 2013 his coverage of the America’s Cup in San Francisco was nominated for multiple Sports Emmy awards.
Enid Eiriksson began working in the design department in the early days of second channel South Pacific Television. She went on to design costumes for classic fashion showcase Gloss and award-winning drama Children of Fire Mountain, plus a slew of popular entertainers — including Billy T James, The Yandall Sisters and Prince Tui Teka.
Chris Bailey has made key creative contributions to a host of significant Kiwi television dramas, from sci fi classic Under the Mountain to Nothing Trivial. In 1998, Bailey, along with producer Chris Hampson and writer Greg McGee, founded production company ScreenWorks. These days he is managing director of South Pacific Pictures.