Reggae Adds New Flavour to Awards

July 20th 2011
A new flavour is being injected into this year’s National Waiata Maori Music Awards as organizers add reggae to the list of categories for 2011.

The move has come after unprecedented interest from reggae artists in the awards since its inception in 2008, however up until this year the genre had been included as part of the Best Maori Urban Album section.

That's all set to change this year as executive director Tama Huata has approved the addition of the Best Maori Urban Roots Album for those working in the reggae genre.

Over the past decade New Zealand reggae bands have come to the fore with groups such as Black Seeds, Trinity Roots, Katchafire, Cornerstone Roots, Kora, House of Shem, 1814 and Sons of Zion striking a chord with international audiences, building on the unique "Pacific Reggae" sound pioneered by groups such as Herbs in the 1970s and 1980s.

Another coming through the ranks is Hamilton reggae band NRG Rising, which has just finished a national tour of its debut album, as well as two support gigs with reggae legends Third World's tour of New Zealand.

The band formed about two years ago and its all-female vocal sound is led by singer and its manager Benita Tahuri, who is hoping the addition of reggae at this year's Maori Music Awards will support more artists working in the genre.

"I think that's fantastic because there have been calls for the wider music industry to do the game so I am so glad its going to be a big part of the Maori music awards," Tahuri says.

"It's out there, a lot of people are listening to reggae and I want to see more people recoding music and albums at a top quality standard so we have more exposure internationally."

Tahuri is from Wairoa, in Northern Hawke's Bay, and was heavily involved in kohanga reo. She moved to Wellington to attend teachers' training college at Victoria University and moved again to Auckland so her sons could attend a kura kauapa Maori secondary school.


She leads the band with her two daughters, Honey and Anahera, and they are now based in Hamilton where they worked on their debut album, From Darkness to Light, which features songs in English and Maori.

"One of the reasons why I set this band up is to give my girls a start in the music industry for the future. There are a lot of opportunities in my normal working day life that I might not have been able to give them, like performing around the country and overseas."

Tahuri and her daughters form a formidable trio fronting the band with their striking outfits featuring the red, yellow, green and black colours associated with reggae music for so many years.

"I think from the beginning our goal had been to empower women in reggae, it was about bringing a whole new feel to reggae in New Zealand and initially we had people say, no, girls don't do reggae," Tahuri says.

"People are so use to having male vocals dominating but it's a switch of how you listen to reggae and presenting a different feel to the music. All of our vocals are female and I think that's the biggest thing that sets us apart."

Tahuri says with the number of reggae bands spilling out onto the music industry in New Zealand, it is important to have a point of difference.

"Every week I hear of a new reggae band and I feel for each and everyone of those people who have hopes and dreams because it is an intense industry. And I always look for how we can help support them and help them find their way through it all, after what we've learned in the past two years."

 

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