Updated: May 31
As NZ Music Month draws to a close, we wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the New Zealand music that inspires us. From our colleagues in the chamber music scene to nostalgic reggae bands, there's something for everyone on this list.
So, without further ado, here are the Kiwi songs that are exciting us this New Zealand Music Month.
Michael Norris’s Dirty Pixels is one of my favourites right now as this work possesses intriguing harmonies and is loaded with character, wit and grit! In contrast, Lydia Cole’s The Sacred conjures an introspective and acoustic mood…great for rainy Wellington days.
Michael Norris - Dirty Pixels
Lydia Cole - The Sacred
Musicians Richard Nunns and Hirini Melbourne were at the forefront of the revitalisation of taonga puoro which began in earnest in the 1990’s. Their album, Te Kū Te Whē, released in 1994, showcases these instruments along with waiata and has become an iconic collection, going gold in 2002. Since its release the sounds of taonga puoro have come to symbolise the spirit, moods and landscape of Aotearoa NZ and have been featured in many film soundtracks as well as in music of all genres. We in the NZSQ are privileged to have become a part of this history, building the bridge between taonga puoro and classical music by playing regularly with Richard from 2002 until he became too unwell to perform, and now continuing to develop the tradition with the next generation of performers.
I’ve chosen these two tracks because they show just a bit of the amazing variety of sounds these instruments can make, from birdsong imitations to rhythmic grooves, plus Hirini's highly expressive singing.
Richard Nunns and Hirini Melbourne - Tumatakokiri
Richard Nunns and Mirini Melbourne - Poiawhiowhio
Karakia of the Stars
A gorgeous track with music by David Hamilton, sung by members of Voices NZ, with divine singing by Pepe Becker and with Horomona Horo on taonga puoro.
A short work from John Psathas for piano and vibraphone with Michael Houstoun and Pedro Carneiro performing. It’s a video, part of the 2005 recording session in Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre of the CD, View From Olympus - you can see microphones, baffles for sound absorption, the composer sitting there partially conducting. Part of NZ’s musical history.
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I want to include in this list the album, Blackbird, by Fat Freddy's Drop because there's just something about it that feels so quintessentially 'chilled-out Kiwi'. It was also the only CD we had in our car for a little while so there was a period of time last summer when I listened to it A LOT. It's one of those albums that I've never gone out of my way to find, its always found me, and I think it will live in my bones for the rest of my life.
Fat Freddy's Drop - Blackbird
Hollie Smith - Bathe in the River
Time and time again I come back to this absolute anthem, especially during lockdown periods in NZ and the UK. Uplifting, soulful and empowering – everything the world needs right now!
John Ritchie - Papanui Road Overture
I was first introduced to this work back in high school in our youth orchestra – an ambitious piece for a group of spacey high schoolers to tackle. It’s unashamedly colourful and Gershwin-esque flourishes never fail to bring a smile, evoking the chaos of Papanui Road in Ōtautahi Christchurch.
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Lorde - Team
I like that Lorde’s music is unconventional, introspective, poetic, gritty. ‘Team’ is one of my all-time favs.
Greg Johnson - If I Swagger
A mesmerising melodic ballad, with beautiful piano accompaniment too. Always takes me to a place of tranquillity and calm.
Thank you for reading. We hope you've found some music to inspire you.
To find out more about how New Zealand Music Month went this year, head on over to their website here.