Hard News by Russell Brown


Auckland: The songs of the city

It was music that brought me to Auckland more than 30 years ago and music that, in large part, has helped define what being an Aucklander is for me. So I'm understandably delighted to be chairing the first event of the 2015 LATE at the Museum season, Songs of the City, on Tuesday August 11.

The whole season ties in with Auckland Museum's Taku Tāmaki: Auckland Stories exhibition. And in this one we've chosen people who have been part of – and helped tell – Auckland stories.

Simon Grigg will be familiar to many of you. He's been at the centre of Auckland’s musical history since, inspired by a childhood meeting with legendary Auckland promoter and manager Phil Warren, he assembled and managed the city’s first punk rock group, the Suburban Reptiles, in 1977. He went on to form the city’s first indie record label, Propeller, and ran its most famous nightclub, The Box.

And then he signed Pauly Fuemana to his Huh! record label and released the global hit ‘How Bizarre’  – a story told in his new book How Bizarre: Pauly Fuemana and the song that stormed the world. The book is published by Awa Press on August 21 and this will be the first time he talks about it length. From the author’s note:

How Bizarre is also a little more than that, it’s the story of a coming together of the cultures in Auckland – it's the time when the first generation of young Polynesians born in New Zealand from that great immigration of the1960s and 1970s came to town and changed our city forever. 'How Bizarre', the song, is a child of that uniquely Auckland phenomenon.

Simon is now the creative director of the New Zealand music legacy website Audioculture, which will be a key partner in the event, especially in providing images of the city and its music.

With her co-creator James Griffin, Rachel Lang incorporated music into the West Auckland stories of Outrageous Fortune from the very start. In this year's prequel Westside, music took an even more important role The writers took us to Hello Sailor’s infamous Ponsonby pad "Mandrax Mansion”, saw a young Dave McArtney (played by Dave’s son) working out the chords to ‘Gutter Black’, visited Auckland’s first punk rock club Zwines, and experienced a moving resolution to the strains of Split Enz’s classic ’Stuff and Nonsense’. The creators have underlined the importance of the songs by publishing the soundtrack for each episode. But the importance of music to Rachel’s stories goes back much further – through the songs of Shortland Street and 1996’s City Life, which was threaded through with local pop music and scenes from Auckland’s musical nightlife. She’s a fan.

Philip "DJ Sir Vere" Bell has been a DJ since he stepped up to the turntables at the age of 14 when his dad needed a toilet break – and hip hop has been his musical life since he saw Beat Street at The Civic at the age of 17. He ran Auckland’s first 12-hour dance party, Planet Rock, in 1988, and founded bFM’s long-running Tru school Hip Hop Show, the huge Major Flavors hip hop compilation franchise and the Beat Merchants store, the centre of Auckland’s hip hop scene. He’s been the editor of Rip It Up magazine and programme director at Mai FM – th4 station that found an Auckland audience the rest had ignored – and has worked with everyone from Che Fu to Savage. He'll be both on the panel and playing a special DJ set after the talk.

Dave Dobbyn was born in the working-class Auckland suburb of Glen Innes and got his musical education from the sounds around him: the Irish songs in the home, the singing in the church over the road and the tunes on the radio. He joined a band and he grew up to write the songs of the city and playing the artist as critic in works like 'Madeleine Avenue'. For more than 20 years, he has lived in Grey Lynn, which, according to Apra's figures, is still the national capital of songwriting. Which makes dave honorary president or something. Dave will be both talking and singing on the night.

Emma Paki has seen both sides of the city. She has won awards, had gold records and lived on the streets. And through it all she has created her waiata. After years living in Northland, she's now back in Auckland, and it will be her singular voice that opens this special night.

 I think this is going to be a lot of fun and I'd be very happy if the house was full of Public Address whanau. You can book here.

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