I went to your meeting yesterday and was a bit sad that you didn’t know more about the fabulous women who have made music in Aotearoa for decades. There are lots of them and they have written a lot of songs that mean a lot to me. I thought I would share a few with you and hopefully you can explore their work more. I’ve always liked music from this country. I started buying it in the 80s when music was hard to get and you had to wait and be patient and save your dollars. Even back then music was good here.
The woman who comes first for me is Shona Laing. When I was a teenager she had a come back and released a song called Glad I’m Not a Kennedy. (It was from an album called South. It’s a good album but sounds dated now I guess.) Kennedy was the song that introduced me to her. It’s a good song. I know it sounds a bit 80s but the lyrics are good and the melody too. Can I give you a tip when you listen to older music from this country? It may sound not as cool. A bit lame. It’s not. It’s from here and it’s special for this reason. Someone from this place made it. A person like you. Or more like you than say an American man.
Anyway, my favourite song by Shona was written when she was Hutt Valley High School in the 1970s and it’s called 1905. I once read an article about her from 1973 when she said her voice was not as good since she started smoking. She was a prefect at Hutt High at the time. Things change. There is no video for the song, but this is a compilation of her career with the song playing across it. I have her first LP. Great stuff.
When I was at secondary school I had a cassette of a Headless Chickens’ album. It was pretty weird and low budget but I liked it. The Headless Chickens then went quite commercial and released an album that was a big hit (in this country) called Body Blow. It’s good. Cruise Control is a famous song from that album. After that came this song. I love the lyrics, dark, but you know, life is not all sunshine and lollipops.
Then there are these two songs which I think go together. The first one actually sounds like a New Zealander rapping, not like a New Zealander trying to sound like an American rapping. The second is, well, just a very special song.
Both of these videos were filmed here. That’s important. I’m not Māori but I am Pākehā. I’m proud of that. Pākehā is a special thing. Unique. When I see System Virtue it moves me in a way I don’t think it would move an Aussie or a Canadian European.
Then there’s Bic Runga. A star really. Her first single was Sway which is just a perfect song inspired by a piece of graffiti she saw one day on a bridge in New Zealand. She’s now written four (?) albums and they’re all good. Her sister Boh is also a talented musician. You know how you can’t quite hear lyrics sometimes? For years I just sang “in from the kitch room” for a lyric in this song. Yeah. “It’s infinitely true” is the actual lyric. I’ve seen her in concert twice. One time with Tiny Ruins. Another talented woman from Aotearoa.
I could go on and on and on. I won’t though. Just one more. Aldous Harding. She’s very special and just on the brink – perhaps – of being big internationally. It’s hard to pick a song because they’re all good. Go and see her live. It’s sort of like a religious experience. This song called Blend is pretty cool and the video is good (she’s being ironic… and referencing the awesome movie Apocalypse Now). But I’m going to pick this song – Horizon – because it is so powerful and simple. Only someone with real pure I-don’t-give-a-f&%k talent could pull this off.
Only people who really love music will become musicians in Aotearoa. There’s no money in it. Go ask Bic Runga, Shona, or Emma Paki about their riches. There aren’t any.
While I was sitting in the meeting on Friday I thought: “there’s some easy activism you can do about women in music”. Go and listen to their music. Seek it out. Go to the concerts. Read about them. Write them an email. They need your support, and they are good. Very good. The long version of my playlist is below. Find someone and go and give them your audio love.