Random Play by Graham Reid


Don’t know your past, don’t know your future

Because I have been invited to participate in one of the roundtable discussions on the future and direction of the Auckland War Memorial Museum to be hosted next week by Bill Ralston, I put the word out here a week or so ago for your comments: what do you like/not about the museum; ideas you might have to help its outreach; improvements and so forth.

The feedback was modest (the donation$/entrance fee$ $eemed to be an i$$ue for $ome) but was more blunt through the private e-mails to Elsewhere. Much appreciated.

Of course what with this about possible staff cuts, the response from iwi and the editorial in today‘s Herald you might be now more keen to have your say.

Let me hear from you before Wednesday.

FYI: my invitation to one of the five discussion panels -- there was one last night and another today, the rest next week -- spoke of the new director Vanda Vitali and said “Vanda 's vision is for the Museum to have a deeper engagement with Aucklanders and their city. To start this, she wants to sit with ideas-driven people like yourself, to share her vision and more importantly hear your thoughts on how we can define the Museum’s relevance to Auckland.”

And so I want to hear from ideas-driven people like you so I can take that to this chinwag. You may feel it seems many decisions have already been made before any consulation process, but the talkfest is a chance to have your voice (through me) heard.

New Zealand Music Month has offered bad news and I am distressed and disappointed that my friend Chris Caddick is on his way out from helming EMI, which he has done so well and for so long.

Under his watch not only were many contemporary bands given a break but Chris was unflaggingly loyal to those whose music he genuinely liked -- even if sales didn’t always follow. Greg Johnson would probably have been let go a decade back by any other record company but Chris and EMI just kept him on -- to give us pleasure and Greg the career he deserves.

What was also less noticed perhaps was EMI’s commitment to older Kiwi music: on their books they had literally dozens and dozens of compilations of Kiwi rock bands from the 60s and 70s, traditional Maori music, themed collections (the Kiwi Classics series) and so on.

And all these albums were available at ridiculously low prices ($10 in many instances). Anyone looking for the breadth and depth of Kiwi rock and pop from the late 50s onwards (from its genius to its sheer awefulness) could find it in collections such as The Very Best of the Chicks, collections of Craig Scott, Max Merritt, Mark Williams, Dragon, Ray Columbus’ solo years, Quincy Conserve, Nash Chase, John Hanlon . . .

This is an aural history of our country, and a resource I draw on regularly for my rambling, unfocused and often eccentric Sidestreets show on Kiwi FM. (The hour that takes you off the main highway of Kiwi music and down the backstreets and alleys into odd.rock, alt.jazz, spoken word and worse.)

Recently I wrote the liner notes for a series of EMI compilations of 60s/70s Kiwi psychedelic music A Day in My Mind’s Mind now up to Volume 3 and as I listened through to that astonishing music (Bellyboard Beat by the Music Convention from ‘68 on Volume 2 is garage band psychedelic surf music like you’ve never heard it before) I was reminded again that a record is exactly that, a record of a place and time.

EMI under Chris Caddick -- against commercial imperatives, pressure from international bosses and the market-driven economy, the rapidly changing nature of the music industry and so forth -- put a lot of Kiwi music into our world. Without him . . .

Chris was and is a music man first, and in the music industry which I know a bit about that is increasingly rare. Chris loved metal and more recently started collecting obscure concept albums, just for the laughs. He has more Jimi Hendrix albums, bootlegs and off-cuts than is sane.

We barely note the passing of music business executives, but Chris being moved out is great blow for New Zealand music. He is also a helluva nice guy and I am proud to call him a friend, although I think our respective partners have felt the fallout when long lunches turned into even longer dinners.

But in a final and more positive note about NZ Music Month, last night I went to see Ruia, and Moana and the Tribe at Galatos. Both were launching their new albums which are noted here.

New Zealand music speaks with many tongues these days as it should. But there is something especially moving about seeing Moana --- just back from Toronto and as you read this packing for a gig in Bonn on the same bill as Bob Geldof -- singing her songs which reference ancestors, moko, the late Syd Jackson, the Maori Battalion and other pertinent local topics before images of this beautiful land and striking artwork by her partner Toby projected on a screen behind.

I believe Moana is one of the most singular voices we have and this gig before a happy crowd which included kuia, confirmed it. She is political but doesn’t browbeat -- and her new song Te Apo prompted by the WTO/free trade agreements burns with righteous anger and hauls in the sounds of street protests she was involved in while in Hong Kong.

Not many Kiwi artists sing about politics -- I wonder why not? -- and I can think of none who do it with the fire, commitment, clear perspective and rich personality as Moana and the Tribe.

Her new album is Wha and I think it is important.

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