Celebrating New Zealand music month: Great Kiwi albums…

My choice of 10 great Kiwi albums

May is New Zealand Music Month, a celebration of Kiwi music.  New Zealand has a rich, vibrant music scene which has led to the creation of many excellent musicians over the years. I thought I would highlight a few great albums from Kiwi artists.

Here is my personal pick of 10 great New Zealand albums in no particular order:

1. Traction, Supergroove, 1994


2. Big Canoe, Tim Finn, 1986


3. Based on a true story, Fat Freddys Drop, 2005


4. Crowded House, Crowded House, 1986


5. Revival, Katchafire, 2003


6. Loyal, Dave Dobbyn, 1986


7. What to do with fire, Brooke Fraser, 2003


8. Broadcast, Strawpeople, 1992


9. Six 60, Six60, 2011


10. Natures Best, Various artists, 2002



There are many excellent New Zealand music albums and this is simply a small fraction. All of these albums are worth listening to but if you want an overview of Kiwi musicians find a copy of Natures Own which is a compilation of New Zealand music from the 1960’s-2000’s.

What is your favorite Kiwi album?

May is New Zealand Music Month







May is New Zealand Music Month, and whilst we can’t get along to live concerts at the moment we can still enjoy music in other ways.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 6th May at 7pm is the Big Little Lockdown Kiwi Music Quiz. Sign up with your team, test your Kiwi music knowledge, and play the Big Little Lockdown Kiwi Music Quiz, live from your bubble! Donations are requested on registering your team to aid MusicHelps Lives,  a charity providing support to Kiwi music people affected by COVID-19.  Find out more at The Big Little Lockdown Kiwi Music Quiz.

Events on throughout New Zealand Music Month can be found here.


New Zealand Music Month Considered: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

This weeks’ blog is brought to you courtesy of Bruce Russell, sound artist and musician, and Manager of Art and Design at Ara. Russell offers his view on New Zealand Music Month.

I may well be the worst person imaginable to ask to write about NZ Music Month. As someone who has devoted a large chunk of his life to promoting NZ music, I have always found the idea of having a month each year where we pay lip service to music from our own country more than a bit redundant and possibly a little patronising. I’ve always associated it with my distaste for film festivals. Why can’t we have good movies in cinemas all year round? Which month is a bad month for listening to NZ music? A decade ago such a view was seen as more than a little curmudgeonly (trust me, I know – because people have told me), though now I think the whole music month concept is more generally seen as past its use-by date. Perhaps that’s why this year NZ Music Month has an exciting theme – newness! As Music Commission Chief Executive Cath Andersen has apparently put it (according to the Commission’s own online press release): “This year the focus of NZ Music Month is music discovery – most people now have a favourite local artist, so we think May is the perfect time to try and find your new favourite New Zealand band.”

Leaving aside the bigger question – is 2017 really the year in which novelty is much on show in popular music anywhere on the globe – is 2017 really the year we should all espouse not one but two New Zealand Musical Artists? Mother of God – be still my beating heart! Excuse me if I find this aspiration less than inspiring. What other country so undervalues its own culture that a paid public servant should feel it is part of their mission to whip up the population’s enthusiasm to leap such a pathetically low bar: like arthritic sheep in a conspicuously retarded rodeo? Leaving that rhetorical question to hang – like strange fruit among the poplar trees – and putting to one side my impatience with the whole ‘Month Concept’, how (you are probably wondering) do I actually rate our music?

Being of a certain age (born in the year NZ got TV, sixteen in the year the world got the Sex Pistols, and 21 in the year Flying Nun records was “launched”) – I am firmly of the opinion that in the last three decades our popular music has been as good or better than any in the world. During the later 80s, and through to the Datsun’s global explosion of 2002, our rock music was the most critically influential per capita of any nation. The influence of NZ ‘post-punk’ was deeply felt in America and Europe from 1985 (the release of the first Flying Nun export compilation Tuatara) onwards. Yes, Split Enz may have been the gateway drug, but their influence was limited by their singularity. By the 1990s our music was being seen by many as a template in Australia, and its influence, though explicitly denied through effusions of post-colonial angst, was evident even in that most culturally resistant of markets: the UK.

Some of my assertions may be outlandish to those acquainted only with the official narrative, but the influence of our music and our musicians was globally established well before the creation of the NZ Music Commission in 2000, or the first NZ Music Month in 2001. Our artists were playing SXSW in Austin by the mid-90s, well before most people in our music industry even knew what it was. What was not well established was the NZ music industry, so the successes of the earlier period could only be attributed to the artists themselves, and a few under-capitalised and quite unprofessional labels. As such, they were not much heralded in NZ itself, by our ‘follow-the-leader’ media, which had consistently failed to see the real story unrolling from 1981 onwards. In a game where everything important is by definition the business of capital, it was in no one’s interest to trumpet achievements that were not, in any meaningful way, those of capital. But now this state of affairs has been comprehensively remedied by the public sanitisation of New Zealand music into ‘kiwi music’, made safe for the media (primarily radio), and safely stage-managed by our public servants at the Commission, the ones who think that 2017 is a good time for us all to have two favourite NZ artists.

So three cheers for newness, for state-authorised culture; but most of all for NZ Music Month, and all who sail with her. Better far too late than never.

May is New Zealand Music Month

May 1st marked the berginning of New Zealand Music Month for 2017.  The theme this year is finding something new – a new band, new tracks or a new album by a New Zealand artist.

Ara is supporting this theme by offering an Ara Music Arts Songwriting Competition. Harry Harrison (Music Arts tutor) is our guest blogger this week, and gives us an insight into the Competition.

The 2017 Ara Music Arts Songwriting Competition is an annual event with this year’s entries closing on 7th May. Sponsored by Ara and Musicworks, the competition is open to all songwriters in Canterbury year 11, 12 & 13 Secondary school students and Ara Music Arts students. It is free to enter and there are cash prizes and Musicworks vouchers to be won.

The competition culminates with an awards concert at 2pm 21st May in the Ara Music Arts  Auditorium

Historically, Christchurch has produced an amazing line of songwriting talent, with artists like Bic Runga, Anika Moa and Julia Deans all hailing from here. Ara is  proud to announce that this year’s judges will be Lauren Mitchell and Matt Barus. Together they form the Christchurch experimental indie folk duo Terrible Sons and independently have had successful artist careers. Lauren aka LA Mitchell, is a successful pop recording artist, singer songwriter and ex member of Dave Dobbyn’s band. Matt was the lead singer and songwriter of successful pop band The Dukes. Matt recently had one of his songs recorded by international artist Blondie. Both Lauren and Matt live in Christchurch.

The competition encourages young people to write songs and demonstrates that it’s possible to focus a musical career around song writing. Last year’s event attracted a good mix of styles and sounds, with 11 finalists performing solo and in bands at the prize giving show.

Have you ever wondered about writing your own songs? We have many resources available for your use on this topic, you might like to start with Write songs from scratch : a complete guide to songwriting for beginners?

New Zealand Music Month


Grab yourself a NZ Music Month Song of the Day Calendar here. How many of the songs do you know?

Ara is celebrating 25 years of Jazz education in Christchurch, with Ara Presents 25th Anniversary Gala Concert as part of The Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz & Blues Festival. This concert brings together a stunning array of graduates, staff and current students in what promises to be a night of celebration not to be missed.

Founded in 1991 and formerly known as the Jazz School, Ara Music Arts has played a major part in the musical life of the city, through its training of many musicians, and performance at its facilities in High Street.

With alumni now scattered around the globe, coming together for this special performance will be well known graduates now firmly established in Australia – Gerard Masters, Brett Hirst, Dan Kennedy, Susan de Jong and Oakley Grenell.   Founding tutors Doug Caldwell, Bob Heinz, Ted Meager and Tom Rainey will perform, along with current students.

Other contributors include Gwyn Reynolds, Scott Taitoko, Andy Genge, Johnny Lawrence, Cam Pearce, Darren Pickering, Harry Harrison, Michael Story and singers Kate Taylor, Anna Whittaker, Jennine Bailey and Juliet Reynolds-Midgely.

Special performances by Oval OfficeDeparture Lounge,  LA Mitchell and the Nativa Band, and  Mukhilisa featuring Tim Sellars, Glenn Wagstaff, Tamara Smith and Tyson Smith will round out what promises to be a unique and special evening.

The Festival will also host a variety of concerts around the city including The New Music collective ‘Jazz Slam’ hosted at The Gym, The Arts Centre every night from May 25-28th. Current Ara Music arts vocal coach Kate Taylor will perform a tribute show of Stevie Wonder’s works in the Transitional Cathedral on the Saturday night, and the 6pm series held at Ara Music Arts will host current students, tutors and alumni.

Ara student radio Summit 96.1 was launched this month by our second year radio students at the New Zealand School of Broadcasting. David Rooney, Programme Director says ” We wanted NZ Music Month to be an important part of the station so we launched with lot’s of Kiwi classics on May 9th. There is nothing better than hearing a familiar NZ song such as Dominion Road by The Mutton Birds, followed by an international hit from the likes of Aerosmith. Summit is a rock station that plays classics from the 70s and 80s, as well as more recent tunes from the 90s and now”.

“The launch of Summit was an amazing success. We broadcast live from the Riccarton Roundabout in the early hours on May 9th. We have only had positive feedback since”. So why not tune in and see what you think.

Remember we have music available in the Library for students and staff to borrow too, including  music by local musicians, you may like: Julia Deans Modern Fables, The Eastern Arrows, or Tiki Tane In the World of Light  or Whirimako Black Sings (te reo Māori version) and many more. Find our display in the Library for further listening and reading ideas.



NZ Music Month – Get into it!

The month of May is all about New Zealand music, and you have many opportunities to check out live music around Christchurch (and the rest of New Zealand) in the days and weeks ahead.

If you are skint a lot of it is free, head to Christchurch City libraries as well as various venues around the city.

Christchurch City Libraries

NZ Music Month Christchurch gigs

Musician Katie Thompson in honour of 2014 NZ Music Month, is covering songs by kiwi artists every day in May on youtube.