Sunday, February 09, 2014

leaving Aotearoa

I'm now back in Albion after a chunk of time out in Aotearoa New Zealand. There's still a load of recordings of jams and sessions with Alan which I need to sort out and upload, but for now just a few last antipodean musical memories before they fade in the Northern Hemisphere spring sunshine...

After our little gig at Takaka Library, I was approached by someone called Tikitu (a local coder who studied the philosophy of language in Amsterdam, met and married a Greek woman out there with whom he plays rebetika music). I'd played the Greek tune "Kaike Ena Sholio" so he was interested to get together and swap tunes. He, his wife and their child were visiting his mum's place near Takaka, so I went over for dinner one evening and we played a bit. His wife Olga plays accordion, he mandolin. I got them to teach me two or three tunes (wasn't able to retain them, but have a recording to refer back to).

I dropped into the Dangerous Kitchen on my last Saturday afternoon in Takaka and caught some of the weekly session by Bazaar. This is an informal little thing Patrick the accordion player I met a few weeks earlier has put together, to play mostly klezmer and Eastern European tunes. Nice.

The journey back via Wellington involved dropping in on Alan's old friends Saan and Deco up the Brooklyn Valley outside Motueka (I'd happily got to know them on the Treewalk in 2006). We were meant to be going to the annual Riverside Music Festival at the Riverside Community where they all used to live, but the rain that day was terrible, so we ended up procrastinating, endless tea and toast sessions, listening to old cassette tapes that I was having fun rummaging through, getting nostalgic about cassette culture, until a Neil Young tape got chewed up inside the deck and wouldn't come out. So then on to CDs until the sky cleared, the sun came out, and we got the word that the festival was indeed on. Heading over, we were overjoyed to discover that Alan's Botswanan Rasta friend Ras Judah was about to play with his band One Vibe (they're Nelson-based, but he's now in Wellington, has to fly over for gigs). I had been disappointed to have missed their New Years Eve set at the Roots Bar in Takaka being down in Dunedin, so this was the perfect end to my stay. After some good vibes from an all-marimba band called Chimuka, everyone was dancing to the supersolid roots-rock-reggae of One Vibe (besides the Ras Judah originals, their set included excellent versions of Lee Perry's "Vampire", Burning Spear's "African Postman" and Israel Vibration's "The Same Song").

Reconnecting with old Riverside friends as the day went on, we ended up in the chai tent looking down on sets by the excellent Mama Yeva and Maori loop artist Matiu Te Huki (whose version of NZ reggae faves Fat Freddy's Drop's "Hope For a Generation" went down well, and who spontaneously collaborated with the American spoken word artist Redwood). We didn't get a chance to stick around to see Vogue Gyratory, which was a bit of a shame – this band is led by Luke Jackson, a friend of Matt Tweed's I met in Glastonbury before he emigrated to Wellington. He'd had a band of the same name in Brigton (they're named after a roundabout in that city).

Alan and I got a lift back to Motueka with Helen (whose band Tom's Field had played in the Riverside Hall during the rain), sat up late chatting at hers, then had to get up for a 7am bus to Picton via Nelson. Alan wanted to see me off at the inter-island ferry terminal, so we spent our last day together busking in the little town of Picton (rarely busked we suspect) to cover his bus ticket and some food money. This was a nice chance to play some music together, go somewhere new, interact with people... Also, he was able to help carry Matt Tweed's beloved bouzouki which he'd had to leave in Motueka a few years ago, and which I'd volunteered to carry back. Just before my ferry he took me up to a hilltop cemetary looking out on the Marlborough Sounds where our old comrade Matua is buried. I played quite a lot of music with him in 2006, and he sadly passed away a few years later. He's something of a legend (especially in the Maori musicians' scene) — there's a painting of him on a wall in Nelson:

After watching the beautiful Marlborough Sounds glide by in the twilight, and we were out to see proper, I took refuge in the ferry lounge and was subjected to the only bit of NZ TV I've ever watched. The evening news was dominated by the fact that Auckland teenager Lorde (known to her mum and dad as Ella) had won a couple of Grammy Awards. The country as a whole seemed to be taking credit for this. Afterwards they showed the Grammies ceremony which was compellingly awful in places, vaguely interesting in others. Lorde got to sing her hit song, and yeah, she's alright.


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