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Tokyo-based NZ musician touring NZ in February

24 January 2006

Tokyo-based NZ musician Ben Kemp
will bring his Japanese band to New Zealand in February for a nation-wide tour to mark the release of his second album Papatu Road.

Signed to Suzuki Records, a small independent Japanese label, Ben works with Japanese musicians to create a unique Kiwi-Japanese folk fusion, coining the descriptive term Polyn’asian music (derived from Polynesian and Asian influences).

With Maori roots on his maternal side, and an upbringing in Gisborne, Ben Kemp explores his Maori – NZ heritage as well as his nexus with the ocean, and fuses it with universal themes of family, love and loss, some drawn from experiences in Japan.

Having spent over five years living in Japan absorbing both traditional and contemporary culture, particularly through Japanese film and literature, Ben Kemp draws on his cultural surrounds to deliver a sound that is original yet familiar at the same time – especially given his thoroughly distinctive accent.

The result is a breathtaking blend of tunes that will soothe and haunt you, thanks to Ben’s ethereal voice and poetic lyrics.

Most listeners have trouble pinpointing how to describe the music. This in itself is a refreshing change, given the abundance of dub-reggae style and surf-rock throughout New Zealand today. The comparisons with Jeff Buckley are perhaps inevitable, but Ben Kemp is no imitator. Papatu Road not only breaks new ground, it is breaking down borders and demonstrating that new beauty can be born when two cultures are forged together.

“Even without a common language, the music we create together is a bridge to a deeper understanding of each other, and our respective cultural traditions. In my band members, I feel that I have found two more brothers” – Ben Kemp

Ben Kemp, together with his band members Koyu Suzuki and Mitsuru Ogata will start their 15-date tour in Auckland on February 16 and finish in Queenstown on March 12.

Papatu Road will be available soon in stores in New Zealand and Japan (from May).

You can preview the single ‘Frangipani’ on-line;


About Ben Kemp

In a nutshell

At 33, Ben Kemp is no spring chicken. But he is to the world of music. Having only started performing three years ago, after finally giving in to his better instincts to explore his musicality and give up the desk job, Ben Kemp has made leaps and bounds considering his 20s were spent working as a chef and in the advertising business. With two albums now under his belt, A River’s Mouth (March 2005) and Papatu Road (February 2006), Ben Kemp looks set to give the music scene a fresh dose of something new – Polyn-Asian music.

His story

After graduating from Otago University, Ben Kemp went to Tokyo for just over two years back in 1995, where he spent much time absorbing traditional art and culture. On return to the North Island, he discovered a special mentor-student relationship with Rowley Habib, one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent Maori writers. It was at this point that Ben’s creative work started to anchor itself. He was invited to read at New Zealand Poetry Day as one of two emerging poets and began publishing his written work.

Responding to a magnetic pull back to Japan in 2002, he returned to Tokyo and started working as a language teacher and playing on the streets of “Shimokitazawa”, well known for its vibrant music scene. He soon met up with talented musicians Koyu Suzuki and Mitsuru Ogata, and the trio began performing around Tokyo – including at some of the most prestigious live venues such as JZ Brat, Spuma and Mandala2.

Having released his debut album A River’s Mouth in February 2005 and introduced it to the North Island with a tour the following month, Ben Kemp has backed this up with a second, more solid album Papatu Road. He is on the road throughout February and March 2006 – and will be bringing the new sounds of Aotearoa and Nippon distinctively closer to us all.

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