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Soul Defined plays again at the Dux de Lux.

Soul Defined plays again at the Dux de Lux.

Once again Pacific Underground brings together the flashest of their friends in music to put on their most recent successful music collaboration that is Soul Defined; at the Dux de Lux on Wednesday 7 June, 9pm. Tickets are $10 at the door.

At this year’s Montana Christchurch International Jazz Festival, Pacific Underground rocked the house, bringing the audience to their feet in the jam-packed Harbourlight theatre, for a standing ovation and some foot stomping cries for an encore. The invitation to perform at the Jazz festival gave opportunity for Pacific Underground to resurrect this show that first appeared at the 2002 Festival of Romance; and also the opportunity to collaborate with musicians hand-picked for their music ability, experience and common appreciation for Soul, R&B and Funk music.

Led once again by Pos Mavaega, and its core members;-singer/songwriter Tanya Muagututi’a and drummer Chris Searle, the Soul Defined band has been a project that has in some ways returned the Pacific Underground trio to its early beginnings as musicians in Christchurch. The three began playing together in 1990 with a group called “Legal Street Productions”. “We played a gig celebrating Aotearoa’s 150 years. It was some kind of 24hr concert thing, with lots of bands and we were on at 3am in the morning,” laughs Mavaega, “but, that was the first time I’d worked with Chris and Tanya together. We’d played the same stuff that we’re doing today in Soul Defined”.

“That was a one-off gig, but we ended up together again in a group called Alphagroove, and then once the theatre group Pacific Underground was established in 1992 we proposed to them that we join and act as the musical arm of the collective” recalls Chris Searle.

Since then, there were weekend residencies in the early 90’s at defunct venues, Worcerster Bar, The Edge Nightclub regular spots at the Dux de Lux and then appearances at festivals.
“The first theatre project we worked on was a play called “Sons” by Victor Rogers, directed by Dave Fane. Dave asked us to put together a soundtrack. That was really different for us, but really enjoyable” says Searle.

From the mid 90’s and based at the old YCD Youth Centre in Manchester St (now a backpackers place), Pacific Underground were becoming nationally and internationally recognised for their innovative groundbreaking theatre led by founding members Oscar Kightley, Erolia Ifopo, Michelle Muagututi’a, Simon Small and Michael Hodgson. Alongside the musicians they were all involved in the Youth Centre activities providing Performing Arts programmes in the school holidays. It was here that there were young people like Malo Luafutu otherwise known as Scribe, Karoline Tamati otherwise known as Ladi 6 and Dallas Tamaira also known as Joe Dukie of Fat Freddy’s Drop.

In 1997 Pacific Underground were selected by the Christchurch City Council to present “Romeo and Tusi” (written by Kightley and Ifopo, who also starred alongside newcomer Dallas Tamaira) at the Monavale Gardens, for the Summer Theatre season.
“That was our first major production of actually playing live with the actors.” says Mavaega. “Tanya wrote a song called “Pure Love” for the show which became the main love theme for it, and which we later recorded on our first CD.”

The live band element for “Romeo and Tusi” consisted only of Mavaega on guitars and keyboards, Searle on drums and percussion and CPIT Jazz student Michael Banks on Bass. “We provided the music for the songs throughout the show, some sound effects and links between the scenes. But, it was the pre-show set that enable us to let loose a bit, it was good fun” recalls Searle.
“Romeo and Tusi was the project that included everyone at PU, so putting a song in there was amazing. says Muagututi’a, “Back then Dallas sang the song so I knew I couldn’t go wrong for it’s interpretation. I was the Stage Manager too, and when you do that you’re more into schedules, logistics and all that, so it wasn’t until closing night that I realised the huge impact of the music for Romeo and Tusi“

At the same time Anton Carter who was then the Manager for Pacific Underground had resurfaced his Hip Hop group Beats ‘n’ pieces. As well as establishing their name as Christchurch’s premiere Hip Hop group, they joined the musicians of PU for the debut CD recording called “Landmark”. The CD features the earliest recordings of Scribe, Antsman (Rhombus), DJ Ali, and Pause (aka DJ Vinyl Ritchie of What Now); all backed and produced by Mavaega and Searle, with skits from BroTown’s Naked Samoans.

“That recording was really about seeing what we could do in the studio. Our previous experience in the studio was with bands, so the Hip Hop element was new to us at the time. When we didn’t have the know how or technology to emulate those fat hip hop beats that were coming out of America back then, so the flavour was definitely fresh.” says Mavaega, “and with the Nakeds you just leave them in a room by themselves and it’s not long before you’ve got something hard case, that’s the genius in them”

Landmark received rave reviews, giving confidence to the musicians and led to some bigger gigs such as support band for Ben Harper an the Innocent Criminals tour of 2000.. “We
played a lot from ‘Landmark’, an eclectic range really, some Island sounds to Hip Hop, but the response was awesome.” Says Muagututi’a, “people approached us after the gig saying they didn’t know we were from here and that they were proud. Ben Harper’s band members watched our set and said really encouraging things too.” says Muagututi’a

The collaborations of the past 10 years for PU have established networks that still exist today. “We’re still connected to those who have left Christchurch, that’s how it’s always been at PU” says Muagututi’a, “when Oscar was in town promoting Sione’s Wedding he had 20 tickets for the PU family to be part of it. It’s the same as Pos going up Wellington to play guitar for Ladi 6’s upcoming album. It goes on, and we’re still forming new connections” says Muagututi’a

Soul Defined bass player Brent Thompson, and saxophone player Michelle Harrison, are among the new networks made. The two formed a company called ‘Tihei Productions’ that promotes Maori arts and education. Their active involvement in various bands around Christchurch including reggae band Nastagroove, and Studio 54, has opened a new door for Pacific Underground. “I’ve wanted to work with Brent for a long time, but our timetables always clashed” says Mavaega “his solid playing completes the rhythm section, and that’s the vital part of the band. That’s what we’ve always been well known for, our tight solid sound. Michelle charted and arranged the horn parts, and then plays smooth sax solos. For us the brass section is a real luxury item, sweetening all those songs” says Mavaega.

Soul, R&B and Funk music just keeps coming back around with some of today’s Hip Hop hits combining samples and bites from it. “The impact of the genre is bigger than people realise and playing it live is even harder than it sounds,” says Mavaega, we grew up listening to it, but we had to find it. It wasn’t played on the radio. It’s a pleasure to play because it is hard, and it’s based largely on feel. If you don’t have the feel, then forget it”.

Soul Defined is a showcase of sorts, a little flashy, fantastic entertainment, but most of all its excellent musicianship, and all from Christchurch. The Soul Defined line up is:- Jeff Henry (Trumpet),Andy Henry(Trumpet), Brent Thompson (Bass), Mike Watt (Keyboards), Chris Papps (Trombone), Chris Searle (Drums), Walter Lagatule (Vocals), Norman Vaele (Vocals), Arona Vaele (Drums), Pos Mavaega (MD - Lead Guitar), Fa'atu Fili (Vocals),Tanya Muagututi'a (Vocals), Michelle Harrison (Saxophone) - Not pictured are Flo Lafai (vocals) and Chris Muagututi'a (percussion)


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