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Book To Map Reggae And Dub In Aotearoa-New Zealand

Reggae in Aotearoa

A new book set to be published in early 2008 will document the history and development of one of the most popular forms of music in Aotearoa-New Zealand: reggae and dub.

The as-yet unnamed title will explore New Zealand’s adoption of Jamaican reggae music in the late-1970s - due largely to the visit of Bob Marley - through to development of an indigenous reggae-influenced sound championed by the likes of 2006 chart-toppers, Wellington bands Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Black Seeds.

The book is a collaboration between Auckland-based broadcaster and “selector” (DJ) Patrick “Dubhead” Waller and Hamilton-based music journalist Jeff Neems.

“Reggae and its associated culture have grown stronger over the last few years. Motherland Collective’s Soundsplash at Raglan is one of the most popular music festivals in the country, the rock-oriented Big Day Out is booking reggae acts – this years it was roots superstar Luciano backed by Dunedin’s Renegade Sound System - and there are more reggae specialist shows on the radio airwaves than ever before.

“Right now there is also a plethora of DJs, bands and musicians plying a musical trade influenced by roots reggae, dub, dancehall and ska,” says jeff.

“What we’ve seen with Herbs, I Unity and Dread Beat and Blood in the past, and now with Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Black Seeds and Katchafire is only really the proverbial tip of the iceberg in terms of an indigenous reggae-based sound. Bob Marley made a massive impact when he played at Auckland’s Western Springs in 1979 – he really touched the nation, particularly Maori and Pacific Islanders.”

Dubhead has witnessed much of the development in New Zealand’s reggae culture.

“I’ve seen so many changes during my involvement in the local reggae scene over the last 20 years I really felt the story had to be told,” says Dubhead, owner of the one of the most extensive reggae collections in the country.

The story will not be limited to New Zealand’s reggae musicians either, Jeff says.

“A lot of our current generation of reggae musicians would probably point to the likes of Auckland’s ‘Stinky Jim’ Pinckney, ‘Big Matt’ Watson, my co-author Dubhead and other university radio reggae show hosts as being big influences. Without some of the long-serving veteran reggae broadcasters championing the sound around the country on stations like bFM, Radio Active, RDU and Contact FM, we wouldn’t have reached the stage we’re at now – they, and their younger counterparts, are as vital to the story as the musicians themselves, we believe,” Jeff says.

The authors are now hoping to hear from any musicians, DJs and selectors, broadcasters, writers, journalists or members of the public who feel they wish to contribute somehow to the book.

“We’ve already developed a long list of people we need to talk to complete the puzzle, but we also think there may be some identities out there with their own stories we need to hear. If you’ve had some musical or organisational involvement in the reggae scene in this country over the past 30 years, we’d like to hear from you,” Mr Neems says.

“We’re also very keen on obtaining posters, fliers, tickets, albums, tapes, photographs and recordings of TV programmes or radio shows which tackle our reggae culture and the social situation and themes around it – and we promise to return them,” he added.

Dubhead, 42, has been a reggae selector for 23 years and is one of the longest-serving announcers on Auckland’s BFM, having recently clocked up 16 years on-air. He also spent four years as programme director on the flagship bNet station, and oversaw the Dub Combinations series of compilations released through kog Transmission. He is also the reggae specialist at Auckland music store Beat Merchants. Jeff, 33, is a full-time writer, journalist and subeditor who has been writing about music for more than 10 years. He has done some university radio broadcasting and DJs occasionally under the alias Cpt Nemo.


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