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Rules of Engagement Out Tomorrow

Rules of Engagement Out Tomorrow

Tomorrow marks the release of Ria Hall’s debut album, Rules Of Engagement. Drawing on the themes of not only love and war, but also revolution and change, the album has been nearly five years in the making. The album arrives one day prior to Raa Maumahara National Day of Commemoration, a day remembering the New Zealand Wars of the 1800's.

Initially conceived in Wellington and completed in Hall’s ancestral home of Tauranga, the album’s inspiration and concept stem from the New Zealand Wars, specifically 1864’s Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina).

The inspiration behind the concept comes from a letter written from Henare Taratoa to Sir George Grey, outlining the manner in which the Battle of Gate Pā should ensue, and how both parties should conduct themselves during war. This code of conduct was known as the Rules of Engagement, and is where this project takes its name from.

Rule 1 If wounded or (captured) whole, and butt of the musket or hilt of the sword be turned to me (he) will be saved.
Rule 2 If any Pakeha being a soldier by name, shall be travelling unarmed and meet me, he will be captured, and handed over to the direction of the law.
Rule 3 The soldier who flees, being carried away by his fears, and goes to the house of the priest with his gun (even though carrying arms) will be saved; I will not go there.
Rule 4 The unarmed Pakehas, women and children will be spared.
Rules Of Engagement is a journey, and one which features Hall as the central storyteller. Aiming to create an honest dialogue about both the good and bad aspects of our cultural past, the album looks to uphold the integrity of Māori culture in amongst modern musical sounds and the current cultural climate.
Sonically, the album moves effortlessly from hip-hop beats to lush soundscapes and soulful crooning. Featuring performances and production from Tiki Taane, Kings, Laughton Kora, Che-Fu and Electric Wire Hustle, Hall’s incredibly powerful voice shines throughout.
The album opens with ‘In These Trenches’, and poet Te Kahupakea Rolleston’s call to arms – “Will you rise?” The second track ‘Te Kawa o Te Riri’ signals what is to come – commanding vocals and lyrics from Hall sitting perfectly alongside driving production, and delivered entirely in Te Reo Māori. In an album full of powerful moments, Hall’s use of Te Reo provides continued highlights. “There is so much power in the language, and everything it stands for. It’s presence in this album is like the air I breathe”, says Hall.
Rules Of Engagement is a personal journey not only through Hall’s own life and experiences, but also through the shared experiences of her whānau. ‘Barely Know’ touches on the uncertainties of past relationships, and places them in a familiar context to the listener. 'Te Ahi Kai Pō' – translated to “the fire burning away the darkness” – is inspired by the slaughter of many Māori at The Battle of Te Ranga, and trying to find resolve through times of despair. Archival recordings from 1968 of Hall’s great-uncle, Turirangi Te Kani, even feature on the tracks ‘50,000 Acres’, ‘The Battle’ and ‘Te Ranga’, adding another personal level to the album.
Although speaking through and inspired by a significant time in New Zealand’s history, the themes of Rules Of Engagement are not only universal, but also still highly relevant today. The key messages of the album translate to any and all countries where oppression is present through Hall’s ability as a songwriter.
“The key message in my album is to encourage understanding. In order to understand where we are heading to, we must not only acknowledge our past, we must understand its implications and the effect it has had on the current landscape of New Zealand. We can do so much better in this area and it seems we have only made incremental change. I would love to help effect a dramatic shift for the betterment of generations to come.”Ria Hall
Rules Of Engagement has been nearly five years in the making for Hall. It is a work of art which challenges the status quo, at times asking the hard questions, not in confrontation, but rather from an honest and deeply raw perspective. From the aftermath of war through colonisation to her own internal battles, it is an open expression, speaking to society on numerous levels.
Hall will premiere the album live at the Tauranga Arts Festival on October 28. Hall will perform live alongside Wellington three-piece powerhouse The Nudge (Iraia Whakamoe, James Coyle & Ryan Prebble), who will bring Rules Of Engagementto life in a unique performance.
The performance at the Tauranga Arts Festival will also feature a stage set designed by award-winning visual artist Tracey Tawhiao.
An exhibition of artwork designed by Tawhiao and inspired by Rules Of Engagement is currently showing at Tauranga's Goddard's Arcade, and closes October 29. The exhibition will then move to Auckland’s Lot23 on November 3, with an Auckland performance at the same venue on November 4.
Hall will also perform at Rhythm & Vines 2017, and as part of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts and Splore Festival in February 2018.
Wednesday OCT 18-29 – Tauranga Exhibition, Goddard’s Arcade, Devonport Rd
Saturday OCT 28Tauranga Arts Festival, Baycourt Theatre
Friday NOV 3-30 – Auckland Exhibition, Lot23
Saturday NOV 4 – Auckland Album Release Show, Lot23
Saturday DEC 30Rhythm and Vines, Gisborne
Friday FEB 23, 2018Splore Festival, Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
Saturday FEB 24, 2018NZ Festival, NZ Festival Club, Wellington
Sunday FEB 25, 2018NZ Festival, Māoriland Hub, Otaki
Ria Hall – Rules Of Engagement
1. In These Trenches feat. Te Kahupakea Rolleston
2. Te Kawa o Te Riri
3. Black Light feat. Mara TK
4. Sing Dance Dream
5. 50,000 Acres
6. Forever feat. Laughton Kora
7. Tell Me feat. Che-Fu
8. The Battle
9. They Come Marching
10. Prisoner
11. Barely Know feat. Kings
12. Te Ranga
13. Te Ahi Kai Pō
14. Love Will Lead Us Home
15. Kōrero with Tiki
16. Hawaiki
Made with funding from NZ On Air & Te Māngai Pāho
Archival interview audio of
Turirangi Te Kani courtesy of RNZ & Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
Photographs used with permission thanks to the Alexander Turnbull Library

Ria Hall on Facebook / Ria Hall on Twitter

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