On my 10th day in New Zealand, I learned 3 very important lessons:
1) Due to a combination of thinner ozone and the relative closeness of the sun to the earth during the “southern summer”, it is very, very easy to burn here,
2) In spite of its apparent proximity on a map, Ngaruawahia is not that close to the Hopuhopu sports complex, and
3)In spite of 1 and 2, Tribal Pride 2009 was a wonderful start to my time in New Zealand.
After spending my first days here desperately searching for a flatmate, getting a phone, and taking care of all of the other details of settling into a new country, I was more than ready to jump right in and start to get familiar with the Maori and Pacific music scene. With this energy and excitement I bought a ticket to Tribal Pride 2009. Tribal Pride is a 12-hour open-air, drug and alcohol free concert designed to “Celebrate 150 years of the King movement, reinforce Tribal pride in rangatahi/youth, and promote family health and well being in opposition to violence”, according to the program.
I left Auckland early Saturday morning on a bus ride to Ngaruawahia, a small town about an hour and a half south of Auckland central. After miles of rolling hills and countless sheep, I saw on my right the Hopuhopu sports complex, the scene for the festival. Unfortunately, the bus kept heading south until we arrived in the town center. Ngaruawahia is a very small town, but there were plenty of locals around to tell me that there was no bus back to the sports complex. So with no other option, I started walking. And walking. An hour and a half (and a wicked sunburn) later, I have never been so glad to hear the sound of bass and feel its vibrations through the ground.
Once I was inside the festival, it was well worth the journey. The first act I caught was Native Sons, a socially conscious reggae/ hip hop/ roots group with a strong focus on the responsibility of parents to take care of their children.
As the day continued, I could feel the sense of whaanau (family) among the concert attendees. To ward off the blazing sun, people shared their umbrellas. Everyone who noticed my bright red shoulders offered me sunscreen if they had it. The artists all took time out of their performance to encourage people to get water and rehydrate. I’ve attended many music festivals in my life, and I have never felt so much a part of a community as I did at Tribal Pride.
The festival proceeded with a celebration of music, dance, and Maori and Pacific culture. The crowd got on their feet for performers Recommended Dosage, Crooks International, St8 & Player Park, who all combined forces on stage for a high energy hip hop performance. Unity Pacific, a roots band, delivered a laid back set that was welcome in the sweltering afternoon. In spite of the variety of musicians, they all shared shout outs for Maori and Pacific pride and self-improvement. Volunteers distributed white ribbons to concert-goers, a symbol of a stand against violence towards women.
One of my favorite acts was Nesian Mystik. The members of Nesian Mystik come from a variety of Pacific cultures; Maori, Tongan, Samoan, and Cook Island. Their single, Mr. Mista, is number 6 on the New Zealand Top 40 Singles chart (and notably, the only Kiwi artist to make the top 10 at the moment). In addition to this commercial success, their message of self-empowerment was clear:
While you argue who said what, another life goes missing
The truth is that we know why Witness it in our own lives Michael said it best it’s the man in the mirror inside
Who holds the power to create change and break chains!
Yesterdays gone let’s start today
-Nesian Mystik, Mr. Mista
Knowing the long journey ahead of me to get back to Ngaruawahia to catch my bus back to Auckland, I missed out on the headliners Scribe and Kora. The last thing I caught though was the announcement that the event had raised $20,000.
Tribal Pride was the perfect inspiration for me to gain clarity on my project. What I had before was a sense that music was important to Maori identity, and now I have a tangible experience to back that up. I also have a program full of artists and organizations to contact about recording performances and getting some music on here. But for now, I hope you all enjoy the photos!