THREADS: AUCKLAND DIVERSE with SIAN KOLOSE

Culture, Threads

In this T H R E A D S shoot I linked up with Sian Kolose who, at the time, had her online shopping mecca Hunting Ground Store still in incubation with her sister Tina Kolose. For this shoot, we put together a list of the dopest models we could source, then set about shooting them. I realised while putting this portfolio together just how busy we got – 16 models, two days, one make up artist, two cameras, one stylist (Sian), one photographer (me) and K’RD. 

Models included Luke Collins, Maia Te Hira, Anny Ma, Suha Wahab and Sarah Hindley, Max Robinson and Tina Kolose. Blaze the Emperor, Bryson Naik, Tony Douglas, Blu, Shajal Singh, Tashi Levitt, Arlena Teiho, Leah Pao, Bheilee Okesene, Felicity Aroa.

EXPERIMENT

Working with Sian was a really fun experience, I particularly enjoyed the collaborative freedom I had when working with her.  Two examples are getting Tina to hop into the trolley as well as contrasting Tashi’s white satin skirt with the dirt from the car park; also the darker tone of the material soaking up the fresh water (it had just rained) from the puddle. (BELOW). Being my first shoot of this scale, working with Sian gave me the confidence to try new ideas out. 

STREET

REFLECTION

PRE-LOVED

Recyclable fashion is a good way to combat the humongous waste issue that human kind face remedying today. Having the skills to re-work an old garment and make it new, or the eye for how to pick a garment and make it seem new is an ever-growing/required skill and, as we continue to throw material into the earth – like we don’t understand some materials like Nylon take around 20 years to breakdown- we must incorporate reusable fashion into our basic shopping vocabulary. ** Disclaimer** to the Salvation Army in Glenn Eden – this does NOT excuse you charging 70$ for a shirt someone dropped off while throwing away rubbish and other household goods, then telling customers on a low budget ‘well that’s what it costs in Ponsonby’. Just saying… Not really I mean it… Please stop dousing the thrill of op-shopping with your inflation excuses!

ELEMENT

This year, Rihanna did a shoot for Garage Mag, shot by photographer Deana Lawson who specialises in taking photos of subjects in their home, in what she describes as ‘their domestic space’. Shajal (BELOW) used to flat above the shoot location – Hero Sandwich House – in Auckland so was certainly in her natural space. I would like to explore these themes more in future work – especially in domestic settings. 

MOTION

Movement is another aspect I noticed when reflecting on this shoot, these models had their stance on-point and I also liked to encourage the energy and sense of action with my angles. (Shout outs Blaze The Emperor). 

BRYSON X TONY

COLLABORATION

Tony Douglas is someone whose style I noticed after moving home from Perth in 2011, he was DJing at an underground bar in Wellington as one half of Calm The Fuck  Down aka CTFD. During this shoot, a film and photography guru himself, he taught me to set the meters properly on my external flash. (Blush face emoji).

DIASPORA

Joan Smalls took part in this interview with the Business of Fashion addressing diversity and inclusivity last year. She said “It’s interesting because of my background I come from an interracial family and my household has every different shade and in my world I’ve always seen it as inclusive so coming to New York and making a career modelling they reminded me ‘what we see you as’ not who I identified with”. I think as women of colour, Sian and I brought that sense of diversity within the world we see to the shoot; it’s something that I feel proud of upon completing the project.

HERO SANDWICH HOUSE

CULTURE

Cultural diversity in mainstream media and the importance of seeing one’s self reflected on TV and billboards is an agenda in my work that I hold dear. Growing up as an ‘other’ in New Zealand, it was very earlier on in my exploration of myself, then my work as an extension of myself, that I have consistently focused on culture and identity. Juxtaposing the confronting and contradicting elements that happen when east meets west in my compositions is something I will continue to do. There have been movements and collectives in Auckland like Milkshake Models, Dynasty, FAF SWAG and photographers like Imogen Wilson who have also pushed identity boundaries – I’m only excited to see what the future brings for Kiwi creatives and brown children who can see themselves positively and accurately reflected in the media. 

MERCURY PLAZA

Mercury Plaza is definitely a popular Auckland location for food and photos. The food court there is due to close, but I hope it reopens/moves somewhere else cause for me – South East Asian food is what helps me hold on to small pieces of Malaysia and remedies the sense of feeling homesick all in one $10 meal! 

There are more shots from this shoot on Instagram

Author: Tayi Tibble on Poūkahangatus & decolonising the mind

Culture, Interview

22-year-old Tayi Tibble has recently graduated her masters and published her first poetry book titled Poūkahangatus. It featured at number one twice on the Unity Books bestselling list and was the first book of poetry to claim the number-one spot since Hera Lindsay Bird in 2016. It was reviewed by Jenna Todd for the Spinoff Papercuts Podcast: as havinga freshness, a naughtiness, and an incredible cover”.

Fresh and naughty with incredible ‘covers’ are themes brown girls are universally loved and recognised for. Being a scholar and unapologetic poet published straight out of uni sets this brown girl apart. I knew Tibble and I would get on because she goes by ‘Paniaofthekeef’ on Instagram. I knew because she went to Aotea College near where I grew up in Wellington and because she came to our interview in brand new Fila sneakers with a platform that made her outfit just drip [LIKE].
“I’m like a gangsta bitch but I remember being a teenager and being real shame about that like dressing real twee,” she says. We talk about being unapologetically who you are in 2018 and what decolonising the mind means to her as well as what being an urban Māori means today. We talk about how much harder women of colour have worked to get into positions of significant power and how important it is to keep pushing that kaupapa so our daughters and sons can dream a bit bigger, aim a bit higher and feel a sense that achieving those dreams are possible for them too.
For Tibble leading by such a high example is a pressure and a privilege – and a platform she’s intent on growing. “People will often ask me ‘Oh how do you feel about being a Māori writer?’ in reference to the fact that Pākehā people don’t get called ‘Pākehā writers.’ I’ve also encountered other Māori writers rejecting that label, saying that they aren’t or can’t be ‘a Māori writer.’ They’re just a writer like everyone else and I get that but…. I don’t really fuck with that. I’m a Māori writer. In my mind that’s undeniable and inescapable, and it’s important that I embrace that.

SERUM: So you embrace the responsibility?
TAYI: I have to. Cause I can see the detriments of not doing it, the detriment of not having role models, or people to walk the path before you and guide so….so yeah you have to there’s too much on the line. Too much too lose – but so much to gain too.

SERUM: Do you feel there is progress happening in New Zealand in 2018?
TAYI: Yeah I do. You have to believe right, in order for it to be realised. I think more and more people are becoming aware of inequalities and have the right intentions at heart. I think most people want a better and fairer more creative New Zealand. But I also think we could be further along. ..Okay I’ll tell you my Don Brash story. So I was at Hamilton Press Club. I was there because Vincent O’Malley, he’s a Pākehā historian and a really cool guy – he’s doing a campaign to teach Waikato wars in schools – so he gave an address about that and I was like sweet, sweet, thinking we’re just going to have a fancy lunch and free wine, but then the floor was opened up to Don Brash to reply, and he starts popping off as per usual saying things like Waikato wars? What about Māori on Māori crimes? [Laughs] Just being Don Brash. The thing with Don Brash though – is that I feel sorry for him, because he can’t imagine a different New Zealand. He can’t imagine anything outside of anything he knows or what he thinks he knows. I honestly just think that everyone needs to take some time and just imagine what New Zealand could be like. One of my fav quotes is from Lana Del Rey – I don’t think it’s from her but she said it and it’s: ‘Life imitates art’ which is why we need to put more positive brown art out, and then society’s attitudes will follow – we have to be able to imagine a better New Zealand. Which is why it’s so important to have brown people leading the discussions, curating the art, directing the festivals and writing the media. See I’ve done interviews before where I just feel myself clam up because I get the feeling that the interviewer is not really listening to me, they’re listening for something and it’s that extraction, exploitation even, that’s actually real dangerous and uncool. If you want to talk to me about my work you have to meet me at my level. Like this conversation we are having now is really cool, like you get it and so I can talk openly about this sort of stuff without feeling like I’m educating or protesting.

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Tayi Tibble. Photo by Ebony Lamb.

SERUM: For me I just don’t want this to be a phase where people of colour stories were trending between 2015 to 2020 like I think it’s important to keep pushing for that.
TAYI: Yeah…I worry about that too. Like in my own situation, with winning The Adam Foundation Prize and with the release of my book, lots of literary people and literary communities have been hyping me up. Of course because the work is good, but also I think people get behind me because I’m young and brown and cool, which I definitely appreciate, and everyone should definitely be supporting young brown artists and writers, but at times I do feel weary of the attention I get from predominantly white institutions. I don’t want to get played out, I listen to ‘Crop That Back’ by Coco Solid everyday, because this writing and arts administration gig is actually what I want to do, and I take it seriously. Which is why brown women need to get into positions of power so we are helping people get up, leaving the doors open behind us, protecting ourselves, our stories, history, trauma and writing our own narratives. Ensuring that those narratives are either healing, validating, or aspirational.

Poūkahangatus was written over the course of her last year of studying, as an academic and self professed nerd she says she has always loved history and stories of World War II.
TAYI: I like World War II stories – my Granddad was a Dutchman who came to New Zealand escaping the war and my Nana was a beautiful East Coast wahine who had to send her brother, cousins, lovers off to war after they joined the 28th Māori Battalion. After the war, she moved here after to Wellington. I grew up listening to, and loving all of these stories about the war, the sacrifice the adventures. Lot’s of soldiers who enlisted went because it would be an adventure, for most of them, the only way they would be able to see the world. And there’s heaps of Māori in Italy, like Florence – heaps of the Italians fuck with Māori hard cause of the war, that interconnected history. Māori soldiers fell in love with Italian women. It’s crazy to think about how the war dispersed us and where all the lasting presences of Māori really are…

SERUM: I wish we got taught these things more man.
TAYI: Yeah you don’t get taught that, you don’t get taught shit. I feel like brown woman in particular are carriers of knowledge like that, but we have to make an extra effort to educate ourselves amongst all these Pākehā-biased narratives.

SERUM: Yeah I just caught the end of a National Radio interview with Jacinda Ardern talking about repatriation of soldiers from Malaysia only happening now.
TAYI: That’s like a big thing in Māori tikanga – bringing your body home to your family, to your tūrangawaewae – that’s one of the saddest thing about the war is that bodies can’t go back to their family.

SERUM: What do you think it is about Poūkahangatus that people love and want to have more of?
TAYI: Just the politics in it – the cultural elements and identity elements. It’s fresh, and it’s prioritising and giving value to an urban, brown existence and experience. For example it references, Kim Kardashian, The Pussycat Dolls, Aaliyah, Rihanna, where one might, I dunno Pākehā writers like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen right? The thing that I have noticed is that the brown girls who read it get it, so they don’t have to pry or ask too much about it – they’re happy to have it exist and they can relate to it, how it is on the page. Pākehā people on the other hand are really really curious. I’m glad they’re interested and want to know about it and can see it’s value, but I also get the feeling that it’s possibly their first time coming into contact with Māori literature, or these kinds of Māori stories.

SERUM: Which is…
TAYI: Fucked….but it is what it is I guess. I don’t think I’m doing anything super unique.

SERUM: But then you are… It’s cool that this has been created for younger brown girls to look to and connect with you know?
TAYI: Yeah I think that’s something that Pākehā really underestimate is how underrepresented people of colour actually are. Underrepresented or misrepresented and it’s erasure, and that’s a tool and violence of colonialism, cultural erasure, being black marked, or smudged out. I think that’s a large part of what my book is about, representation. You have to be able to see yourself in media and literature, and if you don’t you’ll relate to whatever role models or things you’ll see on the television who look like you, and they might not always be healthy ones. Like growing up I was like ‘I’m Jade The Bratz Doll!’ and ‘I’m Nicole Scherzinger!’ cos they looked like me the most, and that’s why I’m a crazy big lipped bitch now. I just think it’s really violent to not be represented and I don’t think Pākehā can’t even comprehend this because they just see themselves all the time. I’ve discovered in literature, this little weird attitude that some people have that, almost looks down on people who write from their own lives, cos writers should use their “imagination” or something like that, but again, I think that attitude is situated in a position of privilege. The privilege of having always had every multifaceted aspect of their existence validated in books, films, on screen, whereas people of colour are still having to legitimize their existence across a range of platforms, just to be able to live.
But yeah the best part about this whole experience and having my book published is all the messages and support I get from brown woman. When I get them I’m like yes, this is what this is all for! They give me the most validation and encouragement than I get from anywhere. I read those messages and I think, this is all I need, I don’t need awards or fellowships, or widespread media, just community and connection…. But then I have this secondary thought which is if all these girls were in the positions of power and influence, the curators, the directors, the editors, the publishers, then I’d be totally set lol!

Poukahanganatus

Poūkahangatus featured at number one twice on the Unity Books bestselling list.

SERUM: So what does the term urban Māori mean for you?
TAYI: I think it’s about encompassing both the modern world and the Māori world, and accepting and being comfortable with the tensions that living in both these worlds produce. I was born and raised in Wellington, but I have always known that I was really from Te Araroa, Gisborne, Ngāti Porou, and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui.

Being Urban Māori is tied up with a lot of ideas about being disconnected, separated or disenfranchised. A lot of people read the book and imply that to me, but I just don’t really feel like that. I feel very millennial, logged in and high-maintenance whilst also feeling very Māori, compassionate and communal. They don’t have to clash at the the expense of one another. They can coincide and coexist, and Māori have been living proof of that for generations.

SERUM: I guess navigating that space…when you put all the labels aside we’re all still women, you know we got boobs we get our period, for you as a woman, how do you navigate that balance to allow the two to coexist?
TAYI: Well I certainly haven’t always felt comfortable about my identity as a person of colour or as a woman. I definitely had to go through all that dumb shit like wanting to be white and acting white because I grew up in a lot of white spaces, or feeling like I had very little agency over my body, but a whole lot of shame about it. I guess for me my cultural identity and my identity as a woman are completely entwined because my role models have been my Mum and my maternal line. I feel like I only recently was able to embrace myself as a woman when I embraced my mana wahine, and that’s what makes me feel really sexy, feminine and empowered. But identity of course is fluid and a constant journey. But I’m still on a personal journey of decolonising my mind. I didn’t grow up with strong ties to my marae, I’m half caste, I’ve had to teach myself about myself.

SERUM: Some people don’t like that word aye..I guess it is old school
TAYI: It is! It’s awful and dehumanising to split a person into fractions! When I think of that word, I get an image in my head of being split and split again to the point where you just shimmer like glitter. But I feel like I’m still negotiating that word with myself, which I think as a mixed-race Māori, I have a right to. And it’s significant to me because I’m the half caste daughter, of a half caste daughter, who in turn was the half caste daughter of a Māori woman and a Pākehā man who moved to Wellington. So we’ve been here for generations. I’m four generations away from the time where my line lived on the Papakāinga. I didn’t grow up immersed in tikanga or te ao Māori but I was really lucky to have a biracial mum, who had already gone through life looking like she did and living in a white setting. So my mum really knew how to be a mum to me and help me navigate all of that. Her own Mum was really assimilated, Christian and submissive, as woman were during her time, and so she didn’t guide her or bring her up Māori. My mum made a very conscious effort to teach us what she could about our history and where we come from. The internet really helped with this! Another example of Māori and modernity coexisting beneficially. But my Mum, she’s really woke – my mum’s been woke before woke was a term.

SERUM: You see, that’s what I’m saying! Woke is a term but conscious women who have been through hardship and then ascended to a level of deeper understanding, have been here, for time.
TAYI: We’re woke because we have to be. It’s the only way we can exist in this world with dignity. It’s what really helped me come to terms with my identity; learning about our history, colonisation and piecing the puzzle together as to how we got here, and why certain things have happened..all effects of colonisation that are still very present and real. Once you notice them, it’s undeniable. And the longer we pretend that colonisation is in the past and not a real growing, shifting entity, the more affect it’s going to have. The only way we can decolonise or actually move on is confront it and talk about it, and have people of colour leading those conversations.
You can buy Poūkahangatus here.

Cover photo by Ebony Lamb.

Interview: Thirty Minutes With Ta-ku

Music

Perth based producer/beat maker Ta-ku doesn’t drink, smoke, take drugs or even make beats for a living, he does it after dinner, before bed as a side project. He has an out look on life that seems as progressive as his music considering recent heavy weights to hip hop, like Kendrick Lamar or Oddisee renouncing drugs and the party life because, religion, health, keeping a straight head while focusing on work and music.

It seems Ta-ku was onto something the rest of us have ignored all along. But more and more people are retracting from peer pressure to conform in favour of personal progress and simply enjoying the creative work itself.  Despite leading what he calls a ‘regimented’ life he still manages to work on tracks like ‘Cake’ for @Peace, remixes for Flume or feature artists like JMSN; lets not forget his own 50 days for Dilla two-part release or the project he did with Home Brew’s Haz where they went back to back in June 2011 posting a beat a day. I got to sit down with Ta-ku at The Bird in Perth and talk beats, music, life and hip hop. Perth has such a nurtured beat scene with regular events like the Beat Lounge or Boiler Room TV  – Ta-ku is an exciting example of the good music that grows there. In 2013 he began his own label, Sunday Records,  with the intention to support fellow beat makers by providing them access to a bigger audience. He says there’s so much talent out there but people are still hiding in their bedrooms, which he wants to change.

Baby Mamas Club raises a fist for colored women in NZ

Culture

“Don’t you know, we’re talking about a revolution sound, like a whisper” — Tracy Chapman

Producer Mia Marama and Director Hanelle Harris are the duo behind a recent TV series called The Baby Mama’s Club. Unique in the way that it captures the lives of four young brown women from New Zealand, humorously linking them together on a quest to hunt down they’re children’s father Johnny who is missing, the series proved critics wrong when they said it was unoriginal, boring and no one would watch it. This criticism came among other concerns it wouldn’t sell and was therefore unworthy of a funding investment from NZONAIR.

Determined to execute their vision the pair self funded the pilot episode before receiving a $100,000 grant in the 2017 NZONAIR funding pool. “Our audience came in droves” offers Harris. Attention toward its potential came after the pilot episode racked up over half a million views.

“Let’s be real, we were probably one of the strongest applicants for that funding round – we had views on one pilot that amounted one projects total views in a season,” says Harris.

The pair are proud of their progress but plan to keep pushing representation of minority communities in mainstream NZ media. For Baby Mama’s Club the pair said TV executives didn’t interfere too much with their creative vision.”We were really privileged that the broadcaster was hands off but we’ve got really great executive producers at South Pacific Pictures. They’ll give their advice which comes from a raft of experience from making so many TV shows and they’re considering the budget and the feasibility of what we wanna pull off.. in the end I don’t think we cut anything really that I wanted to keep.”

“We’re so grateful for the support and people really need to understand we can’t do it without them, we don’t have the power. When people are asking us for season two or more episodes they need to really hear us when we’re saying the power’s not in our hands, its really in their hands. They need to be active and fight for it and hear us when we’re saying we have had to fight harder but it is a battle, we cant do it on our own,” says Harris.

Mia says “In order for us to be enabled to make anything as brown people it has to become a media sensation, so like Hanelle said, comment share post about it talk about it and support the kaupapa”.

“We have been able to prove to the primary broadcaster in the country that there is an audience for Maori and Pacific Island voices and they’ve come in droves, our audience has come in droves and TVNZ have been wonderful not only have they platformed us they’ve put us front and center.

Villette and Baby Mama’s Club cast at series premier, TVNZ December 2017

“Representation matters because it validates us as a people that should have an equal voice in society and when you don’t see yourself in media you are therefore an other and being an other means your voice doesn’t get heard and when it is heard….it doesn’t have as much weight…

It really is on that psychological level, you really are grooming the perceptions of people when you’re saying these are the faces that represent New Zealand that is what you are saying, when you are constantly seeing white faces on New Zealand screen you are telling the next generation, this generation, the one before it, that this is what New Zealand looks like and we know it’s not true,” says Harris.

Producer Mia Marama points out “As Polynesian peoples, story telling is a very natural and integral part of our culture, something that’s been happening for generations and generations so whether we’re channeling that in the media, music, film, television it probably hasn’t been done more because of opportunity, but I don’t think that limits us — as people we’ve already shown we’re resilient now we just need to continue to fight for those opportunities so that we can share those stories to a global audience because it’s clear now that people want to see it.

“Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Boy, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, these are films that have made millions and millions of dollars so the fact that we’re still trying to prove our ‘diverse’ stories can make money is tiresome.”

Hanelle says “I don’t want to be comparative to mainstream media, my goal is to be better than mainstream media in New Zealand and to be getting the money, not based on the fact that we have this cool, hip, niche audience but based on the fact that we’re fucken good and everyone likes it, and that’s the point which is that white people do love our show, they fuckin love it and I think there are actually white New Zealanders out there that agree that the New Zealand we see on TV is not the NZ they know and if you live in Auckland that’s definitely not the NZ that you’re seeing every day”.

In this interview for Ryz FM and The Plug they discuss NZ MUCIC, RACISM IN NEW ZEALAND, FEMINISM, TALL POPPY SYNDROME, HATERS, YOUNG FATHERS, and THE NEED FOR MORE genuine BROWN MEDIA & more.

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW:

https://audioboom.com/posts/6559807-the-baby-mama-s-club-interview-by-aleyna-martinez

Watch Pilot episode HERE.

NEW: Villette releases Drip Crimson mixtape

Music

2017 has taught singer, songwriter, producer Villette that those working with you have to put as much effort into your product as you do, otherwise, they have to go.  To-the-point. Timely. Strong. This year the 22-year-old Samoan Chinese talent from South Auckland has been working super hard at her music — which can be an unforgiving environment — so she has to sometimes make tough calls to protect her brand.  She’s learned the hard way she can’t tolerate those that can’t give 100 percent and more.

Key moments include a feature on the smash web-series Baby Mama’s Club, releasing her mixtape and touring Drip Crimson alongside a new lingerie series — of which the first set is called ‘If You Go’ — “That song is about feeling powerful, you’ve just broken up with someone or you think someone’s going to leave or you don’t know what’s happening in the relationship.”

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“I feel empowered in that song when I’m saying fuck whose in your phone, fuck that other girl, I feel empowered when I say that so I called it If You Go because that’s one of the most powerful songs on the mixtape. She says the plan is to release lingerie with every project she does.

“This mixtape is pretty heavy and the new EP that’s coming out in January is going to be more about how I feel right now. It’s going to be more upbeat, more definitive more melody lead RnB”

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Villette says, “This mixtape’s been going on for about 11-months but I’ve been working on new music during that time.” Drip Crimson is available on SPOTIFY and  most platforms.

How have you found working at the industry level cause I remember when you played at the Greenroom and were booked via Facebook messenger..

[Laughs] The good old days when things were simple man, I miss that, nah I still get booked for some shit via Facebook, low key I still do it, I’m not ashamed of it.

And there’s a lot of love in those shows.. 

That’s where my people are like that’s just where I can really see how people feel and it’s different when you get asked to play a show through a booking agent cause you don’t know if it’s completely genuine or not or if it’s for marketing purposes and stuff like that so there’s a question of,  if you want to do it or not, if it’s genuine, and then you have to think about your integrity as an artist; whether you should be playing that kind of gig or if its solely for the money and that’s where I’m at at the moment but I’m lucky to have booking agents who are my friends as well, so they know my values as an artists and they know where I stand.

… I think there’s a misconception because I still don’t consider myself in the ‘industry level’ yet, I still see myself as, in the beginning phases, for me I feel very early in my career and I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of shit with industry stuff but I’m learning on a personal level as an artists how to handle that because that’s going to define my success, how I handle these little challenges now, is how I’m going to come out the other end.

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..Lots of people tell you what you should do and how you should handle stuff, but nothing prepares for you when someone offers you something amazing and it’s too good to be true and you take it and it was too good to be true and your like [lols] ‘Ahh fuck I should have listened’.

Whenever an artist gets involved with this it’s because you are that kind of person, you wanna take risks obviously for pursuing being an artist in such an over saturated market right now so..It’s just one of those things that comes with the territory.. but I enjoy it now and I’ve learned to handle it, and I’m still working on how I react to it on a personal level, emotionally react to it.

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So you have to have a thick skin?

Have to. Like I’ve got followers, I’m not afraid to admit that I have fans and stuff like that but I also have my fair amount of haters and …there’s just ..always going to be shit that just comes with the territory, for one person that loves you there might be two who don’t like you, and I get hate messages on Instagram, I have people comment shit that I have to delete it’s really intense and that also comes with being a woman in the industry like people just always critique you on everything and then at the industry level  you’ve got 50-year-old white men telling you what’s relevant and it’s like you don’t know what the fucks relevant, you really don’t.

..When you’re working in the studio you really have to have a thick skin because you have to trust your gut instinct, and that you know what sounds hot and that you know what sounds like you, when you’re trying to put your flavour into something, you have to be really strong and stand your ground and that can make you lose friends, I’ve learned that even recently I’ve lost friends over it.

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Women, I think you’re right I think we do have to yank our personalities out in order to stand there and really deliver a solid performance..

I think that also comes from knowing your self-worth, on a personal level, at the end of the day I’m human, I’ll always doubt myself and always not know if I’m going to be insecure and that sort of stuff but when it comes to business I really separate it and just think ‘no this is my full-time job’ and treat it like that… I really expect great things from the people around me and lately in the last month I’ve just narrowed down my team and thought about like, one strike and you’re out, that’s it that’s all I can deal with. ..And that comes down to knowing your self-worth and knowing that how you handle your business is how other people should handle it [laughs] it’s simple,  but it’s taken me so long to realise that.

How do you take a loss? 

Oh man it’s hard, maybe at the beginning of this year I would have cried and been real fucking upset; lashed out at everyone around me, lashed out at my mum, even though she has nothing to do with it.. but it’s because it’s just like.. I struggle to talk about my emotions unless it’s in song so I just am that way …I’m going to fuck around and piss people off ..I still am that way… am still going to fuck around and piss people off but now I handle it better and I see it as: I fucking love losing now, failing is great to me. I’m kind of like, ‘Come the fuck on!’ because I’m in my twenties now I’m 22 and this is the time to try shit and fail at shit and know what you’re good at.

 

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And Hamilton, you grew up there, was any of your creativity made there? 

[There were] a lot of experiences. I did most of my growing up in Hamilton the pivotal moments in me teens were all there, my first boyfriend was there, my first everything was there lets just say that…a lot of my lasts were there as well cause when I moved here I was like I can’t do this shit anymore, I met a rapper over there as well and that was the first time I went in the studio, properly recorded, and that’s the first time I realised it wasn’t as easy as it looked, but I thank him for that experience because it made me realise that I wanted to work hard.

Catch more of this interview on Ryz FM. 

 

 

A GAME OF SKATE with Too’OnPoint

Culture, Interview

One brief decider using paper, scissors, rock, then twin brother Shingi Murare kicks off a ‘Game of Skate’ match versus his brother Muche, the pair known as Too’OnPoint  meet me at their local park in Flatbush, Barry Curtis Park. 

ALEYNA: So you guys grew up around here? I’m filming you.

SHINGI: Oh shit, yeah we did, we grew up like…. we’d skate 20 minutes down the road before they built this, everyday after school. Weekends I’d be here  first thing in the morning. It’s still probably one of the best skate parks in Auckland, but we didn’t have that much back then…Til we begged the council.

ALEYNA: Who’s we?

SHINGI: Like a lot of us, like the local skate shop as well

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ALEYNA: Which is?

SHINGI: Boardertown, my brother works there. So even though I got into music and shit, skating’s still …before I wanted to be a musician I wanted to be a proskateboarder. I was really passionate about it, now it’s just fun like what you do for exercise and to have fun, before, I took it too seriously.

MUCHE: And then it’s not fun.

ALEYNA: When did you come across the show Epicl’y Latered and what did you like about it?

SHINGI: It would’ve been almost 10 years ago now we would’ve still been in intermediate school just learning how to skate then the show Epicl’y Latered was something new and refreshing. You got a peek into their personal lives as well as an in depth interview on skate culture. It put a personal attachment to my favourite skateboarders which intern motivates you to scare you even harder it’s almost like a musician watching their favourite musicians biography you know.

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ALEYNA: So where are you guys from?

MUCHE: Harare, Zimbabwe

ALEYNA: And how old were you when you came here?

MUCHE: Bout 2002, I was seven.

ALEYNA: So you went to school out here?

MUCHE: Yeah, Elm Park Primary.

 

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ALEYNA: Wait where are we?

SHINGI: We’re in Flatbush but we grew up round the east like Pakuranga

ALEYNA: So first memories of skating, how did it start?

MUCHE: Just seeing my mates back in intermediate and my friends would skate and I’d just watch clips of them doing like kick flips and shit skating and be like bro how do you do that.

SHINGI: I got me a little $10 skateboard from the Warehouse and shit, it could barely ride.

ALEYNA: So you loved it that much that  just put up with that? What was the first board you bought?

SHINGI: Yeah for a little bit and then I got like a proper skate board, I think my first one was a Flip, Geoff Rowley.

MUCHE: I think the first board I bought was a Zero cause I loved Chris Cole.

SHINGI: I was real poor and shit so I couldn’t afford to buy a board and shit for over $100, so I’d always cop second hand skateboards…once in a blue moon I’d buy a board.

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ALEYNA: So is this your stomping ground?

MUCHE: Yeah

 

SHINGI: Oi legit, we were probably the reason why they built this park…

ALEYNA: What’s that story?

MUCHE: Um so if you go back maybe a kilometre that way we used to be fucking little shits always just going there  skating up, the shop owners would complain and shit , we’d skate all the local schools, they’d always complain there was like 20 of us and we’d always just go and skate together so they got pretty pissed off about that after a while.

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SHINGI: We even did a petition and they put like 700k into it or something.

MUCHE:  There was like, One News or something came out here when it was still getting built and they got us all to come through and ask, ‘Oh what do you guys think about this park?’ But bro we needed this to be honest like where else were we gonna skate? You’re [the council] not providing facilities for the youth to go kick it at type thing.

SHINGI: And the public transport system is so trash.

MUCHE: It’s hard to get to other parks.

SHINGI: To get to skatepark would take you half a day.

MUCHE: But now it’s like legit, this place is probably a home for a lot of people who have grown up around here, it’s needed.

ALEYNA: So skating, as brothers that’s something that you’ve always done together?

MUCHE: Yeah and my other brother, he’s better than us, he’s fuckin good (laughs).

SHINGI: Yeah he’s fucking good aye, so good.

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ALEYNA: What is it you love about skating, is it like something you can do as a family, as brothers like isn’t some of this shit scary?

SHINGI: It is but it’s fun like ..the risk.

MUCHE: The way I see it it’s like confidence building , if I was gonna go do that 10 right, like that I’ve never done in my life but if I was going to go do it I would probably run up like five times and then come to a point where you’re like I’m actually going to do it this time and that’s when the adrenaline kicks in before you do it and then once you do it, it’s like ‘Oh my god it wasn’t that hard’ and then you go try it again you know but like getting over that mental barrier of  it’s ‘just a 10 stair’ or  ‘it’s just an olly’ type thing gets me, I dunno. Sometime you could be out there trying a trick for a whole fucking day and you’re not going to get it, but you’re still, every time you fall down and fuck yourself up you’re going to get back up and try again you know.

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SHINGI: Cause you want it that bad…

MUCHE: And then you get it one time and then that one time made up for the whole day’s worth of work  you know so yeah it’s a good feeling,

ALEYNA: So do you guys reckon  that define loving something or just your drive and character?

SHINGI: Definitely defines loving something.

MUCHE: Loving something because fuck, you got to put up with the bad times you know what I mean just for those small moments of hope but it’s worth it in the end.

SHINGI: It’s the feeling of achievement that’s so satisfying even if you do something one day you’ll be like fuck ok, if I can do that then the possibilities are just endless

MUCHE: It just makes you like, I’m going to take it to the next level.

ALEYNA: Do you help each other train or learn?

MUCHE: Game of Skate, we should play a gam of skate now…

SHINGI: It’s like what’s that game on the basketball court…Donkey.

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Interview: Introducing KVKA — “All Black Range, Malcolm X Knew Better”

Culture

Speaking about his song ‘La Musica’ produced by Tony Douglas, Hamilton resident Mukuka Simwinga aka KVKA says, “I feel very strongly about the new age slavery, it’s like where Africans and minorities have got to a place where white people and other people don’t have to put us down because it’s like self hate. So when I say [in the song], ‘where gold chains make slaves look better, all black Range Malcolm X knew better, gold chains swing just to lynch me better’, I’m saying we’re doing this to ourselves; it’s to a point where all we care about is, ‘oh yeah I got ice on my neck and I got the new whip’, and you’re not thinking about the fact that back in the day your ancestors would never wear that chain around their neck, they’d never do that because they know exactly what it means. It’s like they work so hard to get free and then we put chains back on ourselves. It’s something I have to work on as well. I say ‘nigga’ sometimes. I say all the ignorant stuff. But I think it’s something, where we need to get to the point, where we can battle it and not just sit down and say, ‘Oh yeah our ancestors helped us to get free — because we’re not free. Corporations are still above us and everyone’s not at a place where everyone’s equal yet.’

With KVKA hailing from a family of musicians and poets, he draws inspiration from his brother listening to Otis Redding, the church, and “my mum, when she’s was younger, used to write poetry as well. So it’s kind of like everyone in my family is creative. I sit down and try to absorb all the creativity around me. My sister was a big influence. She went for this poetry slam and won. She was on Drew and Shannon Live and she had an episode on Both Worlds — I realized through all that stuff that I could actually do something with it instead of it just being a closet-type hobby”.

Never having had a build up into the scene that was public, he instead worked behind the scenes until he sprang into the spotlight with his video for ‘The Zone’ which was filmed by YouTube based channel Visual Base TV. This produced a snowball effect which landed him on the doorstep of Tony Douglas’ house in Hamilton. Literally. Drenched from walking in the rain after church one Sunday, they’d arranged their first session. For now, all we can say is that he plans to continue rising up the music leader board. KVKA, who is of Zambian descent but New Zealand citizenship, has immersed himself in the influence of his family, friends, Hip Hop and most notably his own self awareness — it makes him an independent thinker and somewhat explains his impeccable lyricism, wordplay and sound. He says, ‘I don’t want to just be a rapper, I want to change the whole culture of New Zealand rap. And it’s really awesome because I’ve been sitting here and listening to all these underground rappers from New Zealand I never knew of, there’s Mikey, Third3ye, Diaz Grimm, everyone’s starting to change the [music] culture from New Zealand — and no offence to anyone, like I love Scribe, but from Scribe to be[ing] more universal with the world — but still keep our authenticity — I’m proud to be in New Zealand and be apart of what’s going to happen. Personally, I want to be right at the front, leading this new generation of underground to the world.’

WDYFILWHH had the chance to Skype KVKA and get a closer sense of who he is and what he’s about. It’s no doubt that this is 27 minutes worth listening to. While you’re at it, you can get a bit more acquainted with KVKA’s music on his SoundCloud as we patiently wait for the release of his début EP L.O.E.S, out on the 1st of November.

Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala — “Sometimes, your tongue is cut out of your mouth at birth”

Interview

“My name in some countries translates as vessel so that’s literally my job is to be able to transport messages” ~ Jahra Wasasala

Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala is an Aotearoa-born mixed-race 23-year-old contemporary dancer, choreographer and spoken word artist who created the 2015 award winning contemporary dance theatre work titled “MOTHER/JAW” in collaboration with choreographic artist and dancer, Grace Woollett.
Winning ‘Best Dance Performance’ amongst others at the 2015 Fringe Festival, the contemporary dance/spoken word theatre work explored themes behind the rituals of passage into young womanhood, the stripped indigenous mother-country in a historical and modern context, and how we must connect young mixed blood to old stolen blood.

Jahra says she used to be disheartened that she couldn’t properly trace her roots back to their origins, and some of that struggle with culture and identity was certainly included in MOTHER/JAW. 
She says,
”I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely trace my lineage. I think I’m in a position like a lot of people my age who can’t trace/can’t go back/can’t name their people, I used to be sad about it. But I don’t think it’s a sad thing anymore – I think it’s okay. I’m obviously a hybrid and an accumulation of everyone and everything that I come into contact with… Regardless of who I can name and can’t name, and regardless of who I can or can’t trace, they are with me all the time — they influence my work and how I am every day. So I obviously have a very diverse ethnic background, and it does shape me but it doesn’t define me as well”.

Interview: Stussybeats on Godwave

Music

A revisit is my take on a remix says Stussybeats. It’s an opportunity for him to recreate a track the way he feels it should’ve sounded in the first place.

“I don’t release revisits without making sure the artists are comfortable with it.”

For the past 20 minutes, I have been listening to the original release of Psalms 82:6 by KVKA; comparing the track to its revisit, back and forth, then I missed my cue to repeat; Stussy’s next track played on SoundCloud and got me all types of pleasantly distracted.

‘The First Gate’ instrumental opens with an an eerie death-angel, church-choir sample situation, the kind of emotion that makes the hair stand on end when you know something scary is about to happen in a movie.

“The First Gates sampling idea originally came about when I was thinking about soundtracks and the cinematic effect they have, I like to think of my music as a cinematic approach to the true feeling of a beat…A sort of drug or euphoria that gives you a certain feeling, so the idea of a gothic, god-like sound seemed unique to me, I’ve never heard it done like I planned it before, so I tested my idea out and created The First Gate, as well as the original Psalms outro.”

Threads: Yeezy Season 1 — “Awesome is possible”

Threads

“Were not always in the position that we want to be at, we’re constantly growing, constantly making mistakes, constantly trying to express ourselves and trying to realize our dreams” ∼ Kanye West

11 years after releasing College Dropout, Kanye West is still a revolutionary. He’s still an activist. He’s a living icon… probably why people hate him so much. If he died tomorrow his face would be slapped onto t-shirts and pumped out to the masses stupidly and blindly campaigning against capitalism, just like they did with Che and Dilla. Yeezy Season 1 comes to us via Adidas, but the brand works well, as Pat Ngoho, the 2014 International Skateboarder’s Union bowl champion said:

“There’s really no doubt that Adidas is probably the coolest shoe out there. They’ve just been accepted culturally around the world, in so many different circles and every single time they just do it in a very cool manor, so I’m stoked to be rocking em.”

Nicki Minaj — You thought the Google thing was bad?

Culture, Feature, Music

‘I Get Crazy’ by Nicki Minaj featuring Wayne was my introduction to Onika Maraj. I subscribed immediately. Although she was a new name to me in 2009, she had been going hard in the US for years. And then her Sucka Free mixtape came out and the reference to Lil Kim was there, from the start. “We did that pose to make a statement,” Nicki explained to Jabari Johnson in 2008. 

I subscribed to her flow and her balls, which allowed her to say whatever she felt like in her verses. Her flow was fierce and her bars held your attention; not just with words but flava too — there was no air of ‘token female rapper’ on her. As plain as that sounds in 2014 with the likes of Azealia Banks, Dej Loaf, Chelsea Reject and others today – back then – it was the beginning of a new trajectory in the realms of rap and women. There had been hardcore female rappers before her, but there was something about Nicki that pushed the envelope further and offered a fresh sound; eagerly, I anticipated the release of Pink Friday… The 2008 interview with Jabari Johnson did it for me:

JJ: Do you think it’s harder as a female rapper to achieve?

NM: Yessssss, why you think there’s only been a handful of females in the game the last 15 years. It’s hard because you get judged by the industry and you get judged by consumers, hard, bodied. Like females, we have this crab in the bucket thing, like we never wanna see another female get somewhere, so it’s very hard, because you get critiqued by the girls, boxed in by the dudes…

…Its’ very hard I write my own shit, that’s another thing, people, a lot of the times I work with people and they’re like, ‘Oh you need a ghost writer’? Like, boo, I do this, please don’t get it twisted, don’t get it confused. When I’m in the studio with Wayne, when I’m in the studio with whoever, I fuck with the best of them, come on, Jadakiss, come on, I write my own shit…People say, why you feel the need to say that all the time, I say it because there’s not a day that go by, where people don’t ask me, ‘You write your own raps?‘ and I got to say. ‘Yes fuckface, I do.’

 

Interview: Marek Peszynski — Collecting Moments

Feature, Interview, Music

“You can’t look at Riff Raff or Lil B and say that they’re involved in the Hip Hop movement you know because they’re not.”

What they do is just straight organic, ignorant, albeit fun, party-rap music which has no relevance to Hip Hop culture at all. Apart from the fact that they’re rapping, which I don’t think is enough to constitute them being involved in the Hip Hop movement.”

Marek Peszynski otherwise know as Mazdef Productions is a DJ, promoter and lover of Hip Hop and rap music. His story stakes a claim in Wellington’s clubbing/party-scene history, then extends to Los Angeles and London. Unknown to many, his timeline is a music lovers’ dream; as he humbly goes about his business as a father, partner, DJ.

He is also a collector — of many things and says big purchases must be run past his partner Rose first. But, it is also discovered Marek is a collector of moments in Hip Hop, like the time he spoke to J.Dilla’s mum on the phone after he had just passed away; or the time Chuck D turned down a free Wax Poetics from him; instead the Public Enemy legend hung out for a few hours then eventually paid for the magazine. There was the time he went to LA and gave out copies of the Feelstyle album on vinyl to new friends, as a piece of his culture to them.

This story is a collection of Marek’s epic moments; some are great and some shocking, some are hard and others are really funny. Marek, who lives in Wellington but hails from Auckland remembers being the only guy in attendance at some Hip Hop shows in the beginning of the culture’s existence in mainstream New Zealand music to now, where he says: 

“I love it [new school rap]. At the moment being open minded’s cool. You don’t have to like Lil B or LP but as long as you know the definition between rap music and Hip Hop music then it’s all good. Take Waka or Gucci Mane — that’s rap music, or technically that’s trap music, but you wouldn’t put that on calling it a Hip Hop show, because it’s not. It’s a rap show. Whereas people with craft — your Joey Badass, your Talib Kweli, your Kev Brown — people that encapsulate the culture a little bit more, that’s Hip Hop.” For him, it just so happens that his passion has become his work. He says, there are of course risks in promoting shows, “But there’s a satisfaction that goes with putting on events like this.”

Reflecting on his promoting career thus far he names Action Bronson as one of the highlights. “That was a huge risk, that was like the eighth of January, it was such a terrible time for any sort of show, everyone’s broke after new years or away and I just bit the bullet and put on the show and it sold out. He ended up loving New Zealand and coming to my house, hanging out with my children — he’s like one of the biggest rap stars in the world at the moment, it’s crazy.”

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The Beginning

HH: Where are you from?

M: I was born and raised in West Auckland.

HH: So when did you come to Wellington?

M: In 2000, I’d just turned 21.

HH: What are your earliest memories of music and hip hop?

M: I guess my father’s always been quite musical, although he wasn’t a musician, he’s got a massive vinyl collection of rock n’roll through to classical, old soul music — Barry White, Marvin Gaye and all stuff like that. I guess it was probably, firstly the record player itself I was fascinated by and just learning how to use that then listening to the music. It just went from there really — that was the start of my love for music. I guess the first time I saw Radio With Pictures, [which is a] music show during the late 80’s, you know I always used to sneak out of bed and watch TV, do that kind of thing.. seeing videos from like Run DMC I guess that was always the initial cross over for me.

HH: When you got to Wellington, what was your impression of it, from an outsiders POV?

M: Well I’d visited Wellington quite a bit before, I’d been to early King Kapisi shows and stuff like that at that club that used to be above Area 51, La Luna. I knew from then it’d always been a strong kind of community and then I guess when I was living in Auckland and starting to DJ around 1997/98 people like DJ Raw would come play at the DMC champs and stuff in Auckland, he was kind of my favourite turntabilist at the time. The whole turntabilism thing was so new to me and he was one of the first people I’d really seen do it really well — he was from Wellington obviously, so that association was pretty strong from the start.

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DJing — The First Love

“DJing for me, I think, it doesn’t matter what I do, it will always be my first love. Playing music I love to a massive awesome, receptive-partying crowd. The buzz from that is still — nothing can beat that.”

HH: When you began, were you a competitive DJ?

M: Nah. I’ve never been but you know I’ve always played a mixed bag of different music. It was Hip Hop that I really wanted to play in clubs and that kind of a thing; obviously learning the basic scratching and stuff but it was never at the stage where I was extremely technical with what I do DJ wise.. still to this day I guess because I can’t scratch that amazingly, I’ve always been about making the song the focus.

HH: How’d your route go, starting out in Auckland?

M: Normally just playing parties. Playing for my friends. I ended up being a DJ for a group called Bahama 62 it was my first ever…Me and a bunch of my friends, there was Tourettes from Breakin Wreckwordz and now YGB — Dominic Hoey; we were living together at the time so we decided to start a rap group. That was kind of like more of a fun kind of party project — we didn’t have any serious gigs, we were quite involved in the punk and hard-core scene at the time so quite often [I’d play] at the punk parties cause everyone was into rap music.

HH: At what point were you like, I wanna do clubs?

M: I guess it was when the bands that were playing all the parties started playing at clubs and I was asked to play music. I think my first club show was at The Kings Arms, with my friend’s indie band; it was pretty terrifying for me. It was kind of cool in a way because it was all my friends there, but at the same time there was also a lot of the public there and I was still a beginner you know like I couldn’t really sort of blend properly, I couldn’t really scratch..I remember just getting so drunk — to the point where I passed out and I wedged myself between my record box and the wall.. the song ran out and there were people looking at the booth [laughs].. all they could see were these flapping legs.

HH: Mid-set?

M: Yeah. (Smiles).

HH: Passed out?

M: Well I didn’t pass out. I fell over and got wedged between the wall, fully conscious and aware of what was going on. [Cracks up]

HH: Okay so once you got to Wellington, what was your mission, were you still in a space where you were finding your own way as a DJ?

M: I guess so. Yeah. Like I said I started off with Hip Hop, but I’ve always been really eclectic with the sort of music I play. So I think by the time I got to Wellington, although I was still buying a lot of Hip Hop vinyl and stuff like that, I knew for me, there was probably more work in dance music; I would play Garage and US House even though the house music I was playing was like Kenny Dope & DJ Spinna who are still sort of — they’ve got their roots in Hip Hop as well.

Record Store Life — Before The Internet

HH: Did you have a day job?

M: About three months into moving here, I ended up living with Tourettes for a while; his partner at the time was working at the CD store on Cuba Street. I managed to get a job at the CD Store, the one that was on the corner of Cuba and Dixon Street.

HH: Did you plan to perpetually work in music, it seems that’s just sort of what’s happened for you…

M: Ummm, yeah, it was one of those things where I’d always wanted to work in a record store. Not a CD store, but a record, record store. I ended up working for the CD Store for a long time. They ended up buying the Tandy’s Music space in Manners Mall, which had Chelsea Records attached to it. Over the years between 2001 and 2004 I was moved around all the different CD Stores; when I became assistant manager down Lambton Quay there was an opening to come work at Planet Jacks in Manners Mall where the crêpe shop is now. I ended up managing Chelsea Records which was my first step into proper record store life.

HH: Which you’d always wanted to do..

M: Yeah and I ultimately got there. It took a little while hustling top 40 CD’s but I eventually made it to Chelsea Records.

HH: So working in the record store would have advanced your dig-game?

M: Absolutely. I had to step up my game just to keep on top of current music. People would come in asking for specific vinyl, they were smarter than yourself, so you have to keep on top of that. I was in charge of all the ordering, it was all imports — there weren’t many people who were bringing in records locally. It was just dealing with shops in New York, San Francisco, London — going through release sheets; faxing stuff backwards and forwards — this is before the internet. We were such an integral part..I sort of built a bit of a brand around Chelsea Records because I had the freedom to do that, I guess, the owners of the company didn’t really know about that kind of thing. I had a bunch of people — Jaz 72, Zen Yates, Duncan Croft who’d worked in record stores previously.

“Chelsea Records has been around since the 70’s — the brand, but we moulded it in to what it ultimately became in Wellington.”

HH: What did Chelsea Records ultimately become?

M: Basically one of the best record stores in the city. It opened up a global view for me; especially dealing with people from overseas on a weekly basis inn terms of seeing what releases were coming through.

HH: Were You DJ’ing at this time?

M: A little bit. But it really wasn’t until Bryce from Sandwiches hit up myself and Duncan. We used to do the Flava show every Friday night on Active and I had played stints at Studio 9, Goodluck, Matterhorn, & Watkins Bar too.. So Bryce used to listen to our show; we’d never met him, he just came into the store one day and said, ‘I’m opening up a club called Sandwiches, I want you guys to be the residents in the lounge’.

Sandwiches — A part of Wellington’s Clubbing History

“Clubs would be an extension of people’s lounge. Where as now, it’s just different.”

HH: How old were you then, were you ready?

M: 22, 23. Nah. I definitely wasn’t ready. Radio DJing is very different to club DJing. But it was because of our selections and the sort of stuff that we did, that’s why he wanted us.

HH: What were you feeling at the time. Do you remember?

M: A lot of Hip Hop, a lot of UK broken beat house, sort of new jazz — that kind of vibe, that was big at the time — right through to UK garage, US house..I think it was our eclectic nature which made us appealing. We weren’t specifically any genre.

HH: Looking back now, because you would have watched the music trends change over the past 10 years, in terms of party people, have you kind of drawn some conclusions over how trends change?

M: Mmhmm. Wellington specific, or maybe even nationally, club culture’s in a bit of a lull right now. Compared to back then, there just seemed to be more happening. More parties happening. I don’t know if it’s because we were younger. But there just seemed to be more happening. Sad to say, but there were more drugs [laughs]. And booze was cheaper in clubs and life was cheaper. You could smoke in clubs.. clubs would be an extension of people’s lounge. Where as now, it’s just different.

HH: As someone who was immersed in it, is it a good thing or a bad thing from your POV?
M: Um, evolution is evolution. But at the same time I’m not going to deny that things were definitely better back in the day. [Cracks up]. Music especially.. not about the specific kind of music, or the quality of the music, but the fact that it was so hard to source any of the specific stuff; when you did get a record or an import CD, you’d listen to it over and over; because it was so hard to get and it took six months to arrive — you really treasured it. Now, it’s so disposable and I can’t even remember the last time I sat down and listened through a whole song. Unless I’m sitting on the bus with headphones or whatever..If I’m sorting out music for a set, I’ll listen to 15 seconds of a track.

HH: As well, I’ve heard you’re a collector of things and as we’ve said everything’s so disposable these days, do you think collecting and cherishing music might be revived again?

M: I think if we’re looking at vinyl, it’s definitely on a massive incline. Which is really good to see. You have people like myself who are just really into collecting vinyl. Record labels recognise that — look at Stones Throw, every single release they do is either a picture disc, or it comes with a bit of art work or a beautiful folder. They’ve recognized the collector and people just don’t need a black slab of vinyl anymore. For a lot of people that’s like a massive inconvenience, but if you make it a collector piece that’s what’s brought back the resurgence….Even with vinyl releases of stuff — I bought A$AP Rocky’s album which is like a triple orange gate-fold record. Even though I [already] had it for months, I just liked the album and I thought it’s a beautiful piece of vinyl. I’ve got a turntable set up at home and I can chuck it on if I feel like it, but you know, I very rarely do that because it’s all loaded into my Serato.. But as a collector I like having the piece, it’s just a nice piece to have.

Marek The Collector

“Not only are you getting this beautiful item, you’re hearing the music and discovering new tracks and that’s how it was back when we were at the record store.. I’d order off a list of names and there’s no way of even hearing what you were even getting.”

Marekkaws

HH: So from a collectors point of view does the overly saturated digital market affect the thrill?

M: Definitely. I mean if I’d never heard that album or hadn’t been listening to that album for six months and it turned up on my doorstep, and I was looking forward to it; then obviously the buzz of getting that record, putting it on for the first time, listening to it, that just takes the collecting experience to a whole other thing. Not only are you getting this beautiful item, you’re hearing the music and discovering new tracks and that’s how it was back when we were at the record store.. I’d order off a list of names and there’s no way of even hearing what you were even getting. So it would turn up and we’d sit down and have a massive box.. it’d be like, so and so remixed by so and so or so and so’s new record. Sometimes you’d know a song by Giles Peterson or someone like that and rate it but most of the ordering was done blind or deaf; you’re just ordering off a name and it’s just luck of the draw what turns up.

HH: How many pairs of sneakers do you own?

M: I don’t know. Maybe… 90 pairs.

HH: And why do you like Be@rbricks?

M: It’s just a collecting thing. Be@rbricks are like a mixture of PLAYMOBIL and Lego, but each one is individual and specific to a certain artist — I’m a big fan of art and pop art, artists like Kaws and Stash I guess it was a love of graph art and then I explored other avenues of pop art and now I’m a fan of a lot of modern art.

Marek says: “I guess like you said, I’m a collector and part of collecting is the hunt. So earlier on, like I was saying, it was the hunt; the hunt to find these small pockets or these little bits of rap music; whether that be at the end of Arsenio Hall or listening to a three-hour reggae radio show in the hope that there’d be a rap song that I could record — that to me, I was collecting at the time. “

After successfully throwing ‘Space Jam’ last Friday, a 90’s Hip Hop party with special guest P-Money, and clocking one of the biggest nights ever for the venue — Betty’s Function House, Marek dusts off 2013 with a bang. The Mazdef x WDYFILWHH story is to be continued in the new year. Stay tuned…

Raiza Biza-Sitting On The Cusp Of Something Big

Interview, Music

Raiza Biza know’s he’s on the cusp of something big with his music. It can be felt off the back of his last album Dream Something, which collected new followers and new cities to tour- including the South Island of New Zealand which Raiza sees as new ground to break.

“You know, there’s a lot of people who might have heard the name or might have seen the name floating around here or there but they haven’t yet seen it first hand, those are the people that I want to try and reach. But it’s a step by step process and right now it feels like we did the hard yards and it’s almost downhill from now.”

DIASPORA: Meer makes waves for Arab women in rap music

Culture, Interview, Music

Rapper Meer is a young woman living in Australasia. Having just moved to Sydney from Auckland to be with the love of her life she says she appreciates a man who respects a woman going after her potential. “I want to make a mark as an Arab woman – I want people to know what an Arab is. I want Middle Eastern to be a part of the selection when you choose where you’re from,” she says.

Born in Dubai, she came to New Zealand when she was five years old. Having always used writing as an important outlet, especially when it comes to her mental health and positive well being, she says eventually making a rap song became an obvious choice. “The first time I went up on that stage I couldn’t explain it, it was something magical, that feeling I got, I couldn’t get anywhere else and I was addicted.”

Although her lyrical content can get quite heavy theme-wise she says “I want people to scream my name on that stage I want people to know my lyrics, I  want to touch people in ways that they have never..that sounds weird…I want to affect people emotionally through my music, in ways they’ve never been before.”

‘You messing with a bad bitch’ goes the hook of her most recent video release Pomegranate. But, she says “I’m not really an intense person – I’m such a kid – the person you see on stage is someone who feels powerful and wants to prove it but the person I am when I get off stage is powerful and I don’t have to prove it. Even though there’s a lot of intense content, people might think it’s too much.. Do you think?”

INDIGENOUS FOCUS: A Dancing Earth

Culture, Feature

Quetzal Guerrero sits at the back of the Wellington Opera House in New Zealand. He’s just come off stage with Dancing Earth – a contemporary indigenous dance company directed by Rulan Tangen [right of photo] who holds the belief that “to dance is to live, to live is to dance.” Rulan’s work is known for honoring key aspects of Native American culture. Concepts like matriarchal leadership, dance as ritual for transformation and healing as well as the process of decolonizing the body.

In this interview with SERUM we talk to Guerrero about connecting with Rulan and how his passion for movement and dance began with Hip Hop and break dancing. He also explains that in 1980’s America, hip hop provided a sense of identity for indigenous youth who were going through a loss of their own cultural identity. At the time their elders were making fundamental moves at the United Nations to even be regarded as human beings with human rights at all. I talk to Guerrero about his journey as a classically trained violinist, being the son of a political muralist and activist and growing up first nations in Phoenix.

“My father comes from the Coconino and Yaqui tribes of the South-West. He raised us with a lot of consciousness about the real history of the United States and what went down when it came to colonisation so we had awareness about our identity and who we are – we were taught not to be ashamed of being who we are and to embrace our culture and our roots. So I was always fascinated about Native American art, music and history. I’ve always loved studying as a kid and learning about it and I think that’s what also intrigued me about working with this company – because it’s contemporary and nothing like this really existed – this is one of the first Native American dance companies..We’re telling the story about who we are as Native Americans but expressing it through dance.”

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Dancing Earth’s performance piece – among many other cultural groups from around the world, I noticed evoked a sense of deep pain, Quetzal elaborates: “The Native American community, we’re still healing from the devastation that comes with colonization – talk about genocide. Tens of millions of Native Americans were murdered, killed and wiped out by colonization so there is a huge scar, a big wound that has been slowly healing in the Native American identity and part of that healing is coming to terms with today. Letting go of the past and seeing that as a blessing in disguise – in the sense that we’re still here, we’re still present and we need to be aware of that and open to accepting today – the future and making something of it.
“A lot of colonised cultures are really affected by the new culture and social oppression that comes along with that so they suffer from a lot of debilitating social diseases like alcoholism, drug use, abuse – they suffer from a lot of these things cause they feel they’ve lost a lot of who they are and accessibility to identifying your culture isn’t there anymore so I think that’s why things like Hip Hop culture come into play.”

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“For some it was more a means of escape and an identity. Hip Hop claimed a spot in people’s hearts because they could claim it as theirs’ in a time when how they felt, looked, thought and lived as indigenous people put their self-worth in question.”

Growing up, he remembers dressing way more gothic than the other kids; with leather studded jackets and mohawke hairstyles as opposed to the classic Puma suedes with a cheese cutter bboy look. “We were all brown, but we were all diverse.”

Remembered in many bboy circles for his alternative dress style Quetzal says winning second place in a battle judged by bboy legends like Ivan the Terrible and Style Elements Crew; receiving approval from people like this he says ‘validated’ their place in the bboy scene, making it all good to remain ‘alternative’ in terms of dance style and dress.

SERUM: Do you feel as someone that’s had that experience growing up indigeanous, with hip hop as an outlet, that there will be positive change for indigenous youth in the future?
QUETZAL: Oh yeah, definitely with the new generation of kids who aren’t tied to all that pain and trauma and who are able to access information so much more now and have more avenues to find themselves you know – it’s not so black and white as it used to be, it’s a lot more grey and you have a lot more ability to search and to find out who you are and what you’re into and really discover all the different aspects of life. When you were on the reservation 20 years ago you had nothing but at least now with the internet you can watch and see and learn by example – see things that can inspire you and take you out of that dark place you know.
He says “There are so many parallels with the Māoris here and with Native Americans in the United States first and foremost the respect of the earth and natural resources of the earth – and to know we are not owners of this land, we are shepherds of this land and we’re guardians of this land. I think every indigenous culture understands that because you have to have that mentality if you wanna be able to live for 1000 years. If you want to be able to survive you have to have respect for the earth because if not you’re essentially shooting yourself in the foot and I think this capitalist consumer culture that has been affecting all of the developing nations right now is very disruptive in the sense that it’s destroying everything that is good and wholesome in this world and that’s going to be able to last for lifetimes, that’s the biggest thing I noticed”.

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“It’s also the sense of family and welcoming. We’ve been staying at two different maraes since we’ve been here and to see that sense of family, tribe and love and heart for one another it’s really prevalent,” he says drawing parallels between Māori and First Nation ways of living.

In 2007 the Human Rights Council adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is a document which emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It establishes an important standard for eliminating human rights violations against indigenous peoples worldwide and for combating discrimination and marginalization. Although not legally binding, it’s a document that took over 30 years to develop and have validated by the United Nations.
Interestingly, the Declaration was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly, with 143 countries voting in support, 4 voting against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstaining (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa, Ukraine).
Although New Zealand initially opposed this declaration, 11 years later at the UN General Assembly in September 2018 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the vital contribution indigenous values offer the globe and humanity, as did Mr. Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Cree Chief, Canada who spoke at the 2017 UN Press Conference.

In her 2018 speech Prime Minister Ardern points out as Mr. Littlechild did, the crucial urgency in addressing climate change and embracing indigeanous values like kaitiakitanga – a Māori concept of guardianship.
“For those of us who live in the South Pacific, rising sea levels presents the single biggest threat to security in our region the impacts of climate change are not academic or even arguable – they are watching the sea levels rise, the extreme weather events increase and the impact on their water supply and food crops.”

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She said in New Zealand, “We will not issue any further offshore oil and gas exploration permits and have rolled out an initiative to plant a billion trees over the next 10 years”. She acknowledged these plans among others are ambitious – but the threat climate change poses demands it.
“We have a duty of care – for us that has meant action to address degradation like setting standards to make our rivers swimmable.. The race to grow our economies and increased wealth makes us all the poorer if it comes at the cost of our environment. In New Zealand we’re determined to prove it doesn’t have to be this way.”
In 2017 Mr. Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Cree Chief, Canada spoke at the UN Press Conference – commemorating a decade since the Declaration was adopted by the UN:
“An elder asked the delegation of around 181 States ‘Which one of you is going to argue for my brother the fish? Who among you is going to argue for my brother the bird that flies or the four-leggeds that die so we can live? Who among you is going to argue for clean air and clean water?’
“That day marks the start of consciousness at the UN about environmental protection – the very thing that we’re faced with today with climate change discussions – that started with indigenous elders raising the issue.”

New Zealand has also been at the forefront of progression for indigenous rights historically. Chief Littlechild continued “If you remember in 1923 and 1925 when two indigenous leaders tried to get a voice at the United Nations – Chief Deskaheh in 1923 and then Ratana – a spiritual leader from the Māori – they couldn’t get into the League Of Nations as it was then known. From that time 1923 – 1977 there was no voice for indigenous people – no voice to be heard internationally.
“For me now it’s been 40 years since I’ve been on this journey. I also remember the day when we were actually – for the first time – we were recognized as human beings it was eight years of debate on whether or not indigenous peoples are human beings.”

He also points out the important contribution indigeanous peoples have offered the world; to operate holistically, acknowledging the importance of spirituality:
“A couple of very significant contributions indigenous peoples made during this history of debate at the UN – the longest debated declaration in UN history. Twenty seven years it took – so I remember for example being asked [by his elders] to go to the chairperson to ask if we could open the meeting with a prayer and to be told Mr. Littlechild ‘You know we don’t pray at the United Nations’ and I said well it’s not really a prayer it’s an invocation – we offer thanksgiving to creator for blessing us with a beautiful day like today”. Eventually she said yes. “To make a long story short the outcome of that was the the recognition of spiritual right’s. That there’s such a thing not only of economic, social and cultural rights or civil and political rights but also spiritual rights, it was our elders that offered that to humankind.”
Watch 1 hour press conference:

CINEMA: Crazy (Not So Rich) Asians

Culture, Feature

Man, diversity is trending like a motherfucker, and although it’s something many of us MTV kids have been waiting for, since time; making sure it isn’t a passing trend is the new mission for all involved in this movement. It’s hard not to question why the inclusion of those who tick the ‘other’ box is suddenly being embraced by mainstream outlets. By now people of colour are already tired of standing up when they say, sitting down when ‘they’ say and dropping everything, when THEY say.

In a time when I thought my well of ideas would burst open and I’d have a million articles to write and express my inner most deepest feelings, instead I froze up. I observed the platforms that were being ‘given’ and ‘provided’ and couldn’t find my voice even when I tried. Over the past few years I watched the #poc #woc #blacklivesmatter #staywoke #metoo narratives unfold online and felt even more confused than before, but I put it down to writers block and kept living.

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Director Jon M. Chu’s film Crazy Rich Asians just became the highest grossing romantic comedy in a decade. Reaching $165.7 million as of this weekend. Starring Michelle Yeoh, Akwafina, Ken Jeong and Nico Santos the movie overflows with decadence, luxury, fine things and fun amidst the strict, non-tolerant to anything other than just do what you know you’re supposed to be doing (become a lawyer, doctor…Prime Minister would be good) world that goes hand-in-hand with cultures who’ve kept their traditions despite westernized influences and dilution. Chu’s screenplay takes you to ‘exotic’ Malaysia and Singapore, and if you’re from those lands (as I am) the mere sight of the pasarmalam (night market) or the use of the word ‘Alamak’ (Oh My God) on a cell phone projects you into a ridiculous deep nostalgia you can’t help but zone in on. Even though your mate from Zimbabwe is next to you balling her eyes out at the unjust heartbreak portrayed on the screen, you forget to ask her if she’s OK (not cool Aleyna) because you’re momentarily homesick and lamenting over the fact that had you not come to New Zealand, become really westernised and chose to disobey your parents at every turn, this could have been your life, once, too.

The beauty of this movie is that it is a romcom – the type of movie which I do and can safely appreciate with my mum – it won’t cause us to talk about our world views or politics or sociology. It is the type of movie where we both simply agree – he’s cute, she’s pretty, that bad guy is actually an asshole and the grandma should keep her 2 cents before she exposes the truth and debunks the entire climax which alludes to fairy tales being a real-life realistic goal to strive for. In romcoms, I don’t remind my mother that I’m radical and potentially a dud child, and she doesn’t remind me that she’s old school. It works.

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“You’re what’s considered Eurasian” she explained to me around the age of 10. “How?” I wondered… You’re Indian and dad’s Chinese and Filipino. I’d watched movies with Spanish content and appreciated the expression and how the language made you feel like you’re allowed to yell at your lover even when you just want them to pass the salt. I’d watched ‘Real Women Have Curves’ featuring America Ferrera and felt less ugly, embarrassed or bad, my 5ft curvy body couldn’t fit anything even at Glassons. I realised tall Caucasian figures were the basis for the pattern making – another Kiwi experience I’d made a conscious-thought-out-decision not to take personally. The term Euroasian sounded too close to European to me and growing up in New Zealand looking Māori or Polynesian made me feel like I wasn’t Euro anything, I simply wasn’t interested in the Euro part – especially after experiencing racism for my skin colour.  I have lived this way since I came into consciousness – dating a white boy once and dumping him immediately for calling Kanye West a racist because he rapped ‘A white man gets paid off of all of that’.

ME: You can’t say he isn’t right Tom!

Tom wasn’t having it and neither was I. My mum’s one chance to welcome home a white boy was obliterated in that moment and my ‘activist’ ‘radical’ sensibilities were birthed and cemented into time.

I identified myself in the female protagonist played by Constance Wu. She was raised in America and free to follow her passions – naive to the benefits of strict traditions. When her mother tells her ‘But you were raised here’ I recognised a strong, very defining statement, of the reality that once you leave your homeland a part of it lets you go too. It sounds sad but one thing having a Kiwi identity affords you is the liberty to not have to conform, to follow your dreams and become an artist if you want to. You’re free from traditional expectation. The catch is, when you’re away for too long, expectation is all you want. ‘One tight slap’ on the face and a good scolding from your Aunty for leaving a wet towel on the bed (culturally insensitive) doesn’t seem so bad when you’re homesick.  

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In my experience coming from a Euroasian family who immigrated elsewhere, I have access to the traditions but am not obligated to follow them. In my case my parents only spoke English to me, something I was deeply sad about for years. For them we didn’t need Tamil, Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese or Mandarin in New Zealand. ‘Better you go learn French’ my Grandma would casually say to me at the age of 14.  “So I could speak to who?!” I’d balk back. At that time I was not concerned with the array of cute boys who could (and would) speak French in my life. Survival as a little brown female in a Western world was my primary concern, it would be a long time after that in which I’d care about boys.

I was one of those girls who didn’t have to go to temple with the rest of the family because the ceremonies would be long and I’d get bored – my mum assumed. This meant I missed out on weddings and funerals. Chinese New Year was the best though, because in Malaysia there’s this tradition called angpow, where if you’re a child, upon arrival you receive a red envelope filled with money. This part of our culture was one my parents happily let us participate in (maybe it was their version of a DIY economics class). As the visiting foreigners my brother and I would tour the city driving from cousins’ house to aunt’s to great-great-grand-mothers “of your uncle’s second wife’s sister” collecting red envelopes, allowing aunties to feed us and pinch our cheeks – so long as they gave us envelopes.

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My parents immigrated to New Zealand because dad couldn’t handle the fact that the jungle laid land he grew up in and loved so much had given way to a concrete jungle and capitalist priorities. Mum felt the country was becoming corrupt and so we moved to NZ where my younger brother and I enjoyed the fact that we could say ‘fuck’ freely – simply telling our mates our parents were taking us to Whakatāne to holiday. At the time, this felt awesome, now, I understand it’d quite likely be considered culturally insensitive.

What’s interesting in Jon Chu’s narrative is the empowerment it leaves women, particularly Asian women. Whether the character be a single mother who ran to America to raise an illegitimate daughter or an heiress with a shopping problem and unfaithful husband, the movie celebrates the strength of women. It reflects the fact that in many societies across the world it is a woman’s love, strength and patience, resilience and care that should be celebrated and not ignored or taken for granted. In Jon Chu’s film it’s these traits of being a traditional woman that become vital fibers in the fabric that hold a family and sometimes an empire together. Bring on the sequel and the “tsunami” Michelle Yeoh proposed in a NY Screen Times panel discussion where she explains if roles for Asians aren’t created then “We can’t work because of you”.  

 Yeoh is a Malaysian actress who has a net worth of $40 million and a lead role in the American TV series Star Trek. She also says she hopes “It doesn’t matter what race you are I hope that very soon we don’t see us as actors, or filmmakers, as colour, or whatever it is – but storytellers with stories that needs to be told in the right way and represent what we are and who we are”.

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Some criticism of the movie is that although it hosts an all-Asian cast and makes progress for Asian cinema, Alice Truong writes for Quartzy:  ‘It only depicts ethnic Chinese people, who make up a portion of the city-state’s population. The lack of South Asians or anyone with dark skin has the internet suggesting new names for the movie: Crazy Rich East Asians and Crazy Rich East Light-Skinned Asians.”