NZ Music Month in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa

It’s May, so it’s NZ Music Month! NZ Music Month is all about music from Aotearoa, and the people who make it. Radio stations play more local tunes, and we celebrate homegrown talent across the length and breadth of the country. So what’s happening locally? What does NZ Music Month mean to our local musicians and how can we support our local talent?

The NZ Music Commission kicked off NZ Music Month in 2000. There was plenty of great music being made but not enough people got to hear it, see it, or have it on their shelves. It’s marvellous to see how far things have come.

My music month started brilliantly with friends over for a birthday celebration, so out came the CDs and vinyl. I’ve got some great early NZ compilations on vinyl, being rather partial to Flying Nun bands and NZ punk. I was lucky enough to be given the book “From AK79 to The Class Of 81” as a prezzy, with great photos of the era by Andrew Phelps. What could be better? Maybe more music? Oh yeah, a gift voucher for Spellbound Wax, our very own local vinyl store. So I went in and got the classic Straitjacket Fits album Hail.

I asked some local musos for their thoughts on NZ Music Month and the local scene (follow the link to our website below for links to these band’s tracks and playlist links on Spotify):

Gana Goldsmith of UNI-FI thinks “the local music scene has really boosted in the last few years since Darryl took over Smash Palace and has live music every weekend. NZ Music Month for me is celebrating awesome kiwi musicians and their creative works but I reckon it should be celebrated all year around and not just for one month!”

SuperFly Killa started the month writing songs for their second EP. Kevin Pewhairangi gave us his local music recommendations: Tuari Brothers, Supreme Brother Sound, UNI-FI, Clown’s Kiss , Strobe & Kwick.

As an artist songwriter ErnieJ says that being involved in NZ Music Month makes him feel like he is contributing to a bigger kiwi vibe “Following Covid lockdown, Kiwi acts stepped up and demonstrated we have the talent. If local original music is given opportunity in front of an audience then chances are, we grow together”.

The man behind Spellbound Radio and The Spellbound Wax Company Deane Craw says he always tries to get anything from New Zealand on vinyl for the shop, “the local music scene has really ramped up after Covid, with more local bands touring, and commercial stations finally coming to the party”.

New Zealand music airplay on commercial stations was 21% in 2020. The industry began a voluntary Music Code back in 2002, when they played less than 10% local music. Their target was for commercial radio stations to play 20% New Zealand music. Not bad, but I reckon they can do better and follow in the footsteps of public, student and iwi radio stations, which are strong supporters of local content.

OK, I know, it’s getting a bit nippy out so you might not make it to all of the live shows. Luckily, there are a couple of other ways to hear our local talent. You may have heard local music playing at a cafe, restaurant, bar or shop lately. That’s because Lazy Fifty band manager Kerry Taggart put together a Gisborne Musicians Spotify playlist and got it out to local hospitality businesses.  You’ll know if they have the playlist from the poster displayed in their window. Your ears can feast on tracks from locals, including The Crumb Factory, The Karuthers Brothers and Tama Waipara.

Another playlist, heavy on music from Tairāwhiti and 100% NZ made is the NZ Music Scene playlist. You’ll hear locals UNI-FI, Superfly Killa, Sit Down in Front, amongst others.

I could go on forever and don’t claim to have covered the whole spectrum of local music. But if you’re keen to find a new favourite NZ band, Bandcamp is a great place to start if you’re keen to support local artists. Check out Bandcamp here.

Enjoy your NZ Music Month and keep an ear out for a new project brewing at Gizzy Local that’s all about shining a light on local music – Gizzy Local music. Coming soon!

By Leah McAneney

Photographs by John Flatt – Lightseeker Photography


Anthonie Tonnon is realising a long-held ambition in Te Tairāwhiti on November 1st. Not only is he bringing his Rail Land show to the region – with the help of Arts on Tour and InCahoots, he is inviting an audience to join him and travel by train from Gisborne Station to Te Whare Maumahara mo Ngā Hoea O Te Muriwai – the hall at Te Muriwai marae.

A journey of the mind, through song and story about New Zealand’s on-and-off again love affair with its passenger railway system, Tonnon has taken Rail Land around Aotearoa twice, and this year will take the show beyond the main centres to 21 towns.

In the show, Tonnon weaves his current, past and future songs together with new custom material written for Rail Land – synthesizer soundscapes with spoken word narratives on topics like the closure of the Blue Streak Railcar, the 90s revival of the Silver Fern Carriages, or how to take the great Capital Connection train from Palmerston North to Wellington – a train Tonnon calls ‘the last of its kind.’

But like the space-themed visual spectacle A Synthesized Universe, which Tonnon performed for Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival last year, Rail Land has an immersive element too. This time it’s in the form of a real, communal journey rather than a virtual one. Where possible, Rail Land aims to get the entire audience to an extraordinary venue by public transport rail. Where no such transport exists, the goal of Rail Land is to make it exist, if only for one day. 

The first place Tonnon achieved this was his hometown of Dunedin – a city where suburban trains ran until 1982. In 2018 and 2019, Tonnon chartered a Dunedin Railways train from Dunedin Station to a hall in the seaside settlement of Waitati.

‘The goal of Rail Land is to do something practical and joyous – while the story of rail in Aotearoa is often quite tragic, I didn’t want to just dwell on those tragedies, and I wanted to do something beyond just talking. I realised that if we could get enough people to go along with me, we could actually bring a train into existence in the present moment. Taking a train together with people in Dunedin to get to a show, something most of us haven’t done in our lifetime, was really euphoric – I think it expanded everyone’s sense of possibility.’

But chartering trains is no easy feat – fees to use the lines can be extraordinarily prohibitive, and rail operators outside the main centres have been under strain, even before Covid. This year, Dunedin Railways was mothballed during the first lockdown. Responding to the difficulties, Tonnon has expanded this year’s tour to include heritage buses and ferries in Dunedin, and is celebrating bus systems in towns like Queenstown which he says has shown the power of improving public transport, even if only on humble rubber wheels. 

Tonnon says that in the places where freight trains don’t run, like the Weka Pass Railway in Canterbury, there can actually be more possibility for passengers “Because Gisborne’s line is currently disconnected from the main system, and because I’d seen Gisborne City Vintage Railway was doing regular trips, I thought it might just be possible here.” When performing at Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival last year,  he asked In Cahoots’ Melody Craw if she thought she could help him pull it off. Nine months later, I got an email from her that said “here in Te Tairāwhiti everything is possible.” 

Tonnon says that while the show is just the second on this year’s Rail Land tour, it’s the most ambitious journey planned on the tour. ‘Melody’s right – perhaps anything is possible here.’

Sunday November 1, Te Tairāwhiti / Gisborne – Te Whare Maumahara mo Ngā Hoea O Te Muriwai, 3pm Get your tickets here

* Travel to Muriwai by Vintage Train and experience Rail Land in Te Whare Maumahara.Train leaves at 3pm and returns approx. 6.45pm