02 January 2004 (NZ Time)

News Menu Button Kiwis hit stride in great year for music



New Zealand musicians broke records aplenty in a vintage year.

From the record-breaking rhymes of rapper Scribe to the soaring international career of teen soprano Hayley Westenra, New Zealand music from all genres and from throughout the country was seen riding high on the charts.

How many years has the New Zealand music scene been this exciting, vibrant and successful?

Not many, if ever.

From the record- breaking rhymes of rapper Scribe to the soaring international career of teen soprano Hayley Westenra, New Zealand music from all genres and from throughout the country was seen riding high on the charts – not just at home but also abroad.

All told, 11 of the top 50 selling records in New Zealand last year were home-grown.

A local album that achieved platinum status last year – Bic Runga's Beautiful Collision – was the biggest-selling album in New Zealand.

Joining her in sales success were Auckland hip hop group Nesian Mystik (4), Westenra (11), Auckland nu metallers Blindspott (13), Auckland pop rockers Elemenop (14), Raglan reggae group Katchafire (23), Christchurch dance-dub collective Salmonella Dub (32), ethereal Auckland group Goldenhorse (33), transplanted Wellington rockers Pacifier (40), Scribe (42) and True Bliss refugee Carly Binding (44).

Proof a top single often leads to a top album, Kiwi artists enjoyed similar joy on the singles charts.

Scribe's mighty double A side Stand Up/Not Many – a song which dominated the charts for the last half of the year and spent a record 10 weeks at No. 1 – topped the singles charts, in which Goldenhorse (13), Blindspott (14), Nesian Mystik (33), Bic Runga (36), Elemenop (44) and Binding (48) also featured.

They were joined by up and comers such as Wellington songstress Brooke Fraser (10) and Auckland rapper Mareko (41), and wily veterans 3 The Hard Way (47).

Further afield, Westenra was enjoying unprecedented success in the British charts.

A three-album veteran of the New Zealand music scene, the 16-year-old made her British debut last year and saw Pure come in at No. 8 on British pop charts and No. 1 on the classical charts.

By year's end Pure had sold more than 700,000 copies, making it the biggest-selling classical debut album of all time.

While Westenra's achievements stood head and shoulders over the country's pop acts, several local artists made good on the world stage.

Cambridge band The Datsuns continued to wow audiences around the world, and rock fans would have been delighted to hear former Led Zeppelin member John Paul Jones has been lined up to produce the Datsuns' much- anticipated second album.

It was a big year for New Zealand's London-based jazz-dance contingent with both Mark de Clive-Lowe and Nathan Haines releasing albums.

A musical care package was sent over during the year, with Kiwi electronica acts performing an acclaimed showcase gig in London, and kindred spirits Fat Freddy's Drop wowed audiences across Europe.

New Zealand musicians also made an impact in the United States. The perpetually touring Datsuns were on the road there, but several other bands opted for one-off showcases.

Artists including Pine, the now US-based Greg Johnson and King Kapisi entertained New Yorkers, while a whole raft of Kiwi bands headed to Austin, Texas, for the South By Southwest festival ... which will host a similarly heavyweight contingent from Down Under next year.

Closer to home, Melbourne's community of former Wellington musicians had a productive year. Pacifier, fresh from a monster US tour, completed a triumphant New Zealand tour and left behind an electrifying live album as a souvenir.

Tour mates Fur Patrol also released their much- awaited follow-up to acclaimed debut album Pet.

Locally, it was a big welcome back to action for the Feelers, Zed, Sola Rosa and King Kapisi, all of whom released albums this year.

A notable feature of the year's charts was the number of independent New Zealand releases that managed to make their way into the charts.

When bands as diverse as 8 Foot Sativa, Concord Dawn, Minuit, Phoenix Foundation and Pan Am can all make it into the top 50, it shows an incredibly high level of interest in home- grown sounds.

Overall, it was Scribe's year.

The softly spoken Christchurch rapper chose a fiercely patriotic cut as his debut single. Backed with a driving beat courtesy of producer P Money, Scribe's Stand Up is a logical choice as single of the year.

"This CD is all I've ever wanted. This is my music, here it is, it's what I do," he said in October, revealing the determination that saw him make a name for himself in a town without a hip hop scene, and soon after become a household name. How Scribe is welcomed by international audiences will be interesting to see.

Selecting an album of the year will be a challenge for this year's music awards judges. In fact, sorting out a list of nominees from a stellar year of local music will be hard enough.

Phoenix Foundation's Horsepower was a beautifully beguiling pop record, with enough artistry and avante gardeness to make it a continually rewarding listen.

Salmonella Dub's One Drop East was another example of the band's standard-setting excellence in the field of dub and dance, but the best local dance release was Concord Dawn's Up Rising, a record which took drum 'n bass out of the underground and into the top 10.

Pacifier have always been regarded as one of New Zealand's top live bands and once more they delivered on that promise with the year's best tour.

Support bands Two Lane Blacktop and Fur Patrol made for an excellent package, and if you missed out on a great show you can now buy the double live CD and hear it in retrospect.


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