ADEAZE / “Change Your Ways”

Y’all know my “hole in the earth” theory? That there is a hole and a tunnel that goes underground to wherever people of African descent are habitating, and all the diasporan musicians know about and have access to this sonic connection (if they choose to go deep into the music). Well, a corollary of this theory is that there is a tunnel branch that goes directly to various places from the USA, so that the diaspora has direct access to soul, jazz and hip-hop on a spiritual level. Over the last two years or so that I have been listening to music coming up out of New Zealand, I have become convinced that they must be doing a bit more than simply listening to us here in the States. New Zealand got it. In spades. Maori culture is a kissing cousin to us, must be, how else to explain how hip these folks sound. I’ve heard “soul” music from all over the world, and while there are obviously other talented individuals (Afro-German Joy Denalane chief among these talents), in New Zealand they got soul as a whole. It’s not just about one or two folk who been dipping in the Kool-Aid. No, this here covers the full range of Black popular music. So here is New Zealand part two of four. (Yeah, I’ve got two more installments to drop). I don’t claim to know a lot about the Kiwi music scene, but I do have ears and I’m just sharing some of the sounds that have moved me. adeaze 01.jpg First up is the featured group, Adeaze (Nainz & Viiz Tupa'I) a duo of brothers who merge contemporary R&B with contemporary gospel on top of Maori Samoan traditions. They started when they were four and five years old. Their harmonies are angelic and their commitment to upliftment is inspiring. You look at their picture and you see heavy-set, hard-working brothers the likes of whom can be found on construction sites all around the world. But their sound.... adeaze 02.jpg One reference I thought of was Rance Allen but smoother. It’s like if you took Fifties gospel quartets and updated their sound to the 21st century, then boiled down the personnel to a duo but kept the grand sweep of four-part harmony. That would be something like Adeaze. Chong-Nee on the other hand is a combination of Levert and Al Green. Speaking of whom, what Chong-Nee does with “You Got My Heart” is damn near criminal. He could release that one anywhere in the world and people would say, hell, yeah that cat is singing his ass off. Except the man is not named Otis or Al, not even Emilio or Lucky or something like that, no, this cat is named Chong-Nee! chung-nee 01.jpg If you saw him, you would swear you saw him up in the club last night or standing on the corner this morning. But he doesn’t sound like he’s imitating anybody. This seems to be his natural flow. Chong-Nee is the kind of singer makes you wonder if Black America is really as culturally unique as we like to think we are. Chong-Nee is also one of the leading producers on the New Zealand scene. He is responsible for a truckload of hits from a plethora of contemporary New Zealand artists. The tracks included here are from his debut 2005 release Just Getting By On Love. joe dukie 02.jpg Dallas Tamaira, aka “Joe Dukie,” the lead singer with Fat Freddy’s Drop, is the most popular of the current crop of New Zealand soul singers. This is the third time I sharing some of his music. (His work with Fat Freddy’s Drop and Recloose were the other two features.) What I like most about this guy is not his voice or even his style of singing. No, it’s his deepness that I dig most. joe dukie 01.jpg “Better Than Change” is the title cut from his debut EP. “We, Who Live In Darkness” is from a compilation Tuwhare which consists of poems set to music. The poet is Hone Tuwhare, one of the most revered modern Maori poets. On this cut Dallas not only composed the music, he played all the instruments and produced the track. It is a minor masterpiece. hollie smith 01.jpg We close with Hollie Smith who was also featured with Recloose. She ranks high on my list of New Zealand female vocalists—on the third installment I’ll get to my favorite, but for right now, let’s just appreciate this wisp of a woman with a voice as deep as the sea surrounding Aotearoa. hollie smith 04.jpg “Bathe In The River” is a single from a movie soundtrack. “Strength In You” and “First Time” are both from Hollie’s eponymous debut EP. One last observation—this is relatively new music. Most of these tracks are from debut solo releases and in the case of Dallas and Hollie, the debuts are not even full album length releases. Perhaps, that accounts for the strength and sincerity of these tracks. These folks are announcing themselves to the world. Perhaps this is their “Seventies,” their time when the whole society is in motion and making a beautiful noise as they step into their tomorrow, fighting forward with a determination and an optimism that is positively infectious. More to come, stay tuned… —Kalamu ya Salaam        Of two minds        I’m of two minds about most of this New Zealand music. On the one hand, as Kalamu mentions several times, all of these musicians are obviously very sincere, very positive, very heartfelt in their lyrics, their musical presentation… everything. And, I have to admit that I’m fascinated that music of this style is being produced on the other side of the planet. On the other hand, I get the feeling that they’re trying too hard sometimes. Like they got their style from a "How To Emote Like A Very Soulful R&B Singer" manual. I guess, in short, this is the kind of music that I feel like I should like more than I do. Now, Kalamu is talking about a lot more than one musician and I do hear the differences. I’d have to say Dallas ‘Joe Dukie’ Tamaira is (and probably by far) the best of the bunch. He clearly has a style of his own and sounds completely comfortable and at ease. I’m not crazy about the two tracks here, but I’ve definitely heard other stuff from him I like. Adeaze, on the other hand, I just can’t get into. To me, they’re verging way too close to a Boyz II Men / Star Search kind of sound. If there’s anything I just can’t get into musically, it’s a really clean, "overly honest" style. I’m not doubting their sincerity—I’m just not feeling it. I mean, I’m the type to fall asleep in church, so you know this ain’t gonna make it for me. (Unless it’s a screaming-and-hollering, old-ladies-falling-on-the-floor, Full Baptist Tabernacle type of thing, in which case, I’ll be wide awake and digging the music.) And (the song just changed) be honest, doesn’t "How Deep Is Your Love" sound like it’s custom-made for fourteen-year-old girls? I mean, nothing against fourteen-year-old girls, but…. Moving on. Hollie Smith I’m kind of feeling. In her case, it’s the instrumentation side of things that I’m not all that into. I think some nice remixes would get me in her camp. She has a very good voice—big and expressive with that slight raspy tone that almost makes me think of both the church and…well, let’s just stick with church. "First Time" is a pretty hip track. And I remember liking her song "Still Beyond Me" with Recloose. So I’m still on the fence with Hollie. Who else? Oh yes, Chong-Nee. Well, as I listen to "You Got My Heart" for the second time…aagghh…it’s OK, I guess. I hear what he was going for, but I’m not going there with him. Kalamu mentioned Al Green. I think Kalamu’s more right than he knows with that comparison; as for me, if I want to hear that ol’ churchified style of begging and pleading, I think I’ll stick with the Reverend himself. —Mtume ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 8th, 2006 at 1:35 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “ADEAZE / “Change Your Ways””

playpause Says:
October 8th, 2006 at 2:01 pm

Joe Dukie has the most incredible and outstanding voice I’ve heard in the past years, among the alive singers…

danny Says:
October 8th, 2006 at 5:12 pm

Nice to see you picking up on Aotearoa. My tastes also run a little more toward Mtume’s but there’s no doubt there’s some interesting stuff going on here, esp. in the hip-hop area, which I guess you’ll pick up on later. Just a quick cultural note, Adeaze come from a Samoan cultural background, rather than Maori. While all the Pacific peoples share common cultural traditions and even language bases, their histories in Aotearoa are distinct. Maori arrived between 9-1500 years ago to the islands that were at that stage uninhabited, they were later colonised by the Europeans. A large number of Samoans, Tongans and Fijians were brought in as unskilled labor during the 60s and 70s, and their presence became a political issue during the 1970s when "dawn raids" were instituted by the immigration service to have suspected "overstayers" deported. Auckland is now home to more Pacific Islanders than any other city, and while there are many crossovers among Pacific communities they also maintain distinct cultural traditions, and both the Maori and the Samoans would have beef with the mixup with Adeaze :). Maori and Pacific peoples have a long history of tuning into global black music – reggae was the most prominent early on, and today Aotearoa has a strong contribution back out into the circulation of the culture. It’s really nice to see you guys feeling it. A great resource to track some of this history in NZ is Mauri ora

          kalamu sez       

thanks a whole lot for sharing that info and correcting my mistake. and, yes, i do plan to feature some of the reggae sounds as well as the hip hop. as you can imagine, it is very difficult to be accurate from a long distance and also from outside the culture(s), hence my disclaimer: i’m just following my ears.

also, i tend toward encouraging growth and development so even though i share and agree with the technicalities of mtume’s critique, i also know we are dealing with a new development. many of the new zealand artists have obviously listened to and loved african american artists and in that regard they could partially be considered imitators, but i don’t think that’s a dynamic assesment. as i mentioned, all of these are debut releases from artists, and as such they are at an early stage in their careers working in styles that are new to them, given time and opportunity i believe new zealand will develop a distinctive musical culture. it has happened time and time again, three recent examples would be reggae, afrobeat and kwaito all three of which were heavily influenced, if not outright inspired, by african-american musical culture.

thanks again for providing info and corrections. more, and more to come…

vaityrell Says:
November 7th, 2006 at 9:14 pm

hi my name is vai,im adeaze sis in aussie,i wuld lke 2 say helo 2 my bros n his manager,keep up tha gud work of singing.if u want 2 wrte 2 me ,thz is my email adress, god bless al tke cre nw n keep smileing.

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