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. 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.... 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! 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. 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. “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. 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. “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””
Leave a Reply
| top |