VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Kiwi Soul Covers Mixtape”

MP3 03 Kiwi Soul covers Mixtape.mp3 (43.26 MB)

So by now the Soul scene in New Zealand is no longer a surprise to BoL folk. But let’s peek at another wrinkle in this niche. Here we have three artists: Aaradhna, Ruia & Ranea, and Whirimako Black covering Soul, Reggae and Jazz classics respectively. You’ll recognize all of the music and some of the lyrics, but some of it will throw you for a “hey, wait a minute, that’s…”

The music speaks eloquently for itself. I’ll not linger, throwing out loquacious filler just to prove I can write a lot concerning matters about which I only know a little. I’ll limit my views to a thumbnail assessment and a nub of a bio.

Except for Ruia & Ranea, in the playlist I provided links to acquire the albums from which these tunes are selected. The Maori twins, Ruia & Ranea’s reggae album seems to have disappeared from the planet. Contacts with mail order retailers in New Zealand have come up zilch. I copied the tracks from a radio program that was partially mislabeled that I found on the internet (actually more like ‘stumbled over the tracks’ while I was looking for something else and recognizing what they were, immediately hijacked them).

So one third of what you are receiving is genuine “piracy” (to use a term current in the media, Spring ’09). Hope you enjoy this music from across the high seas.

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Aaradhna is a vocalist whose major calling is Soul music. "I grew up with a Samoan mother and an Indian father. I also discovered my own inspirations from artists like the Temptations, Mary J. Blige, Sam Cooke, Lauren Hill and SWV.”

She has two albums and a slew of singles, all of which did well in New Zealand. Aaradhna currently lives in Los Angeles.

“At the mo mo im trying to work on new things,writing more meaningful music, trying to connect with people that fully have faith in what i do and can get shit done..been procrastinating for awhile now since 2007 aka been bit lazy or just tired of the bull ya know lol.. but in all still havent given up yet, i've thought about just throwing in the towel and just becoming a house wife haha but dont wanna let my people down do i!!!.. gonna keep making music. please be patient. Im still coming out. Aaradhna is not a quitter! And yes i cut my hair cos my long hair was a pain in thy arse..short hair = less maintenance woohoo!!!”
Two quick notes. On “Let’s Get It On” check her self-discipline of her vibrato, keeping it soft and under control, not over-singing in a misguided attempt to prove she got soul. Second is the beautiful and tricky arrangement of “Real Thing,” which is a duet with Adeaze.

Aaradhna recorded her first single in collaboration with the established soul duo of Adeaze on their debut album and it proved to be a big, big hit in New Zealand. “Real Thing” is a follow up from Aaradhna's second album—they really need to go on and do an album together.

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Back around 2000 Hareruia “Ruia” Aperahama and his twin brother, Ranea, put out a limited release tribute album, Waiata of Bob Marley. A second Bob Marley tribute album featuring Ruia followed. Subsequently both albums have disappeared from commercial distribution. The four tracks on this mixtape are taken from the first release.

Ruia has won numerous awards including the 2008 Tuis award for Best Maori Album presented for Ruia’s album 12:24 Tekau Ma Rua, Rua Tekau Ma Wha. Ruia also won two Waiata Maori Awards for Best Maori Pop Artist and for Best Maori Songwriter. In addition to his strong vocal work, Ruia is a proficient, multi-instumentalist (saxophone, keyboards, guitar) as well as an expert songwriter in both Maori and English.

Covering Bob Marley is dangerous and difficult—you’re always going to be compared to the original. The Waiata tribute works on two different levels. First off, it’s recorded in an old style as though it was Studio One in Jamaica—listen to that drum sound they get. Second, and more important, Ruia leans into the songs without shouting or hollering. He even sounds like he could have written a couple of them. The sound is especially uncanny because of the language switch—how can versions so foreign sound so right?
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We’ve written about Whirimako Black on BoL (here and here). The cuts included here are from a project that consisted of two different albums produced at one recording session. One album was mainly in English and the other was in Maori. The repertoire was essentially the same except for one cut on both albums.
More often than not I preferred when she sang in Maori but then there are moments, like on “I Loves Porgy” when Whirimako enters higher realms. What I particularly appreciate is that Whirimako’s interpretation makes clear that the song is Bess’ self-critique of her own weaknesses. This is a song of desperation and Whirimako’s version subtly puts an exclamation point on the emotional depths of despair.

All of these albums have an organic quality that grows from recording with strong vocals and acoustic instruments at the same time. Even Aaradhna's release, which has modern production, has an organic feel. It’s not just the singing. All of the musicians were on the case, expertly doing their thing, e.g. that baritone saxophone on Aaradhna’s “Heatwave” or the lead guitar on Whirimako’s “Since I Fell For You,” and tenor saxophone on "Sophisticated Lady," and don’t get me started on the bass lines on Ruia and Ranea’s Marley covers.

All three sing as though this is not only “their” music but also is an authentic way of culturally inhabiting the space the music creates, the space of rising above social restrictions and historic injustice. Undoubtedly their historic struggles with colonial conditions provide a fitting point of reference that informs their music as a means of both cultural assertion and social resistance. At its core, Black music has always been about seeking an alternative to the mainstream even as today increasingly the mainstream and black music are merging.

I do not mean to suggest that these songs are representative of all the music of New Zealand, there is a whole lot more going on, even within the context of what we generally identify as black music. On the other hand, Aaradhna, Ruia and Ranea, and Whirimako Black do offer us a beautiful example of the worldwide significance of black music as a vehicle for authentic self expression.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

Kiwi Soul Covers Mixtape Playlist

From Sweet Soul Music by Aaradhna
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01 “Let's Get It On”
02 “Heatwave”
03 “Let's Stay Together”
04 “Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing”

From Waiata of Bob Marley by Ruia & Ranea
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05 “Nel Te Aroha (Is This Love)”
06 “Arohaina Ra Koe (Could You Be Loved)”
07 “Kaati E Hine to Tangi (No Woman No Cry)”
08 “Matika, Maranga (Get Up, Stand Up)”

From Whirimako Black Sings by Whirimako Black 

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09 “Since I Fell For You / Hinga Noa Mo Koe”
10 “Sophisticated Lady / Wahine Toitu”
11 “Round Midnight / Te Po Rua”
12 “I Loves Porgy / Arohakau”

This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2009 at 2:33 am and is filed under Cover. 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.

One Response to “VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Kiwi Soul Covers Mixtape””

Ynah Says:
March 22nd, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Aaradhna is my favorite singer because she represent who i am and what i am which is a True Samoan Blood…

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