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New Zealand Music Month 2024 Showcase: Tiki Taane

Posted by Lee Densem

One Man Brand

We're reaching the home stretch for New Zealand Music Month so here's our next showcase. This year we're talking to a series of artists from the underground all the way up to icon staus. And we hit that level this week with a man who really just needs the one name. He's got his own solar powered recording studio in the Bay of Plenty, and he played a joyful, sweat-inducing set at our latest Friday Night Bites event earlier this month. Here's the korero with Tiki.

RBF: Good to see you again my friend! So a few weeks back you dropped a new track?

Tiki: Yeah, ‘Wadda Day’, my first Amapiano song, which is a style of music that was invented and pioneered in South Africa. WOMAD was celebrating 40 years, and they decided to do a WOMAD South Africa, which they've never done before. The New Zealand High Commissioner over there suggested that they bring me over, which I said, “absolutely”. So I went over there, for a couple of weeks, did a bunch of shows, went all around to some amazing parts of South Africa, and worked with these local producers TTO, TTZ, and Azar and we made this Amapiano song.

RBF: I’ve heard of Amapiano before, but don’t really know what it’s about. Can you explain it a bit?

Tiki: So Amapiano is like 113 BPM's and it's kind of like slowed down house. It's just the way that they produce things over there, and the way that they dance and the culture and just everything about it is such a unique style. They're so proud of the style of music.

Lots of cultures, like if you look at like Jamaica and there’s reggae and dub, the UK sound which is jungle/drum and bass. South Africa has gone, “this is our sound – Amapiano”. And so it was really cool to do that. And yeah, it was my first release, which is out now.

"you could either do it half-ass or you go big"

RBF: And you've also had your documentary Tiki Taane In Session With The CSO which was released a year or so ago and has been doing the rounds of film festivals. When did you actually record it?

Tiki: Yeah. It was 2021, so three years ago. It was with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and it was an amazing gig and I decided, right, I'm gonna film this. It's a great opportunity because it's one-off gig. I was like, well, you could either do it half-ass or you go big. And I just went let’s throw 20 cameras at this thing.

My good friend Mark Russell pulled together all these amazing cameras and set this whole thing up. And then I brought in proper recording, so we did like 98 stems of recording and just went for it. We only had two rehearsals and then the gigs. So it was kind of like this, you know, if this doesn't work, then “oopsie!” But the cool thing is it worked.

“It was a big labour of love and I'm so stoked with it"

RBF: So you record it, but I’m assuming the post production process too a while?

Tiki: Yeah, after that I spent a year mixing it and bouncing my mixes back and forth to Mark as he cut the videos together. The game plan was instead of releasing it online, was to enter it into film festivals. So I did a year of that and it was incredible man. Just seeing it in cinemas, and take off at festivals around the world. And it's won 38 awards so far, so crazy, bro.

The idea was to do that first and then from that leverage some licencing deal with a platform. So TVNZ was super keen and boom here we are now. It's on TVNZ+ for a year, we launched it this month and then also I can still shop around to other territories as well, which I'm trying to do at the moment.

I've done Shapeshifter shows with orchestras, and also some been doing some stuff for Synthony, so it's been really cool to mash that up. But to make an actual documentary and really spend a year on it or even more to get it just right. It was a big labour of love. And I'm so stoked with it. Just super proud of it.

"Some of the instruments are hundreds of years old"

RBF: Would you do it again?!

Tiki: Well, yes. Absolutely. There's been offers! Whenever I do things, I always set goals. So the ultimate goal would be that I get to do the whole show again, but with the New York Orchestra or Berlin Philharmonic or at the Sydney Opera House. So that's the ultimate goal. To do it again around the world and tour it.

RBF: Could you do it at a festival?

Tiki: It's a lot of production. When you're dealing with an orchestra it’s pretty intense, obviously. Some of the instruments are hundreds of years old and they can't be playing out in in cold festivals when it's raining and muddy. You just couldn’t do that with these beautiful $100,000 instruments that get passed down from player to player to player. So that's just one of the issues. It's just the magnitude of having fifty people on stage, plus everyone that works with the crew, everything like that. So short answer is no. That's why I do the one-man band show, keeps the overheads down!

“I'm 47 years old, man, I get excited”

RBF: All that aside, you must still be super busy with your studio?

Tiki: Yeah, productive as with the solar power in Papamoa. Yeah, it's rad. My studio at the moment is just cranking out so much stuff. And it's only one of me. So every day I'm in there banging out stuff. I'm booked ten/twelve months ahead. And the hardest part is that people come to me and go, “can you produce this?” And I listen and I have to give honest feedback and go, “it's great, but I'm not the producer for you. Maybe try this guy.”

I've gotta love what I hear because I'm gonna hear it thousands of times, and really get inside the mix and the sonics of it. I'm so stoked at the moment that everything coming in my studio is like that. This morning, I woke up at 5am going, “I wanna get in the studio. I wanna get in the studio.” Like, that's how excited I am. I'm 47 years old, man, I get excited. This song I'm mixing at the moment and this album I'm mixing. I want to go in there and do these changes. Yeah, I just love it so much.

"what about a marae?"

RBF: Outside of that there’s been some cool stuff too. Last year there was a thing with Dillastrate down in Christchurch that you produced?

Tiki: Oh yeah, at the marae. Yeah, that was rad. They came to me with this idea of doing a song – te reo Māori and drum n bass. And I was like, “why don't you kill two birds with one stone and set it up in the in a really awesome environment and film it at the same time. Then you've got the music video plus the single.” And the guys came back with like, what about a marae? I was like, “yeah, let's do it!” So we went to Ngā Hau e Whā and it was amazing.

RBF: And you’d probably know that well from your Christchurch days?

Tiki: Yeah, for sure. I used to knock around there as a little kid. A little shit!

"It's powerful, it's raw and you're gonna feel some stuff"

RBF: And what else have you got coming up?

Tiki: Man there’s so much stuff. So this film that I made music for with a fellow musician called Arli Liberman, he's amazing. We did this musical score for this film that's coming out called Ka Whawhai Tonu – Struggle Without End. and it's set in 1864 and it's hitting cinemas in New Zealand and Australia on June the 27th. Go check that. It's a big film. It's powerful, it's raw and you're gonna feel some stuff from watching that film.

I'm also I'm on the road until the end of May with this show called Mai Te Uira which is a visual audio experience. I'm making music up on the spot to these visuals that have been designed and made by an artist called Kereama Teapa. Imagine if there were gods in the digital realm. Essentially that's what's happening now with AI. We're pretty much creating superpowers, super beings, super Gods. We're approaching it from a Te Ao Māori lens and go what if there were gods in the digital realm? How does that fit into our space now with us as creative people making music?

So I'm going on the road with that thanks to Chamber Music New Zealand and the Dowse Art Museum. They wanted to make a show that could be fit into a trailer. So I'm gonna drive it around to and go to places like Te Puke, Napier, Gisborne, and Whangarei and go to these places where people don't necessarily get this kind of thing, because it’s more big city stuff.

The cool thing is I'm doing two shows a day. I'm doing one for school kids, which have all sold out. And then one at night for adults. It's only 45 minutes long but it's really cool. People can come and sit and be immersed in this visual audio experience. I’m there creating music on the spot to go with these visuals. Every time it will be slightly different depending on how I'm feeling and the vibe of the room.

Tiki Taane's latest track 'Wadda Day' is out now. You can find his documentary on TVNZ+ (New Zealand only) and get the full Tikidub experience on his website.