New Zealand is a country in the South Pacific, 1,300 miles southeast of Australia. It’s approximately the size of California, with two main islands, simply called “North Island” and “South Island.” They have a parliamentary government, their main languages are English and Maori, and the population currently is 4,125,327. And along with beef, wool and wood, New Zealand’s biggest export these days seems to be Katchafire, an eight-piece reggae band from Hamilton.
Together since 1997, Katchafire caught the flame of success in 2002 with a New Zealand Music Award for Biggest-Selling Single with “Giddy Up.” They released five more singles from their debut album, Revival, which sold triple-platinum. Their follow-up album, Slow-Burning (2004), has garnered a local fan base with the radio hits “Seriously” and “Who You With,” which is also being played as a video on the local music television channel, OC16.
Recently, I spoke with bass player Ara Adams-Tamatea and his cute accent, as he and his band mates were cruising through Oahu.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: So what are you all up to right now?
ARA ADAMS-TAMATEA: We’re at Likelike, is it?—it’s not a strip club [laughs]. We just had omelets, hash browns, steak…
Yeah, we played the Pro Bowl in Waikiki—it was our only show on Oahu but we’re looking forward to coming back later in the year. It’s our first time in Hawai’i, our first time in the states, our first time in the northern hemisphere!
Really? How exciting! What discoveries are you making?
Everything is just new to us. Driving on the right side of the road is new. Every day is new—it’s amazing being here. Two of our members had to stay behind because of last minute family matters. They’re hating us right now. We’ll all go back a little more tan and with more stories. Oh well, their loss!
Are there any similarities between Hawai’i and New Zealand?
The Hawaiian people come up to us all the time—we’re Maori—and we look like Hawaiians. We came off the Hawaiian Airlines and the stewardess said, “Welcome home.” There’s an obvious connection with the language, too. But your weather is warmer. Hamilton is in the middle of a gully and it’s very foggy.
I just read an interesting story about the creation of New Zealand that involved the demi-god Maui…
Yeah, Maui—the same guy in your legend is the same guy in the stories of our culture, and it’s like that in a lot of the Polynesian Islands. It’s another common link in the language, appearance and culture. Trippy, eh?
I also read that some of your favorite shows you’ve played have been at Sunsplash…
The Sunsplash is a reggae festival we have every year in New Zealand. This past year, we opened for Third World, which was awesome. The year before that it was The Wailers, who’ve been a huge influence on reggae and our music. It was like a dream come true, playing with our heroes.
Why do you think reggae is so popular here and where you’re from?
I guess reggae’s always been popular here in Hawai’i. But in New Zealand, it goes in phase, then it was out for a while and now it’s really popular. I think Polynesian people really connect with the style of rhythm—I don’t really think about why. We just accept and do the best we can. MTW