Aaradhna – Brown Girl

The new album from New Zealand’s young soul diva Aaradhna, Brown Girl, is another wonderful opportunity to acquaint yourself with the uniquely-flavoured sounds of the South Pacific.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl

Aaradhna – Brown Girl (2016)

Musically this album gives you a diverse fusion of flavours from smooth, smokin’ R&B to a hint of island skank and some cruisy country vibes. It’s simply the sound of Aaradhna; an expression of all her many influences from a Samoan/Indian ancestry – to an upbringing on the islands of Aotearoa New Zealand with its incredible natural and cultural landscape like no other in the world, and its many contemporary music artists fusing the sounds of soul/jazz/hip hop/reggae – whilst Aaradhna herself was listening to and taking note of the sublime music masters and mistresses of old.

Love and heartache are prominent lyrical themes on Brown Girl. Fundamentally so too are the experiences of prejudice, inequality and discrimination humans inflict upon each other for a range of crazy reasons, including the colour of one’s skin. Hopefully one day we’ll evolve to a place where artists like Aaradhna have no need to write lyrics like this. We should already be there. But for some reason completely incomprehensible to me we’re still so far away – with song lyrics like “Brown Girl” highly relevant the world over. Here you can read Aaradhna’s own words about the album and the meaning of its title track.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl letter

Aaradhna - Welcome To The Jungle

Leaving aside the album’s lyrical content, musical flavours and high class production by Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul RecordsBrown Girl is worth its weight in gold alone for the experience of feeling Aaradhna’s stunning voice hit you where you want it to over and over again. Each and every word she sings on this album is oozing with raw and honest emotion. Unfailingly I believe her, and empathise.

Check out two sample tracks from Brown Girl here. If you like what you hear you should of course gift yourself an uncompressed hard-copy of the album. That way you can also get to know and appreciate the names of the many talented musicians who helped Aaradhna in the studio to create this music.

Aaradhna - Brown Girl

Brown Girl (2016)

Aaradhna – “brown girl”


Aaradhna – “devil’s living in my shadow”


I can’t say from experience, yet, but I’m guessing Aaradhna is a vocalist most sublimely experienced live. Keep an eye out for an upcoming show near you.

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Fat Freddys Drop – Beyond Easy Skanking

Every album so far delivered by Fat Freddys Drop has brilliantly captured and showcased the unique blends of soul, jazz, funk, R&B, reggae and dub that New Zealand music is known and loved for. Those albums have also captured the spirit and sounds of the epic live Fat Freddys Drop journeys – from which the group built their grass-roots following and ultimate success, way back since their beginnings in the late 90s.

Fat Freddys Drop live in Brisbane - Blackbird Tour 2013

Fat Freddys Drop live at the Tivoli, Australia

In many ways the new album Bays repeats that Fat Freddys history, in others not.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays (2015)

Bays (2015)

More so than ever before, Bays captures Fat Freddys Drop creating music in the studio rather than in the live arena. Like always, studio-style includes recording equipment and techniques at their most superior (analogue of course), pressed to sweet vinyl. The gentle, soulful voice of Dallas Tamaira is the only one you’ll find on this FFD album, consistently soothing you throughout. The subtle, perfectly-placed horn lines of Toby Laing, Joe Lindsay and Scott Towers are still present. So too are the living guitar and keyboard sounds of Tehimana Kerr and Iain Gordon.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays

And yes Bays definitely delivers familiar doses of soul, funk, R&B and feel-good, easy skanking within its ten tracks. But this time around you’ll get a heavier-than-ever-before dose of techno rhythms in the mix. For some people those sounds will be welcome, for others they might bring discomfort. Either way, Fat Freddys Drop remain as true as always to the expression of their own evolution, independent of and unconstrained by the expectations of a label or others.

Love Bays or not. Take it or leave it. Whatever you do, at least try it.

I tried and took – ie. went to my local record store and bought it for my Forever-After Collection. And super-surprisingly, it was the epic techno-heavy journey of track 8 on Bays (“Cortina Motors”) that finally convinced me to do so. Producer and MPC genius Chris “Mu” Faiumu (who donated the base track) and the rest of Fat Freddys Drop have here achieved the unthinkable for me: made the experience of listening to techno rhythms an enjoyable and body-moving one.

Fat Freddys Drop concert - WOMADelaide 2014

Mu with Fat Freddys Drop live at WOMADelaide 2014

The killer groove of the album’s ninth and final track “Novak”, cemented my decision without doubt that I’d be a lot poorer if I didn’t have Bays in my music collection.

Check out these (mp3 only) samples of those two all-convincing tracks.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays

Fat Freddys Drop – “Cortina Motors” – Bays
Fat Freddys Drop – “Novak” – Bays

Buy the whole of Bays direct from Fat Freddys Drop  here.

And be sure to find the live experience where you can. That’s generally where the most Fat Freddys Drop magic happens. Peeps around the world get their chance soon with upcoming tours happening in Aotearoa / New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. and Europe.

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Future-Soul Artist Wallace Releases ‘Vinyl Skip’

New Zealand Music Month has just begun. About the same time last week Beaver was praising the unique sounds of music coming out of Aotearoa (New Zealand) in recent decades – a promising, young New Zealand-born “future soul” artist named Wallace was digitally-releasing her debut single Vinyl Skip.

Wallace Gollan - Vinyl Skip

Wallace Gollan is a jazz-trained singer/songwriter who cites NGAIIRE, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Hiatus Kaiyote and Little Dragon amongst her influences. So then, what we know about this artist already is that her musical roots are grounded in goodness.

Next we can conjure up beautiful imagery from this Vinyl Skip story Wallace shares:

“Vinyl Skip came about after I misheard a rap by Common. He’s talking about life and says “let’s spend it slow forever”. I thought he’d said “Let’s spin it slow forever” and got this image of two people dancing to a record spinning too slow but not caring cause it meant they could dance for longer and get lost in the moment.”

Wallace Gollan

Photo by Matthew Predny


Hear the sounds of Vinyl Skip


And wait patiently for the release of Wallace’s forthcoming EP to better get to know the sounds of this emerging female artist (for now you can only buy the digital single).

Until then, look out for the chance to experience hearing Wallace’s stunning voice live. She’s now Sydney-based so folks in Australia are more likely to get theirs sooner than the rest of the world.

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Myele Manzanza: New Zealand Music Aesthetics

Except for the reformation of Trinity Roots and what a handful of other New Zealand music artists like Myele Manzanza, Fat Freddys Drop, Electric Wire Hustle and Ladi 6 are up to, these days I’m more out of touch with New Zealand’s music scene than I used to be.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots: Citizen Tour 2015

The Sound

When I was on the pulse during the past decade and more, I always thought Aotearoa (New Zealand) was a musical gem undiscovered (to their loss) by most of the world beyond Australia.

For small South Pacific islands distant from so much of the world, there seemed to be a disproportionately high number of New Zealand music artists blending flavours of soul, jazz, reggae and beats to create chilled, spacious, smooth, feel-right music with an inexplicably distinctive (and unique) New Zealand sound. I couldn’t work it out except to guess that its stunningly dominant natural environment played some part.

Myele Manzanza on The Sounds

During my recent interview with “afro-elastic soul” artist Myele Manzanza, I asked him about that sound; and to share any home-grown insights into the evolution of New Zealand music throughout his lifetime – which included years of drumming and composing with Electric Wire Hustle and working on numerous solo and collaborative projects with fellow New Zealand (and international) artists.  

Check out Myele’s response with sample sounds from some of the players in that musical evolution…

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Myele Manzanza: .


“New Zealand music out to a wider world audience”

“I think as far as the era of New Zealand music you’re referring to, in order for that to happen, I guess the thing that really broke down the door was Fat Freddys Drop – as far as getting New Zealand music out to a wider world audience. I have to take my hat off to them because of what they did and the level they did it at. I don’t think anyone of that era has gotten to the level of where Fat Freddys Drop got to.


“a new vanguard”

You could maybe throw in Lorde, who’s stupendously big. She’s of a new vanguard/league/generation. Her success is incredible. There must be some element of influence of what’s happened in New Zealand music over the past 10 years on what Lorde does, but I don’t really bring her into this era of New Zealand music that you’re referring to. Even though it’s beats and soul, its a different thing.

“that sound”

As far as to how Ladi 6, Electric Wire Hustle or Fat Freddys Drop got here and got to that sound…when I was 14 or 15, Trinity Roots and The Black Seeds were coming to prominence (Trinity Roots reached their peak and then disbanded for some time). The Black Seeds and Fat Freddys Drop were still on their scent, but were in the community so I kind of grew up around that sound.

It might also trace back to Che Fu – he had a very big impact.


Trinity Roots- ‘Egos’ – Home, Land and Sea (2004)


Fat Freddys Drop- ‘Roady (feat. Ladi 6 & P Digsss)’ – Based On A True Story (2005)


Ladi 6- ‘Walk Right Up’ – Time Is Not Much (2008)


Che Fu- ‘Fade-Away’ – Navigator (2002)



“Once Bob Marley hit…”

There’s obviously a very big reggae thing in New Zealand.

Once Bob Marley hit, and I think he performed in New Zealand in the early 80‘s [1979], that was a big cultural turning point; a. because his influence was so big anyway, but; b. when he came and performed he really got to know the local culture. I think there was a connection for him too because Waitangi Day (the day a treaty of agreement was signed between Maoris and the colonial population) is on 6 February which also happened to be Bob Marley’s birthday.

For whatever reason, and particular Maori and Pacific Island culture in New Zealand, people were very much drawn to Bob Marley, his message and his sound.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Natural Mystic Vinyl - Tuff Gong Studios, Jamaica

Maybe there’s an ‘island thing’ too where the geography relates to the style. There’s something that can be related there and got taken up. There’s a reggae thing that’s been happening in New Zealand music for decades now. Trinity Roots and Fat Freddys Drop came out of that but they also had their jazz, soul, electro, dub and techno influences.

“the J Dilla-thing in New Zealand music”

It might be fair to say that whilst Electric Wire Hustle had those same influences, [we] were maybe the first to champion the J Dilla-thing in New Zealand music; that rhythmic aesthetic; that sound and style of contemporary left-field hip-hop/soul instrumentals. We latched onto that, and it might have given us a point of difference. Ladi 6 was in there as well. So were a number of other artists. Isaac Aesili –  part of a group now called Sorceress (previously called Funkommunity) was very much in that scene.

It’s interesting thinking about that timeline and the history of that – and will be interesting to see what happens next.


Electric Wire Hustle- ‘This World (Feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow)’ – Electric Wire Hustle (2009)


“what happens next”

Obviously Lorde is the now. It’s undeniable that whatever will come after Lorde in mainstream New Zealand music will be largely influenced by her.

But for me I think my next step is maybe taking those influences but maybe going further into the jazz thing. By “jazz” I mean improvised music that’s fluid and can move and shift as performed in the moment in real time, as opposed to pre-programmed drum machine stuff.


Myele Manzanza- ‘Elvin’s Brew’ – One (2013)


Even though that’s very much a big part of what I do, what I think I’ll be working on over the next few years of my life will be a synthesis of that – finding my line between the programmed electronic-thing and the improvised jazz/soul, real person, real time-thing and trying to make that my sound.

As far as where the rest of New Zealand music is headed, only time will tell.”


More of The Sound

Start here if you want to check out more sounds and images of Myele Manzanza, The Eclectic and other Aotearoa New Zealand artists:

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic (including father Sam Manzanza and Aotearoan soul divas Rachel Fraser & Lisa Tomlins) performing live at WOMADelaide 2015 last month…


…or click the artist’s name for more live videos, photos and sample tracks by Myele Manzanza, Trinity Roots, Fat Freddys Drop and Electric Wire Hustle.


…and stay tuned, because there’ll always be more New Zealand music artists added to Beaver’s world.

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Myele Manzanza & The Goodness of Music

Music is one of the best medicines in the world. Agreed? It bring invaluable moments of euphoric goodness that at times can be hard to find in these lives of ours. True?

Like all of us New Zealand artist Myele Manzanza has a lifetime of positive musical experiences that are a part of his cellular memory. He’s been blessed with an entire life (albeit 27-years-short) surrounded by music and musicians, starting from his upbringing around his performing artist father Sam Manzanza – through to 6 years of Electric Wire Hustle gigs around the world – to his time in Red Bull Music Academy – to the production of his debut solo album One – to touring with Theo Parrish – and all the many musical collaborations and gigs in between.

Amongst the plethora of musical stories Myele Manzanza must have, I asked him in our recent interview to share one profoundly-affecting moment or experience which affirmed the fundamental goodness of music in his own life or in the lives of others.

Check out Myele Manzanza’s answer below.

Myele Manzanza

Myele Manzanza…

“There’s been loads of them – more than I can count. But the first thing that came to my head when you asked that was this:

There’s this pianist from New Zealand, a relatively nomadic character who travels a lot and does lots of interesting things. His name is Jonathan Crayford. He’s like the ‘musician’s musician’. Even though he’s never been as famous as lots of other New Zealand musicians, he was always the one everyone in the Wellington music scene knew “he’s the best”. Anyone would probably tell you that as far as pure musicianship goes, Jonathan Crayford is the best thing that came out of New Zealand, maybe ever.

Jonathan Crayford

Jonathan Crayford. Photo by Christopher Mavrič

When I was 19, I was very fortunate in being able to play with Jonathan. I was at music school at the time and we connected and started doing these duo gigs. Jonathan would play rhodes and bass synths and I would play drums, and we would just play. He would kind of improvise compositions as he went. His whole thought process is on an alien level, and his ability to create amazing compositions and improvisation is mind-blowing.

There was this one moment and we were doing a gig with no more than ten people in the room. As the piece went on, if memory serves me it might have been an A-suspended-fourth chord in the right hand and some ascending bass line in the left hand; but the way that he did it, was that the chord stayed there and every four bars or so the bass line kept ascending and ascending in relation to where the chord was. For some reason, the way Jonathan hit it and the way I happened to catch it was like this strange euphoric moment where everything made sense and I felt totally connected to what I was doing.

For maybe two minutes there was nothing that got in the way of this feeling of euphoria.

It was like the film called Limitless where Bradley Cooper’s character takes some magic pill that totally heightened his brain and sensory awareness to where he’s infinitely smarter and can more or less do anything. It kind of felt like that – this in-tune moment – which was just generated from some simple chord and bass line combination, but was something which opened me up to the mysteries of the world and the great profound effect that music can have. It was like a real, direct experience of that.

Even though it was only performing to ten people, it was one of the greatest moments of my life.”


Catch Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic plus about 50 other global music and dance artists performing live at WOMADelaide 2015 next weekend; and at WOMAD New Zealand the week after. I’m quite sure there will be plenty of those magical, so-so-good-for-us musical moments to be had at the festival.


Read the rest of my interview with Myele Manzanza and hear sample tracks from his debut solo album One here.

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