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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Trinity Roots: Citizen Tour Australia 2015

Direct from playing in their homeland of Aotearoa to a crowd of many thousands of loyal fans at WOMAD New Zealand, Trinity Roots have finally blessed Australia with their first-ever Australian tour.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live at Miami Marketta, Australia 2015

The very special bonus prize for people at all those shows was the chance to hear live and take home the long-awaited, fresh-off-the-press new album Citizen: the first studio album released by Trinity Roots in over a decade.

Trinity Roots - new album Citizen - 2015

Citizen (2015)


For people in Australia in the musical know, both the Trinity Roots tour and the arrival of new Trinity Roots music was a big deal.  They count this group of artists amongst la creme de la creme of contemporary worldwide music-makers of recent history. Most Australian fans never had the opportunity to hear Trinity Roots play their beloved music live before the group disbanded and went their separate musical ways in 2005.

Since the welcome news of a Trinity Roots reunion a few years back and the making of a new album, folks in Australia (and elsewhere) had been waiting patiently with anticipation and excitement for the release of Citizen and the live tour that would follow.

It’s not surprising then that the excitement in Australian venues before Trinity Roots started playing was palpable. So too was the joyful satisfaction of the crowd during their set and long after it finished.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live at Brunswick Hotel, Australia 2015


Trinity Roots + 1 Live

Trinity Roots in 2015 are original members Warren Maxwell (guitar/lead vocals) and Rio Hunuki-Hemopo (bass/vocals) plus new drummer/vocalist Ben Wood.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Warren Maxwell

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Rio Hunuki-Hemopo

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Ben Wood






Joining the trio on their Citizen tour was the talented Ed Zuccollo on keys and synth – also the maker of mini-moog sounds on some of the studio album tracks.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live at Miami Marketta 2015

Trinity Roots’ live performances went above and beyond the crowd’s high expectations. Set lists were a balanced mix of long-beloved songs from past releases (‘Sense And Cents’‘Little Things’ – ‘Egos’‘Two by Two’‘Home, Land & Sea’‘Just Like You’…) and newly-beloved ones from Citizen (‘Bully’‘Haiku’ ‘El Kaptain’…).

Pick your musical flavours: blues – soul – punk – rock – jazz – reggae or dub. You’ll find all of them throughout Trinity Roots songs of old and especially the new – blended together seamlessly into a distinctive Trinity Roots sound that is perfectly reflective of the beautiful culture and natural environment of Aotearoa –  and is totally unique in this huge, wide world of music.

Those songs are played and sung with exceptional skill and musicality and an honest, passionate outpouring of heart and soul. The angelic voice and one-of-a-kind vocal tone of lead singer Warren Maxwell and the three-part harmonies of he, Rio Hunuki-Hemopo and Ben Wood are nothing but a delight to hear live.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015What else is there to say? All in all and simply put, the live Trinity Roots experience is absolutely sublime.

Check out video footage here from the shows in Brisbane and Miami – and try to imagine how much better it sounded live and direct in person (and in different venues with varying sound quality).  The first one ‘Haiku’, with its unusual time signature, is a new one from Citizen – with ‘Sense And Cents’‘Little Things’ and ‘Egos’ from earlier Trinity Roots releases.


Karl S. Williams

Another bonus of catching an Australian Trinity Roots show was discovering the songs and vocals of Gold Coast-based support artist Karl S. Williams. Apparently (says my friend who insisted we get to the gig on time to catch his set) “deservedly, he’s going to be huge”. If you didn’t get there early enough to hear Karl S. Williams play you have another chance next week at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Karl S. Williams live at The Zoo, Brisbane 2015

Karl S. Williams live at The Zoo, Brisbane 2015



All of the above comments and praise about the live Trinity Roots experience apply to the new album Citizen.

Those live experiences are ones we had and loved – and hopefully will have again many more times. The studio version of Citizen is one we can have in all its beautiful musical subtleties and with its extra contributing musicians and vocalists from the lands of Aotearoa, over and over again forever hereafter – alongside previous and always-beloved releases Trinity Roots – True – Home, Land And Sea and Music Is Choice.


Sample a couple of the more chilled-sounding tracks off Citizen below. Note like always – these are just compressed mp3 versions of the songs. You can buy the real-deal, hold-in-your-hand, hear-all-the-sounds-of-the-music album on cd now from any good independent music store or on-line – and hopefully on vinyl soonish.

new Trinity Roots album Citizen - 2015

Citizen (2015)

‘El Kaptain’ – Trinity Roots – Citizen (2015)


‘This Road’ – Trinity Roots – Citizen (2015)


I reckon people throughout the wide world beyond Aotearoa and Australia could find themselves a whole lot of goodness in getting to know the sounds of Trinity Roots. If you’re one of them you can check out samples of earlier Trinity Roots music here.

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Trinity Roots – Long Awaited Music Miracles

The upcoming Trinity Roots album is one of, or possibly the most long-awaited and anticipated music release of my lifetime.  A music miracle it is.

Big statements yes, but absolutely true.

The Long Wait

It’s been 10 years since Trinity Roots’ last studio album release.

Nine years ago Trinity Roots played their “final” show in their magical home of Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Just weeks before that show, I went to Aotearoa and found the music of Trinity Roots. Two albums and an EP –  independently released – platinum selling – award winning – and incredibly special.

Special Music

The music of Trinity Roots has a distinctly, uniquely Aotearoa sound that’s unlike any other in the world. One deeply connected to, and reflective of it’s culture and divine natural environment. Spacious. Open. Beautiful.

It is the sweetest of sweet blend of jazz, soul, blues, reggae and dub – South Pacific style. Soothing vocals sung with heart and soul. Gorgeous vocal harmonies. Conscious, positive lyrics that Jamaicans frustrated with modern dancehall culture would approve of.

This music conveys emotion in the purest and most humble of ways – and touches me in the profound way I want music to affect me.  It makes me feel more connected to and thoughtful of humanity and the earth.  It is music that soothes the spirit, heart and mind – and simply makes me feel good every time I hear it.

Hope Springs Eternal

Blessed I was in 2005 to find the music of Trinity Roots. But I couldn’t help feeling a little devastated as well.  I had to leave the country just before their final show – so missed out on being able to ever have the live Trinity Roots experience I craved for each time I listened to their recordings thereafter.

Trinity Roots

Trinity Roots in its 1st life – Warren Maxwell, Rio Hunuki-Hemopo & Riki Gooch

Trinity Roots went onto my Live Music Bucket List anyway – in slim hope, just in case of a miracle reunion one day. Each of the three band members were still making music, and playing festival & other gigs you see – just not together, and not as Trinity Roots.

Warren Maxwell (Little Bushman + Fat Freddys Drop)

Rio Hunuki-Hemopo (Breaks Co-Op + solo music)

Riki Gooch (Eru Dangerspiel +producing for other Aotearoa artists like Ria Hall &  Hollie Smith)

Despite how loveable and loved their other studio music and live shows were, I still always longed to have the live Trinity Roots experience.

Listen, Hope, Wait, Listen

The years passed by while I listened and hoped, and listened some more to the Trinity Roots recordings.  I bought the Trinity Roots CDs as gifts for the most musically-hard-to-please friends of mine, and then those friends waited too.

Listen yourself to these here sample tracks created by Trinity Roots in their 1998-2005 lifetime.  You’ll see why we’ve all been waiting.

But believe me when I tell you that to only hear this band’s music in dirty mp3 format is an absolute travesty. Wherever in the world you are, you can easily buy the real music in its other formats.

Trinity Roots - Home Land And Sea (2004)

Home, Land And Sea (2004)

Way I Feel – Home, Land And Sea (2004)

The Dream – Home, Land And Sea (2004)


True (2002)

True (2002)

Sense and Cents – True (2001)

Call To You – True (2001)

Trinity Roots EP (2000)

Trinity Roots EP (2000)

Little Things (Remix by Mu) – Trinity Roots EP (2000)


The Resurrection

Finally, one fine day in 2010, the first Trinity Roots miracle came.  They announced a reunion tour and released a live CD and DVD documenting their final 2005 shows.

Music Is Choice (2010)

Music Is Choice (2010)

Two By Two – Music Is Choice (2010)


There was movement in the Trinity Roots camp. What did it mean? Could there, would there really be a Trinity Roots resurrection? We held our breaths for more news.

The Live Miracle

The next Trinity Roots miracle came soon afterwards. On another fine day in Australia the Byron Bay Bluesfest announced Trinity Roots in its 2011 festival program.  So did WOMAD NZ. I along with so many others I knew in waiting, shouted “Hallelujah” to the musical gods and goddesses.

Byron Bay Blues Fest 2011 poster

Those two Trinity Roots shows in Byron Bay were spiritual experiences. Perfectly sublime really.  Just as I’d imagined they would be.

Trinity Roots Live @ Byron Bay Blues Fest 2011

Trinity Roots Live @ Byron Bay Blues Fest 2011

For a glimpse of the magic, check out this short (dodgy) video from one of those Bluesfest shows

I left both Trinity Roots shows knowing that I would never be satisfied by any number of live Trinity Roots experiences. I would always want more.

But would there really and truly be more?  I lived in hope – but until we heard concrete news about new Trinity Roots recordings or more shows I’d have to be satisfied with what I already had.

More Miracles?  Finally, Yes!

It’s now been 4 years since the release of Music Is Choice.  During that time the Trinity Roots camp has seemed relatively quiet from afar. They’ve played some shows here and there in Aotearoa. Last year they also morphed into a new Trinity combo with the addition of drummer Ben Wood to replace Riki Gooch and later Jean Pompey.

Then not so long ago, news of another Trinity Roots miracle came.  They’ve been in the studio recording new music – and have recently played some of it to lucky crowds in Aotearoa.

Trinity Roots 2013

Trinity Roots in it’s new ife – Warren Maxwell, Rio Hunuki-Hemopo & Ben Wood

It’s been a long, hopeful, ten-year wait for new music from Trinity Roots.  The wait is really, truly nearly over – and that’s some of the best music news ever.

So too is the fact that new music releases usually come with tours. That means chances are good of us having ourselves the live Trinity Roots experience soon- with new music and a new line-up. Since Australia has so many people here in waiting, and is so close to Aotearoa, hopefully it’s first up on Trinity Roots’ international touring schedule 🙂 .

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