Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Waitangi . . . Waitangi . . .Break Free. . . Break Free. . .

In Aotearoa today we are celebrating Waitangi Day, the making of a nation with the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  I can't get past the waiata Waitangi from early roots reggae band Dread Beat and Blood from Porirua in Wellington who inspired legends such as Herbs and appearing alongside Ardijah.  Dread Beat and Blood were responsible for singing about local issues that impacted on Māori identity through reggae music, rather than singing covers or about issues that pertained to South Africa or Jamaica in the 1980s; they were singing about the context of Aotearoa.  Natural Remedy perform a great tribute to Dread Beat and Blood of Waitangi.  Linton Kwesi Johnson's second collection of poetry is entitled Dread Beat an' Blood published in 1975 and would've been a great influence in the naming of this pioneer band.

Wherever Kiwis sit in their thoughts on Waitangi Day and what they choose to honour in commemoration of our national day, as a Samoan born in Aotearoa or a migrant to the country I call home, the history is important to me, as I value my own cultural heritage in Samoa's own struggle for independence and political freedom of sorts during its heyday.

The thing I love about reggae music is the ease with which the music flows.  Disregard how The Paul Henry Show depicted Raggamuffin in his 31st January 2014 story, as it doesn't do the genre justice.
What I'm talking about is the "vibe" I guess, that natural "bobbing up and down" of the head as it naturally keeps time with the music and you become part of the rhythm. The syncopated semiquavers that intersperse between each accented beat help to push the drive in each song, further punctuated by the skilled drummer who artfully uses each part of the kit to emphasise improvised rhythmic patterns, the bass riffs that resonate deep in the pit of your stomach and spine, the lead guitar with its licks and horn section that round out the texture with its brassy harmonies.



In their album Tribute to a friend and the EP No more war, Dread Beat and Blood also have another single called Break Free. 

I'll take you to where the air is fresh and clean 
And every man will have to live as one
Cos unity is what we need
What are you looking for?  Tell me
What are you trying to be?
Trying so hard but you can't seem to break free
From Babylon (ooh) from Babylon (ooh)

What are you fighting for?  Who are you trying to be?
Trying so much but you just can't seem to break free
From Babylon (ooh) from Babylon

To me these lyrics reflect what is important about Waitangi Day.
Breaking free from the "Babylon" in our own lives and instead focusing on how we can work better together as one.

Cos unity is what we need
Cos unity is a necessity
Struggling to survive in harmony
We've got to stay alive in unity 

Happy Waitangi Day Aotearoa :-)