Emerging Themes In New Zealand Popular Music In The 1950s

1043 words - 5 pages

In 1950s New Zealand, music was as big as music is or was anywhere. Popular music in New Zealand started to introduce some distinctly New Zealand themes in the songs being made during this time. Themes that include: the use of te reo Maori in songs, songs about phenomena specific to New Zealand, and songs that directly mention New Zealand and/or cities in New Zealand.
One example of a song employing definite New Zealand themes is one by Morgan Clarke with Benny’s Five called “Haka Boogie” which Bourke (2013) described as “pivotal in the development of a New Zealand-flavoured rock and roll”. Made in circa 1955, “Haka Boogie” features te reo Maori lyrics such as “Haere mai, ka nui te pai” ...view middle of the document...

The song even tells the story of Johnny Cooper and his friends getting something to eat from the pie carts after “Jumping all night” at presumably a dance club. A story that most New Zealanders could relate to as it’s something they would have done regularly themselves. Again this is a good marketing strategy to appeal to people as it relates to them; they could imagine that the song is about them. This would have been a rarity in music at the time as the lack of technology meant New Zealand was metaphorically much farther away from the rest of the world compared to how it is now, meaning the popular songs would have related to Americans or British people more than to New Zealanders. A practice that many musicians used and still use when writing songs is to incorporate their own experiences. Doing this means the musicians have knowledge on what they’re writing about, not always factual knowledge, but the knowledge of what it was like to be in the situation being written about. This means they can be especially effective in portraying what it felt like and that listeners who also possess said knowledge will pick up on it and identify with the song. Johnny Cooper demonstrated this by telling a story of something he’d done probably many times. It also happens that this certain situation is something common only in New Zealand and hence the introduction of a New Zealand theme in the song.
New Zealand artists also wrote songs that directly mentioned New Zealand, including the instrumental piece “Christchurch Rock” by Neville Barry and the Deltas from 1959, so called because it was presumably the city that the band was from. And at the end of the 50s Peter Lewis & Trisonic created the song “Four City Rock” (written by Jack Urlwin). A song about the growing Rock and Roll culture establishing itself in New Zealand. The song indirectly refers to Auckland through The Harbour...

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