By ALEX LYALL
Over 18-year-olds, have you voted yet? Because you absolutely must by the 8th of October. I know that it seems hard at the best of times to care about national politics, let alone local body selection. But trust me, it does matter. Politics matters.
I’m not the only one who thinks so; these ten artists do, too. Kim Dotcom also thinks politics matters, but we won’t subject you to that. Here, instead, is the good stuff:
10. Darren Watson – Planet Key (2014)
Sometimes, songs about politics become politics. When Watson’s satirical take on John Key’s government was deemed by the Electoral Commission to be in breach of rules around political advertising, topics regarding censorship dominated political discussion. Watson never worked for a political party, he was just a blues musician with a political mind, so it seemed odd that he was not allowed to be broadcast on the radio.
9. Pūkana & Whānau – Maimoatia (2016)
And some songs that aren’t political become made for politics. This song itself is an ode to Te Reo Māori, and the song’s intentions are about translating that into a demand for more of it to be spoken. Speaking to The Guardian, chief songwriter Nathaniel Howe urged New Zealanders to love the language. On hearing this track, it’s hard not to.
8. Shihad – FVEY (2014)
You can’t say John Key doesn’t inspire good music. Shihad got political after years of not, when allegations came out that New Zealand had involved itself in huge spying operations. Shihad had defined themselves as an angry band before politics, but to hear them afterward is something else.
7. Lorde – Royals (2012)
Depending on your stance, Lorde’s Royals is either a bold rejection of American consumerism or a retrospective mess of irony from somebody who is from Devonport and now a millions-making superstar. Either way, it lands a spot on this list because it has been the subject of fierce political debate.
6. DLT and Che Fu – Chains (1998)
We’ve seen how, in the USA, hip hop has been used in protest against racism, and in Aotearoa New Zealand it has been used in that same way. Chains works to re-appropriate Auckland urban culture by framing it through the struggle of systematic oppression. What it does best, however, is present certain parts of Auckland as safe havens: ‘Living in the city ain’t so bad.’ Chains offered the image to New Zealand that urban culture heightens esteem, rather than ripping it apart.
5. Herbs – Nuclear Waste (1985)
You won’t find it as an issue on the local ballot, but in the ’80s, the political discussion around nuclear usage was enormous. With the help of songs like Nuclear Waste, a direct condemnation of US and French nuclear practices, New Zealand’s firm declaration was made clearer. Herbs had a special strategy, in that they were able to put a human face to the risk, showing Pacific communities that in real life, they were threatened by nuclear tests.
4. The Eversons – I’m A Conservative (2011)
It seems all but likely that this is a satirical take on the National party mindset, but it does deliver quite accurate take-downs on Green Party culture, too. The Eversons delivered their funniest with I’m A Conservative, and the song has some pretty impressive guitar work as well. For more of their ironic political jams, check out Vote For ACT from the same year.
3. Home Brew – Listen To Us (2011)
Released in 2011 prior to that year’s election, Home Brew launched a scathing – and really quite sad – critique of the John Key government and New Zealand inequality in general. The track weaves together devastating piano with clips from New Zealand political history. While frontman Tom Scott embarrassed himself last election with bad political commentary, nothing can take away the painful presentation that Listen To Us succeeds at.
2. Aaradhna – Brown Girl (2016)
It’s unfortunate that in 2016 we still require music that condemns racism. It really should be unnecessary by now. But we still haven’t learned, so Aaradhna provides us with the reminder that we cannot define a person by the colour of his or her skin, because then we ignore the qualities that make us each special. Aaradhna’s unrivalled voice makes Brown Girl especially poignant.
1. Blam Blam Blam – There is No Depression in New Zealand (1981)
Blam Blam Blam were able to paint a unique portrait of New Zealand – to New Zealanders, just through a simple, ironic trick. ‘There is no depression in New Zealand, there are no sheep on our farms.’ It put together two of the certainties New Zealand had felt about our country – that we are perfect, and that we have sheep. Well, when one is called into question, so is the other. This means that one of New Zealand’s truths mustn’t be true – and for anybody who has even driven just five minutes outside of a main city, it’s clearly not the one about sheep.
It revealed more to the country than we were willing to admit about ourselves, and it is used in the same way today. Last election, Auckland punks Street Chant played it in protest outside of the Young Nats ball. There is no Depression in New Zealand is a protest song that always remains relevant.
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