New Zealand Music Month

Page 2 – 31 reasons to love New Zealand music

Random notes

We randomly selected 31 New Zealand music stories, one for each day of New Zealand Music Month.

Each story links to a page with further information. They appear in no particular order.

New Zealand's national anthems

Hayley Westenra

New Zealand Music Month would not be complete without looking at a song that we have sung (often badly) for over 130 years. It is our national anthem, ‘God defend New Zealand’, or, in te reo Maori, 'Aotearoa' More...

'Blue smoke'

Blue Smoke music (detail)

In 1949 a disc featuring the song ‘Blue smoke’, written by Ruru Karaitiana and released on the TANZA label, became the first record wholly produced in New Zealand from composition to pressing. More...

Split Enz

Cover of True Colours album

In 1980 Split Enz put New Zealand music firmly on the international map with their breakthrough fifth album True colours. Theirs is a classic story of Kiwi battlers achieving through hard work and sacrifice.  More...

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra


Sixty-one years old in 2008, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra travels over 40,000 kilometres a year to bring the best of the orchestral repertoire to New Zealanders from Kerikeri to Invercargill. More...

Sandy Edmonds, groovy baby

Sandy Edmonds

She was our first pop superstar of the TV age – a 1960s Kiwi Paris Hilton. Sandy Edmonds was the swinging, groovy face of youth on pop show C’Mon, even though her musical contribution is barely remembered. More...

No depression in New Zealand

Detail from record cover

Blam Blam Blam's 'There is no depression in New Zealand' was particularly meaningful for many in 1981, and some adopted it as an unofficial national anthem. It was also commercially successful and went gold a month after its release. More...                

Loxene Golden Disc Awards

Record cover

The Loxene Golden Disc Awards were the forerunner of today’s New Zealand Music Awards. The awards were designed to ‘create public awareness of the wealth and quality of New Zealand pop music talent’. More...

Kiwi klassics

Record cover

Kiwi Records was a saviour of New Zealand composers. The label, started by publisher A.H. & A.W. Reed in 1957, was one of the few local outlets for recording classical music, assisting the careers of some of our most well-known classical musicians. More...       

Devil's music – Timberjack

Record cover

In 1971 Timberjack's song ‘Come to the Sabbat’ shocked many with its chorus of ‘Come, come, come to the Sabbat/ Come to the Sabbat – Satan's there.’ This wasn't the typical Loxene Golden Disc Award nominee. More...

'How bizarre'

Still shot from How bizarre video

‘One-hit wonder’, ‘rags to riches and then back to rags again’ – call it what you will, but the fact remains that the infectious 1995 hit ‘How bizarre’ by OMC is the biggest-selling New Zealand record of all time. More...

Kiwi Records

Kiwi Records logo

What could be a more apt record label for New Zealand music than Kiwi Records? This company began producing records in 1957, and its catalogue includes everything from Maori songs to the sounds of Antarctica. More...        

Club culture

Night club scene

Today the music scene in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, is dominated by electronic music and DJ culture. This dance-floor revolution is a relatively recent phenomenon, having begun in the early 1980s. More...

'My old man's an All Black'

Record cover detail

Gerry Merito wrote ‘My old man’s an All Black’ as a bitter-sweet parody of ‘My old man's a dustman’. His song used humour to comment on the decision of the 1960 All Blacks to tour South Africa without Maori players. More...  

Riot 111 – subversive radicals

Riot 111 playing outside Avalon studios

As a protest against Television New Zealand (TVNZ) refusing to play their music, Riot 111 staged a raucous concert outside the company's Avalon studios while punk supporters hoisted the A for Anarchy banner on the flagpole. More...

Dave Dobbyn and 'Loyal'

Dave Dobbyn

Although some say it is a song spoiled by overexposure, in 2006 an online survey of 3000 people chose Dave Dobbyn's 'Loyal' as New Zealand's greatest song ever. More...

Railway songs

Taumarunui station

Few New Zealand folk songs are as iconic as Peter Cape’s ‘Taumarunui (on the main trunk line)’, a tale of unrequited love between ‘an ordinary joker’ and a ‘sheila’ who works behind the counter at the town’s famous railway refreshment room More...


Concert poster

Arriving in Los Angeles in early September 2001, the group Shihad found itself caught up in the fallout from the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The name Shihad sounded too much like jihad for American tastes – no one was going to say Shihad on the radio. More...

Queen Street riot, 1984

Concert poster

‘Tears, terror at the concert that made history’ was one of the newspaper headlines the day following the Queen Street riot of December 1984. All hell broke loose after a free concert at Aotea Square was stopped early. More...

New Zealand's first millon-selling song?

Choir singing

‘Now is the hour’ highlights the blending of Maori and European traditions in a song that could be embraced by both communities. It became a huge hit for some major stars, including Gracie Fields and Bing Crosbie. More...

The birth of Kiwi rock 'n' roll

Johnny Cooper

In 1957 Johnny Cooper – 'the Maori cowboy' – recorded New Zealand's first rock 'n' roll hit, ‘Pie cart rock ’n’ roll’. His inspiration was the Whanganui pie cart where a meal of pea, pie and pud was always on hand . More...                       

Kiri Te Kanawa

Still from Kiri performance

Although her fame mostly came from performing music that was not New Zealand made, Kiri Te Kanawa also gained international exposure singing traditional and contemporary Maori songs. More...

Fat Freddy's Drop

Still from Reptiles song

In May 2005 the Wellington band Fat Freddy’s Drop burst onto the national scene with the release of their first studio album Based on a true story. The album went gold on its first day. More...

Suburban Reptiles – Kiwi punk

Still from Reptiles song

In a report on the Suburban Reptiles first concert, New Zealand Truth claimed that the festival the group was playing at was spoiled by ‘these hooligans’, and the article referred to spitting and abusive audiences. More...

Nature's best


‘Nature’, written by Wayne Mason for his band Fourmyula in 1969, reached number one on the charts in January 1970 and became a hit again in 1992 when it was recorded by New Zealand band The Mutton Birds. More...

'Join together'

Join together cover

The 1974 Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch was an odd coupling of 1970s cosmic harmony and cut-throat competition. The song that caught the mood of this Woodstock in tracksuits was Steve Allen’s hummable, even uplifting, anthem ‘Join together’. More...

'French letter'

Herbs performing

Herbs 1982 hit 'French letter' came to express the country's anti-nuclear stance. It spent 11 weeks on the charts, peaking at number 15. The title itself was considered too risqué for radio and was released under the alternative ‘Letter to the French’. More...

The Whanganui Elvis

Johnny Devlin

Johnny Devlin was New Zealand’s answer to Elvis Presley. His first performance at the Jive Centre electrified the fans. Young women and girls screamed hysterically as he sang and moved across the stage, all hip-wriggling, groin-grinding Presley style. More...

The birth and death of ... Goblin Mix

Detail from Goblin Mix album cover

The birth and death of ..., by short-lived Auckland band Goblin Mix, was one of the great New Zealand albums of the mid-1980s. But today the band is probably best remembered as an ancestor of The 3Ds, the Dunedin group led by former Goblin Mix guitarist David Mitchell. More...  

Songs of the sea

Painting of sailing ship

Ahoy there! Sea shanties, work songs sung on board sailing ships, were a feature of seafaring life in the 19th century. Although most shanties were of British or American origin, some had a distinctly New Zealand flavour. More...

'Poi E'

Still from Poi E video

Written by Dalvanius Prime and Ngoi Pewhairangi, 'Poi E' was a massive hit for the Patea Maori Club in 1984, although it had actually been released the previous year. Some have called it New Zealand's first hip-hop hit.  More...

'She's a mod'

Still from She's a mod

No New Zealand song captures the joy, dizziness and sheer optimism of the 1960s youth experience better than the Ray Columbus and the Invaders’ three-time hit 'She’s a mod'.  More...

How to cite this page

'31 reasons to love New Zealand music', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 11-Jun-2019

Community contributions

8 comments have been posted about 31 reasons to love New Zealand music

What do you know?


Posted: 13 Feb 2011

As a dance / electronic music fan it great to see a mention of club culture in this list. Growing up in Auckland during the 80's, I have seen the birth and growth of DJ culture including NZ producers emerging from the shadows and now becoming celebrated internationally. Its great to see New Zealanders stamping their mark here and becoming part of Kiwi music folklore. Kate Mitchell-Love


Posted: 02 Jun 2010

I'll have you know that I'm the national Spokesbird, and I reckon we need to overhaul the national anthem. Maybe even replace it with our special dawn chorus! We're campaigning at our blog, so check it out, and give us some sweet ideas!:


Posted: 29 Jan 2010

Thanks for the feedback - I'm now seeking information on who might own the copyright to his music as I saw digitised music available for download on a website with a note stating 'copyright may still apply' He died in 1951/2 - I need to check my records - I have also recently obtained WW1 military records from the NZ Archives but these don't mention his time spent with the British Army in India from around 1900 - 1907 after his marriage in Bombay to Sarah Gatley from Stockport, Manchester who was working in India as a "lady's companion". The story is unfolding - but slowly! Cheers Ainslie. ps excuse typos in the previous messages - sent in haste without checking first!!!!

Thomas Jedrusyna

Posted: 02 Jul 2009

You may be interested in a historical CD by Jordan Reyne which was just released through sounz. It tells the story of Susannah Hawes (one of New Zealands first pioneering women to be sent out to the Karamea settlement in 1874). Some reviews are below and there is more information on the sounz website at "A fascinating and intense listen. Reyne's voice, as ever, is a gift and.. she chooses to use it by applying the tools of a story writer and an illustrator... here is something worth celebrating, a song writer who didn't come down in the last shower of record company advances and marketing hype" The Dominion Post (Wellington, New Zealand) “a work that delves deeply into the psyche of the land and our European forebears. A soundtrack to the cinema of unease" New Zealand Musician


Posted: 30 May 2009

Here is some info on Invercargill music teachers from the 1905 Cyclopedia of NZ


Posted: 30 May 2009

Hi Ainslie Have you come across this post about JJ Stroud by Lynley Chapman? Doesn't really answer your question, but there are some more dates for his time in NZ. Also, as he was in WW1 there is a personnel file for him that can be ordered from Archives NZ: See his entry on Archway entry here This may include info about his education. If he was employed by the Army after the war, as Lynley's post implies, there may be further records among in Defence files at Archives. cheers Jamie Mackay


Posted: 30 May 2009

Further to me original posting, I have been informed by a researcher at Kneller Hall, Twickenham, England, that James J. Stroud was not a student at the Royal Military School of Music but that his qualifications and ability must have been sufficient for him to audition and be granted a role in the Viceroy's Band in India. (I have a copy of his marriage certificate which states his employment as a Staff Sergeant and a member of the Viceroy's Band. I also have been told he left Invercargill for Dunedin in his early teens, I am presuming he would have continued his schooling and musical training in Dunedin. I would appreciate any leads for this blank period in his education history. Cheers Ainslie Pyne


Posted: 11 Mar 2009

I'd like to see something about early music tuition in Southland during the late 1800s and into early 1900s. My reason is that I am researching a NZ composer/musician James Jesse Stroud who was born on route to NZ in 1879 - apparently given a good musical education prior to his going to England when about 20 years of age, enlisted in the British Army as a Staff Sergeant and Leader of the Viceroy's band (orchestra) in India. He returned to NZ in the early 1900s and went on to teach, conduct and compose music for the next 50years. He had his own music publishing business Byrne/Stroud Publishing and wrote many songs, and compositions popular during WW1. I'm trying to find information about his early musical training in Invercargill. Cheers Ainslie Pyne Adelaide, South Australia.