Reggae music, colours and fans are set to take over Rotorua once again as the annual Raggamuffin festival draws nearer. The annual Rotorua event is less than one week away and The Daily Post entertainment reporter Kristin Macfarlane talks to two performers - Dilworth Karaka from Herbs and Eric Rachmany from Rebelution - ahead of the two-day festival.
California-based band Rebelution are about to get their first taste of New Zealand at next weekend's Raggamuffin 2013.
Rebelution, which consists of vocalist/guitarist Eric Rachmany, Rory Carey on the keyboards, Wesley Finley on drums and Marley Williams on bass, is a band with many musical sounds.
In fact, Rachmany says it can't be put into one type of music. He says Rebelution's musical style is a hybrid reggae sound which infuses multiple genres including hip hop, world, rock, blues, jazz and pop.
"It's hard to describe, it is always evolving, too," Rachmany told The Daily Post.
"We started out pretty roots oriented and then kind of developed."
He says he loves music "with all my soul" but performing is a whole other level of "fun".
He is looking forward to visiting Rotorua and New Zealand for the first time and can't wait to be part of Raggamuffin 2013 - to share Rebelution's music with Kiwi fans and also check out the rest of the line-up, particularly Kiwi bands Black Seeds and Katchafire as well as Lauryn Hill.
"I know that I'm excited to see a lot of bands, a lot of New Zealand bands we've heard about for years now," he said.
"It's a great line-up.
"Fans have been writing to us to come out there for a long time. Rebelution is such a big fan of the music coming out in New Zealand."
Rachmany says Rebelution has toured with Hawaiian reggae band The Green and although there are many bands included in the line-up he has never dealt with, he says he knows who they are.
"I have a feeling that we all know about each other even though we haven't really met ... the world can be so small at times."
Rebelution will perform on the Main Stage on Saturday after Brownhill, Swiss and Tomorrow People and before Katchafire, Herbs, Ali Campbell, Toots and The Maytals and Lauryn Hill. Rachmany says when they're not out on stage they'll be out there in the crowd enjoying the music.
"There's so much you can learn from each other."
He's also hoping the festival will be a good way to meet other bands and discuss touring and collaboration opportunities.
"It's a great way to link up with people."
When Rebelution arrive for Raggamuffin, their schedule will be pretty tight but they plan to see as many sights as they can.
Last year, the California natives released their album Peace of Mind through their own label - 87 Music - in partnership with Controlled Substance Sound Labs. Peace of Mind debuted at No13 on the Billboard Top 200, No1 Reggae and No1 Independent albums as well as No4 on the iTunes overall album chart.
The band previously had four top 10 albums on the Reggae chart and their 2009 release Bright Side of Life debuted at No54 on the Top 200 and No1 Reggae.
Through their music, reggae pioneers Herbs have not only made a huge impact on Kiwi music, they've also spoken out on social and political issues - and now the band with more than 30 years' musical experience is set to perform at its first Raggamuffin festival.
Herbs are the founding fathers of Pacific reggae in New Zealand. Formed in 1979, they were recently inducted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame and have enjoyed 10 Top 20 hits in their long and illustrious career including Slice of Heaven (with Dave Dobbyn), which was a number 1 in New Zealand and Australia.
Band member and singer/guitarist Dilworth Karaka is looking forward to having Herbs perform at Raggamuffin for the first time.
"It's an event we've really been looking forward to," Karaka said.
He is also excited about seeing the rest of the artists on stage and particularly catching up with Toots and the Maytals again. He said he had made a strong friendship with former UB40 frontman Ali Campbell as well, while touring with them in the past.
"The most memorable acts over the years has been with UB40 and Toots and the Maytals," Karaka told The Daily Post.
Herbs are set to perform on the main stage at Raggamuffin 2013, ahead of reggae legends Ali Campbell, Toots and the Maytals and hip hop artist Lauryn Hill. When Herbs get on stage, Karaka says they'll present a 45-minute set and he can't wait to perform live for Raggamuffin-goers.
"Most of all I suppose it's to experience that Rotorua vibe again ... we've done some great outdoor gigs down there."
With more than three decades in the music industry, Herbs have done more than make good music over the years. They've also been known to raise important issues. In 1981 came the first record, What's Be Happen, a six-track EP with a cover that carried a controversial image of police evicting occupiers of disputed land at Auckland's Bastion Pt and in 1982, French Letter, a song protesting nuclear testing by France in the Pacific, was released.
The changing years also brought changing line-ups and today, only Karaka - guitarist and singer - remains from the founding members.
The Herbs line-up now includes Karaka, Tamahau Renata (guitar), Kaitapu Monga (bass), Tama Lundon (keyboards and vocals), Leighton Greening (drums), Thom Nepia (percussion and vocals) and Walter Bianco (saxophone). However, Karaka says Lundon and Nepia have been involved with Herbs for at least 25 years.