With more than 800 events countrywide, Music Month will be an epic celebration of home-grown talent, finds Sarah Ell.
A lot has changed in the New Zealand music scene in the past 15 years. In May 2000, Stellar, The Feelers, Zed, Shihad and Strawpeople all had singles in the top 50, but there was no New Zealand chart, Kiwi music was hard to find on the radio and the most popular format was CD.
Now New Zealand music is big business, and New Zealand Music Month is a major event.
Around the country this month, more than 800 events will celebrate home-grown sounds, with gigs, album releases, workshops, competitions and open mic nights offering a range of opportunities to experience and participate in the creation of music.
New Zealand Music Commission chief executive Cath Anderson says since the first Music Month was held in 2000, the event has "morphed into a celebration of live music".
"When we started there wasn't a huge amount of New Zealand music on the radio or in shops, and concepts like music streaming were just ideas," she says.
"The way that people listen to music, and the way they discover bands and listen to new songs, has completely changed," says Andersen. And it's not just about the Cool Young Things. Many events are all-ages or family friendly, especially the city-wide programme organised by Auckland Libraries (see below), as well as a free session on songwriting at the Auckland Writers Festival by Tiny Ruins (Hollie Fulbrook), and all-ages gigs by Six60 and Jamie McDell.
"There is a growing number of young people being involved with New Zealand music, both as performers and audiences," says Andersen, with the international success of Lorde and Broods giving a new generation of Kiwi kids something to aspire to.
"We hope that during New Zealand Music Month people go along and try something new," she says. "It's not just about a certain kind of music, but any music made in New Zealand."
Libraries aren't traditionally places you associated with listening to music -- too much shushing going on -- but the range of events organised for Music Month at libraries around the region puts paid to that.
Music librarian Marilyn Portman says New Zealand Music Month is the ideal framework for libraries to highlight their music collections and learning activities programmes, and to feature libraries as community spaces that support creativity.
"It allows customers to experience music in libraries and allows local musicians to be heard. Music plays a very important role in our communities and this is an opportunity for libraries to reflect that. We want to encourage musical literacy and lifelong learning, and send the message that libraries are creative places," she says.
Events for the tiniest young people range from libraries theming their regular Rhymetime and Storytime sessions around Kiwi music to quizzes, ukulele lessons, performances by local musicians and schools, junior Zumba and karaoke, Kiwiana Minecraft and Lego sessions and instrument-making workshops for the older set.
"Auckland Libraries has a real focus on learning new skills and being creative, so one of the new things we are trying is to hook people into is creating music through technology," says Portman.
Hands-on workshops will be at several libraries, including a digital music jam at the Central Library on Sundays May 24 and 31, using the Nanoloop app (suitable for kids aged 8 and over -- bookings essential), digital music Kidzspace sessions at Manukau Library using library devices, and music creation sessions at the new Te Matariki Clendon Library and Pukekohe MakerSpaces, special areas where kids can get hands-on with technology to creative ends.
Also opening during Music Month is the new Te Oro Glen Innes Music and Arts Centre. The Glen Innes Library hosts a day of musical activities to welcome its new neighbour on the Ruapotaka Reserve. The new centre plans to host a range of free music events and classes for young people, including the twice-weekly Beats and Pieces songwriting, music creation and audio recording sessions for over-10s, Cook Islands and Samoan dance and music lessons, hip-hop jams and monthly seminars on "song anatomy" by New Zealand artists.
Kiwi kids playing Kiwi music
The next Broods or Kimbra are out there right now, and you can have the chance to check out the next big thing at the Smokefreerockquest. Regional heats are held throughout the country during May, leading up to regional finals next month. The competition, now in its 27th year, has categories for bands and solo/duo performances, and over the years has featured the talents of members of Midnight Youth, Opshop, The Naked and Famous, The Checks and Elemeno P.
Another organisation encouraging young Kiwi performers and songwriters is Play It Strange, a trust run by ex-Split Enz member Mike Chunn to encourage the craft of songwriting among school children. The trust also runs regular songwriting competitions for secondary school students, with the current contest, Who Loves Who, celebrating Kiwi music through renditions of New Zealand songs -- not slavishly re-recording the original, but giving it a unique twist.
The winning performers will win a day's session at a recording studio, and the top 20 recordings will be mastered and released on a CD and for download.
The trust's programmes are run through schools, but many students who have benefited from it can be seen performing at A Strange Day's Night, a pair of fundraising concerts for Play It Strange which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones first playing the Auckland Town Hall.
Chunn says the concert will feature not only Kiwi music legends such as Peter Urlich and Jordan Luck, but also the Auckland Youth Choir and other young musicians.
For a slightly different angle on New Zealand Music Month - literally - check out Skyline Rotorua's Gondola Gigs online, featuring New Zealand artists. Savage, Jamie McDell, Hipstamatics and local band Strangely Arousing perform inside the iconic Skyline gondolas overlooking Lake Rotorua and the city. Recordings of the gigs will be shared every Tuesday and Thursday throughout May on the Skyline Rotorua Facebook page.
"The most musicians we have squeezed in so far were the Hipstamatics, with eight people performing, and Strangely Arousing even got five people and a drum kit in there," says Skyline Rotorua sales and marketing manager David Blackmore.
Need to know
• For a full list of New Zealand Music Month events see the website.
• See Smokefreerockquest website for gigs and details. Regional heats: Rotorua today, Bay of Plenty tomorrow, North Shore and Auckland West May 15, Auckland Central and Manukau May 16, Waikato May 17, and Northland May 23.
• Play It Strange; A Strange Day's Night 2015, Auckland Town Hall, June 3 and 4, tickets through Ticketmaster.
• Gondola Gigs.