Director Tearepa Kahi (Poi E: The Story of Our Song) takes a clever approach to this tribute documentary of iconic New Zealand band Herbs. He conveys the infectiousness of the band's reggae and pop grooves and their place in our music history, and how humble the Herbs' family is, but, more interestingly, he places them in their social and political context.

They were, of course, a band, but also a movement, led by a diverse group of men from different islands of the South Pacific. They believed in one brotherhood and picked up their instruments and spoke from the heart.

Formed in the late 1970s, they had a lot of inspiration, most obviously from the Dawn Raids and Bastion Point occupation, but also issues like French nuclear testing in the Pacific. By documenting the life of the band we get a snapshot of New Zealand at the time.

Rather than a chronological look at their career, Kahi favours reminiscing on the music and spirit of Herbs by focusing on the personalities of those involved.


We meet Herbs in the present day as they rehearse for their 40th anniversary tour and, thanks to some excellent archival footage, flick back and forth in time as they recount the historical and personal moments that influenced them.

It's a little tricky keeping up with who is who (there have been many band members over the years) but it provides a personal way into what the band was about - reggae, social activism and family.

There are hints of the relationship highs and lows between members, but this is a celebration of the uniting power of music rather than a forum for airing dirty laundry.

Just when you find yourself wanting to hear more music, Kahi goes into concert film mode, capturing the band performing live on their reunion tour, where they're joined by guests such as the irrepressible Annie Crummer.

Whether you're just familiar with Sensitive to a Smile or the entire Herbs back catalogue, you're going to be singing Herbs' songs for days after watching this film. A wonderful tribute to a special band.


Toni Fonoti, Tama Renata, Willie Hona



Tearepa Kahi

Running time:

91 minutes


PG (Violence & offensive language)


A wonderful tribute to a special band