Being invited to perform at Womad NZ is the stuff dreams are made of, says Taranaki musician Brian Norton.
So much so, that when he got the call inviting his band, Fin Rah Zel, to do exactly that at Womad next year, he originally thought he was mistaken.
“I thought they were calling me about something else, so when they said Womad, I was like, you’re kidding me. Wow. I was blown away, it was totally unexpected.”
While it’s the first time the band known as Fin Rah Zel - consisting of Ben Payne on drums, Corey Hoskin on Keys, Chris Buhler on bass, and Brian as the vocalist - it’s not the first time Brian has performed to a Womad NZ audience.
“I was on stage this year with Fly My Pretties as a solo and that was an incredible experience.”
Fin Rah Zel is named for Fin Raziel - a sorceress in the 1988 fantasy film Willow, and Brian says while the name was originally chosen “because we liked the sound of it and thought it was pretty rad” the name actually connects with the band more than they first considered.
“Originally, me and my mate, Callum Gibbins, we started the band, and Willow was our favourite movie, so we picked the name, but a bit later we realised actually the character Fin Raziel goes on a really empowering life journey in the movie, and that connects with our songs, that idea of empowerment.”
The band first started in 2013 or thereabouts, says Brian.
“Then we got girlfriends, travelled, in Callum’s case got a rugby career, so the band itself stopped, but I kept performing under the name as a solo artist, I went to the USA for some time and when I came back, it was a case of right time, right place, in the sense of meeting people who wanted to come on board with the band.”
While Fin Rah Zel has changed over the years between band and solo, and members themselves have changed, one thing is consistent, says Bryan.
“Our music is both grounding and uplifting at the same time.”
Fin Rah Zel is more than just the band members, he says.
“It’s about community, the connection with the people listening. That’s something I really like about Womad, it’s family, it’s community, it’s all about connection.”
He hopes people listening to them perform at Womad will gain from that sense of connection in some way, he says.
“Our aim is to create a space where people can turn up and feel at peace and take something from our music which encourages them to go and do what they want to do. You know, I’m up there, as a human being, just giving it a go, and I’ve failed a lot over the years, but you have to give it a go, give it a crack, have self belief and go do what you want. But you can’t do it on your own, we all need our community around us.”
The Womad NZ PlayDay schedule was released this week meaning festival-goers can begin planning which bands and performances they want to see each day.
What: Womad NZ 2024
When: March 15-17
Where: New Plymouth’s Brooklands Park
Tickets, schedule and artist info: www.womad.co.nz
Ilona Hanne is a Taranaki-based journalist who covers breaking and community news from across the region. She has worked for NZME since 2011.