Wanganui music fans are in for a real slice of Kiwiana next week when the Herbs Unplugged tour hits town.

Herbs became a household name through the 1980s and 1990s with hit songs that are still recognised today - even by the younger generation.

Herbs was a multicultural New Zealand reggae vocal group that had Samoans, Tongans, Cook Islanders and Maori in the band.

It became the 11th inductee into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.


Formed in 1979, the band was once described as New Zealand's most soulful, heartfelt and consistent contemporary musical voice.

Herbs are considered pioneers of the Pacific reggae sound, having paved the way for contemporary Kiwi groups such as Fat Freddy's Drop, Katchafire and Trinity Roots.

Band manager John Elliffe said the unplugged tour featured three longstanding members - Tama Lundon, Dilworth Karaka and Tama Renata - and said they were looking forward to delivering their unique brand of music which includes outstanding three-part harmonies at the Wanganui Opera House on Thursday night.

"Tama (Lundon) still writes, but the tour will include many of the old songs. The tour features three Maori boys - the two Tamas and Dilworth - and their three-part harmonies reflect their professionalism," Mr Ellife said. In the 1980s and early 90s, Herbs had 10 top-20 singles hits, and worked alongside acts like UB40, Taj Mahal, Tina Turner, Neil Young, George Benson, and Stevie Wonder.

Though upbeat, Herbs' music is clear in its messages.

Their 1982 hit French Letter - which spent 11 weeks on the charts - came to express New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance.

Fourteen years later, it was re-recorded to garner support for the prevention of nuclear testing at Mururoa.

Similarly, No Nukes (The Second Letter), Nuclear Waste and Light of the Pacific expressed much the same sentiment.


In 1986, Slice of Heaven with Dave Dobbyn reached number one on the New Zealand and Australian charts. In 1989, Herbs joined Tim Finn for Parihaka and, in 1992, Annie Crummer for the hit single See What Love Can Do.

"While the boys have been going for 35 years, they all agree it's probably more fun now than it was back then, and that's saying something," Mr Ellife said.

"They love playing still, although there are other projects.

"Tama (Lundon) is playing himself (Uncle Tama) in a movie, Million Dollar Mate with Keisha Castle-Hughes that's been three years in the making."

Wanganui band the Black Trio is on the bill at the Opera House on Thursday. The show begins at 8pm and pre-sale tickets are $22, door sales $30.