Whanganui musician Baz Muir has refreshed a 1980s Māori protest song and, 35 years after its debut, the single has just been re-released.
Maranga Ake Ai was first released in 1985 by pioneer Māori reggae band Aotearoa. The track features Justice Sir Joe Williams, now a Supreme Court judge, on vocals. He also co-wrote the song.
Muir, who heads reggae band NLC, performs lead vocals on the new version of the song and had help from NLC band members including his daughter Shaye Muir (keyboards, vocals) and Marcel Martin (guitarist, vocals).
The waiata was used by the Māori Party during its 2020 election campaign and yesterday was officially re-released.
"I was over the moon when I was asked to re-record and reproduce it," Muir said.
"It was really a big honour because it's such a well-known song and I remember my parents, who were also musicians, playing it live back in the day."
Muir spent a lot of time listening to the original recording before adding the "NLC flavour" to it.
"We worked on it in our studio in Whanganui for about a month, listening to the original track numerous times, making sure we can get that same sort of feel," he said.
"It was such an enjoyable project to work on.
"We know this song is about people standing up for their rights, speaking out for Māori people.
"We worked on the song, getting its sound right, and it was mastered by Chris Chetland at Kog Studios near Auckland."
Māori Party Tamaki Makaurau candidate John Tamihere approached Sir Joe's representatives for permission to use the track to galvanise the new Māori Party movement.
"Māori have always gravitated to reggae music and Sir Joe's lyrics are
as relevant today as they were when he penned this in the 1980s," Tamihere said.
"Sir Joe was among a new wave [of] young educated Māori behind our cultural revival."
NLC won the Best Roots-Reggae title at the 2019 National Waiata Māori Music Awards and is now working under the Waatea Music label.
The band released its fifth album in July 2020 and is working on a collection of about six te reo Māori songs for an EP in the near future.