Trinity Roots at the Bush

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That cry from Warren Maxwell, where his head falls back into the light, his brow crumples, his top lip pulls up and his eyes sink into skin and skull. Out emerges a noise from hidden depths moving us to mourn lost lovers and contemplate the land that once stood beneath our feet. It conjures up the saying “Mā te wahine, mā te whenua, ka ngaro te tangata” It is for women and land that men perish and die.
Over ten years ago I saw Trinity Roots here in London. We were a different breed of boy then. It was unrelenting skank pulsing in an underground cavern. A crew of us had just done haka with a pumping energy that continued to flow on the dance floor. Ten years later its a more mellow feel at the Bush, an open chilled music hall with moody lighting and a cruisy home – as in Kiwi – crowd. With that vibe Trinity Roots opened with the familiar and then struck out with the new – songs from an about to be released album – but still with that uncluttered sound which quickly bares down to soul, a soul that captures Aotearoa and makes them one of our most loved bands.
But what is this soul? Is it nought but overwrought nostalgia that wears filtered glasses to hide the monotony, boredom and hardship of a long forgotten past?  I muse. With closed eyes Trinity Roots’ harmonies had my mind racing back to another time when rhythm was not kept to beat timers. Lying in bed as a child hearing muffled laughter through walls blended with melodies of warm comfort as the aunties and uncles sang late into the night. Trying to replicate this sound as adolescents singing the same classics as our old people at our parties. And singing our hearts out while harmony jumping in our kapa haka group. This is where Trinity Roots’ music sends me. This is why its soul from home.
And when they played the anthem Home Land and Sea the crowd started to sing just like we were at one of those parties. I became lost in alto whilst sharing over enthused notes with English friends. A fitting climax nonetheless. In the silence following the applause, Warren Maxwell mumurs,”Aotearoa is not for sale!”  Ten years ago this song captured what many felt when Maori rights to land were being taken through the Foreshore and Seabed Act. For others, it spoke of their oppositon to the sale of our land to overseas interests. “Aotearoa is not for sale!” he says, louder this time. Ten years later, a different time, different place…what does it mean for you?

Ladi 6 at the Bedroom Bar, Shoreditch

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You make me feel so good inside, I could of died, instead I cried. One tear for the feeling you’ve given to me.” Lyrics from Ikarus. I heard from Czech friends in Prague, not Kiwi friends, that Ladi6 was coming to London. Its a testament to the following she has built up from heavy touring schedules, a 6 month stint in Berlin and supporting the likes of Mos Def and Mayer Hawthorne. She’s back from Aotearoa for our European summer. Londoners had the chance to see her last night  at the Bedroom Bar in Shoreditch.

Ladi6,a regular visitor to my television over the last week via Youtube and Google Chromecast allowed a one sided intimacy with a crafted persona. To see a performer in reality can shatter illusions and build new ones. “Oooh wow, a new haircut” I thought. But is it really? Taking my cues off Youtube, I have no idea.

It was arranged for me to catch her for a quick photo before she got on stage. There’s a special moment prior to performance where bottled energy can be seen bubbling, yet difficult to capture with camera. But she was late and rushed through on to the stage. I had to be content with a stage shot and the tight closeness of the venue delivered.

She launched into Ikarus, a mesmerising first track which quickly calmed an impatient crowd. She looked us in the collective eye, acknowledged us, both our commonality (yes there were lots of Kiwis), and our diversity. Slowly she built the pace, warming the beat, the mood, with that familiar rhythm from home. You know, that drum and bass sound that says “grind me from the ground up”, everyone starts to shift as one and a shared energy starts to flow. A few songs in and that vibe was pulsing through a crowd who were feeling free to express their appreciation with movement.

Ladi6 brings the familar NZ brown soul with her. Laid back, vibey and connected to a history of people where singing was just whanau or aiga being.   She does it her own way, with soul, not overwrought, but from a place pinpointed just above her heart. And like much of this sound coming from home, it is expressed as a reality of te ao hurihuri, or the ever turning planet as we say – the present with its multitude of international influences. And so her music has a place in the cafe’s of Berlin, the festivals of Europe and intimate London venues like Bedroom Bar.  It does so because its modern and accessible and because it can return you to that faraway place in us all, a place we call home.