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 Home to lush valleys, magnificent glaciers and scenic mountains, New Zealand is best known for its remoteness, natural beauty, and extreme sports. In terms of current music, we don’t think of musicians from New Zealand nearly the same way we do about artists from the UK; but maybe we should start thinking differently.

In 1981, Christchurch record shopkeeper Roger Shepard started the Flying Nun label to support New Zealand’s post-punk scene, which somehow produced prettier-sounding bands than anywhere else on earth.(1) Eighties pop band Crowded House (down under, they’re referred to as ‘The Crowdies’), who famously sang “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” was somewhat of a turning point for Kiwi pop-artists. They incorporated the influences of their ancestry of both Irish folk music and the Maori music of New Zealand. In the early nineties, an insurgence of indie rock hit the airwaves, and The Chills released their biggest international hit album Submarine Bells. And, unfortunately, we cannot forget the late nineties, when OMC became recognized for the track “How Bizarre.”

By Kelly Shannon

 However, in 2007, New Zealand was pinpointed on the map for all to discover. First there was a BBC radio series, then a HBO television series, both titled Flight of the Conchords.  The fictional series was based upon the Kiwi comedy duo of Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement, who were trying to make it as a musical duo in London, per BBC and New York, per HBO. Flight of the Conchords was also a live traveling act, which I was fortunate enough to see in Los Angeles at The El Rey Theater in July of ‘07. On stage, the Kiwi duo played their hilariously creative tunes while cracking jokes during interludes. In my opinion, Jermaine & Bret gave their fellow Kiwis a jumpstart to stardom.

Recently, bands from New Zealand are breaking out of the islands at a much more frequent pace than the past. While I would love to attribute this to Flight of the Conchords (which I am still mourning the loss of), bands from the remote country have definitely blossomed from the Internet radio stations and online streaming sites. Their curiously pop-heavy tunes, such as those from
The Naked & Famous, Kimbra, Kids of 88, Ladyhawke, up-and-coming singer Zowie, and a refreshing switch from the pop genre; reggae group The Black Seeds, have started infiltrating our airwaves without complaint.

More than ever before, New Zealand is being talked about in the music community. Just days ago, Kiwi singer and songwriter Kimbra won the Grand Prize of the Nashville-based International Songwriting Competition.(2)So it seems pretty safe to say that while still a small piece of land in an immense ocean,
New Zealand is a force to be reckoned with.

Kelly Shannon is a native Californian & journalist who believes each of our unique lifestyles creates our very own way of life; from our preferences of art & literature to fashion & music. Deeply intrigued by the creators and innovators of trends, style, and vitality, she is also the Editor in Chief of MMJ.

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