Herbs: Songs of Freedom 2019

Directed by Tearepa Kahi Big Nights

Director Tearepa Kahi’s follow-up to the infectious Poi E is a rousing celebration of Pacific reggae legends Herbs, the band’s members and its action as an inspiring musical front for social rights and harmony.

90 minutes DCP
E

Director

Producers

Reikura Kahi
,
Cliff Curtis

Photography

Fred Renata
,
Chris Mauger

Editors

Tearepa Kahi
,
Francis Glenday

Sound

Dick Reade

Graphics

Jeff Smith

With

Dilworth Karaka
,
Toni Fonoti
,
Tama Renata
,
Willie Hona
,
Carl Perkins
,
Charlie Tumahai
,
Thom Nepia
,
Hugh Lynn
,
Will ‘Ilolahia
,
Tama Lundon
,
Joe Hawke
,
Annie Crummer

NZIFF is thrilled to close its programme in Auckland with the World Premiere screenings of the latest film by Tearepa Kahi (Poi E: The Story of Our Song, NZIFF16), a timely and affectionate tribute to iconic Aotearoa band Herbs.

Almost 40 years after their first gig as the support act to Stevie Wonder, Kahi connects with core Herbs members as they reunite in preparation for an anniversary concert. Set against a soundtrack rich with the band’s popular songs (including ‘One Brotherhood’, ‘French Letter’, ‘See What Love Can Do’, ‘Nuclear Waste’), the documentary traces Herbs’ backstory and brings it up to date.

Kahi gives founder Toni Fonoti, guitarist Dilworth Karaka and producer Hugh Lynn (among others) ample room to recall Herbs’ creation and formation. With its unique mix of Māori, Pākehā and Pasifika musicians, Herbs had shifting iterations, at one point growing to 23 members.

Interviews, past and present, loop us back to social and political flashpoints such as the occupation of Bastion Point, the 1981 Springbok tour demonstrations, and the dawn raids targeting the Polynesian community. Reminiscences interweave with rehearsals and the concert itself, celebrating songs which harbour strong political messages within superb harmonies and distinctive South Pacific-infused rhythms. Their power and appeal remain undiminished.

We, and the ‘next generation’ of such concern to Toni ‘the originator’ and Dilworth ‘the cornerstone’, are grateful that Kahi had the foresight to make this film when he did, thereby capturing later band members Thom Nepia, Carl Perkins and Tama Renata (who all died in 2018) in action and rocking the house. — SR

Declaration of interest:

The staff and trustees of NZIFF congratulate fellow trustee Tearepa Kahi on his terrific film.