Members of the Whanganui reggae band NLC have been chosen to rerecord the Māori anthem Maranga Ake Ai, 35 years after its initial release.
Maranga Ake Ai is a 1980s Māori protest song released in 1985 by pioneer Māori reggae band Aotearoa, composed by now-Supreme Court judge, Justice Sir Joe Williams.
Baz Muir, who heads NLC, was chosen to refresh and rerecord the waiata to be used as part of the Māori Party 2020 election campaign.
“I was over the moon when I was asked to re-record and reproduce it. 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.”
Former Māori Party Tamaki Makaurau co-leader John Tamihere – who was at Auckland University during the Māori renaissance of the 1980s – says he knew the lyrics would strike a chord with Māori today. He approached Sir Joe’s representatives for permission to use the track to awaken 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. Sir Joe was among a new wave young educated Māori behind our cultural revival,” Tamihere says.
Maranga Ake Ai - 2020 version
Muir was lead vocals on the song and had help from NLC band members including his talented daughter Shaye Muir, on keyboards and vocals, and guitarist and vocalist Marcel Martin.
“The song itself and the history and what it represents, especially for Māori has been huge. Everyone seems to be singing it, seems to be playing it on the stations.”
Muir says they tried to keep the track as original as possible.
“It feels the same, the chords and everything are the same it just has more of a modern approach to it with today’s technology, instruments, samples and things like that," he says.
“We worked on the song, getting its sound right, and it was mastered by Chris Chetland at Kog Studios near Auckland.”
NLC won the Best Roots-Reggae title at the 2019 National Waiata Māori Music Awards and is working under the Waatea Music label.
"NLC stands for No Limits Crew which is a group of people who have no limits and just stepping out of the square and going for it. The crew that we have at the moment has that sort of mindset and we go forward, and we go for it," says Muir.
NLC released its fifth album in July 2020 and is working on an EP of several te reo Māori songs to be released in March 2021.
“Marcel focuses on the Māori side of things for to lyrics and I work on producing the actual music itself and we just combine together, we put it together.”
The song, as well as a new music video for the refreshed Maranga Ake Ai waiata, has been released.