As New Zealand Music months comes to an end, we look back at some of the most memorable collaborations between (or involving) local artists.
Aotearoa has a long and proud tradition of mucking in, lending a hand and sharing the bloody load. Given that the theme for NZ Music Month has been all about community and collaboration, what better time to look back at some of the greatest and most memorable collaborations in New Zealand music history? Spoilt for choice, we’ve trawled through our Gotyes and our Kimbras, our Scribes and our P Moneys, our Chris Warners and our Mutton Birds, to remember some of our favourite local collaborations of all time.
‘U Can’t Resist Us’ – King Kapisi featuring Che Fu
It is a bold decision to name a song ‘U Can’t Resist Us’, and it only really works if the “Us” in question is made up of two of the country’s most enduringly beloved and era-defining hip hop acts: King Kapisi and Che Fu. Released in 2003, off the back of two pivotal album releases (King Kapisi’s Savage Thoughts in 2000 and Che Fu’s Navigator in 2001), this collab maintains the pair’s knack for using music as an art form and political tool, and also as a vessel for being extremely crack up. The accompanying music video needs to be mentioned too – a browned-up vision of rural farm life in Aotearoa. One minute King Kapisi is in a sheep yard, the next, Che Fu reclines in a pile of wool. Swanndri-clad Nathan Rarere and Oscar Kightley join them to cook eels next to a waterfall. It’s all pure chaos and totally delightful. I still can’t resist this collaboration. /Charlotte Muru-Lanning
‘Getting Stronger’ – Adeaze featuring Aaradhna
Is there any other combination of voices in New Zealand music history that can make you feel quite as bad about your own voice than Adeaze and Aaradhna? Horribly strong memories of trying to record myself singing on a tape deck to this song when it featured on Now That’s What I Call Music 16. Thankfully I am ‘Getting Stronger’ and can now just enjoy this heavenly tuneage with my trap firmly shut!!! / Alex Casey
‘Moonshine’ – Savage + Akon / ‘Savage Love’ – Jawsh 685 + Jason Derulo
Two collaborations, more than a decade apart, each of which still seems impossible even now. Two sons of South Auckland, connected to the islands, whose talent somehow cut through imposing barriers to connect with R&B singers at the absolute apex of their powers. Savage’s Moonshine was not the first time an NZ hip hop artist had connected to a US star – bandmate Mareko’s debut featured Inspectah Deck and the Beatnuts – but it was the first which had true crossover potential. During that golden era for NZ rap, it felt like one of the most pure and head-spinning moments – Akon was a massive global star, with multiple smash singles. Now he was singing and making a video with Savage?
Siren beat came more than a decade on, and through a very different path – where Moonshine was the product of NZ hip hop mafia connections, Laxed (Siren Beat) was a product of pure user-generated virality. It became a YouTube, then TikTok hit, before Jawsh 685 became one of the first NZ-based usernames to ink a big US deal. A couple of months later, Jason Derulo, a gold-plated pop star, cheekily used it uncredited and uncleared for the bed of a social media single named Savage Love. The song’s popularity led to all that be cleaned up for an official release, one which led to a worldwide smash of the lockdown era – peaking at #1 in over 20 countries. That it has never been repeated for Jawsh only makes it more special. /Duncan Greive
‘Randolph’s Going Home’ – Shayne Carter and Peter Jefferies
The story behind ‘Randolph’s Going Home’ is recounted in harrowing detail in Shayne Carter’s memoir Dead People I Have Known. After a freak accident on tour claimed the life of his friend and Doublehappys bandmate Wayne Elsey, Carter wrote and recorded two songs with Dunedin’s most funereal musician Peter Jefferies, which in retrospect served as a bridge between his earlier, punkier bands and the dramatic squall of the band he formed the following year, Straitjacket Fits. The vocal was recorded in the stairwell of Chippendale House, a bit of trivia that you can never unhear, and never not think about how absolutely haunting it must have sounded to anyone passing by. /Calum Henderson
‘Brother’ – Smashproof feat. Gin Wigmore
To give you an idea of the tremendous impact of this song, 2009’s ‘Brother’ smashed the record for the longest consecutive run at number one by a local act – a title that was previously held by America’s Cup cringe 1986 anthem ‘Sailing Away’. I highly recommend you read this terrific interview about the genesis and legacy of the song, and then enjoy the following factoid: it was Jess Peters, aka the fake reporter in ‘We Gon Ride’, who suggested that Universal feature an exciting new artist called Gin Wigmore on the track. The more you know! /AC
‘Slice of Heaven’ – Dave Dobbyn and Herbs
The other day, wandering down a bleak supermarket aisle, I realised I was singing out loud and had been doing so for several minutes. It takes a lot to get me to sing, especially in public, but Dobbo and Herbs did that. They always do that. Released in 1986, ‘Slice of Heaven’ might be the catchiest song ever written. The moment the very first synth-flute loop hits your synapses, you’re under its spell once again. But this isn’t just a timeless unofficial national anthem, it’s the song that soundtracked a movie, became an Australasian hit, and helped launch a troubled West Auckland theme park. Name another New Zealand duo that can claim to have done that. /Chris Schulz
‘Feel Inside (And Stuff Like That)’ – Flight of the Conchords feat. Everyone
Where were you when Dave Dobbyn sang about bubble mixture? Probably on the couch watching Red Nose Day in 2012.
Red Nose Day isn’t really a fixture on the local calendar these days, but it used to involve an annual charity drive and a live TV broadcast featuring a strange array of talent (remember when Mark Richardson did stand-up comedy? It was for Red Nose Day!). But the pinnacle of Red Nose Day came when Flight of the Conchords joined forces with seemingly everyone in the local entertainment industry (Dave Dobbyn! Savage! Brooke Fraser!) for a charity single almost entirely written by children. ‘Feel Inside (And Stuff Like That)’ is an earworm for the ages, combining the nonsensical lyrics of primary school kids with the musical talents of Bret and Jemaine. It’s one of the best NZ musical collabs of all time and a timely reminder that we’re long overdue a Flight of the Conchords revival. /Stewart Sowman-Lund
‘Good Morning Baby’ – Bic Runga & Dan Wilson
When we think of New Zealand musicians making it big on the world stage we probably think of Lorde winning a Grammy, Steriogram having a music video directed by Michel Gondry or Wing appearing on South Park. Here’s one that gets overlooked: Bic Runga had not one but two songs on the American Pie soundtrack. Not American Pie 2 or American Wedding or one of the bleak spinoff movies – the American Pie. This is huge, and not only because it means Shane Warne – a noted fan of the franchise and the character of Stifler in particular – must have listened to Bic Runga multiple times.
There’s ‘Sway’, the big hit off her debut album Drive, and then there’s ‘Good Morning Baby’, a duet with Dan Wilson from Semisonic, recorded at the peak of the band’s ‘Closing Time’-inspired popularity. Runga’s harmonies take a backseat to Wilson in the mix as the verses float by on wispy clouds of distorted guitar, but a subtle switch sees her voice come to the fore as we arrive at one of the 90s’ most underrated choruses: “Good morning baby, I hope I’m gonna make it through another day (uh-huh)”. /CH
‘Freaks’ – Timmy Trumpet and Savage
EDM-hip hop crossovers were thin on the ground here, this country can be too reverent. That’s probably why Savage had to head to Australia to make the barn-burning big room anthem. Essentially a novelty song, and unlikely to be fondly remembered by Savage, it nonetheless goes incredibly hard and New Zealand should aspire to have more dorky high-calorie, low-nutrient singles like this. /DG
Strawpeople + Various Artists (Fiona McDonald, Bic Runga, Stephanie Tauevihi etc)
A true curiosity of our musical past, Strawpeople made a career out of collaboration – Mark Tierney and Paul Casserley hauled in a range of women to sing sleek, moody electronic pop which today sounds inflected with a kind of Antipodean trip hop. Their biggest hits came from working with Fiona McDonald, the sometime Headless Chickens vocalist whose siren sound seemed tailor-made for their beautifully textured production. Perhaps most notable of all was the fact that each member was arguably more accomplished outside the band – Casserly was a driving force behind of New Zealand’s most idiosyncratic and original comedy in Eating Media Lunch, while Mark Tierney was an acclaimed cinematographer and also contributed deranged NFL coverage to Deadball, the little-read sports blog precursor to The Spinoff. /DG