Tiki Taane was the ultra enthusiastic Natty Dread that dominated stages across New Zealand, Australia and Europe in the 90's and early 2000's. In the drum and bass realm, he was known as MC Rizzla and forged a huge reputation for himself first performing with Concord Dawn, then collaborating with them on several international drum and bass anthems.
Over in the dub reggae camp, or dub’n’bass as they called it, Tiki was the soundtech turned front man for new generation New Zealand music pioneers Salmonella Dub. Tiki rocked stages with them for over a decade and became a dominant image on our TV screens and in radio media. That wasn’t enough though, he built a fierce reputation as a dj, producer, live sound engineer and studio engineer. Without Tiki behind the desk Shapeshifter might never have had that powerfully defined kick, snare and sub bass that has come to be internationally known as the essence of drum and bass.
Beyond all of this Tiki created a mythos around himself, a mythos that became self perpetuating. He was a dreadlocked, tattooed, half Maori, half English musical monster, ragga, hip-hop raps, sung choruses, playing guitar to the studio and back. He was underground, but he could write pop hooks that could and did crossover into the mainstream. Hip Hop, Reggae, Jungle, Dancehall, Dub, Rock, House, what style of music couldn’t he do, what group wasn’t he involved in on some level?
The facts stated and disregarded, Tiki hasn’t been in the limelight that much the last few years.
One would have expected this to change with the release of the new Salmonella Dub album earlier in the year. It wasn’t the case though, and this release came with another shock itself. Tiki was no longer a member of Salmonella Dub, featured nowhere on their new release and was preparing his own solo album ‘Past, Present, Future’. In fact, the first single off his album ‘Tangaroa’ was released the same week as the new Salmonella Dub album.
If Tiki can be described as a musical monster, then ‘Tangaroa’ was the equally formidable child of such a beast. Huge brutish dancehall rhythms detailed with a drum and bass aesthetic were overlaid with a powerful charging Haka performed by Tiki’s father, this was then blended with semi apocalyptic stabs, synths and thunderous percussion, raining down on the listener like crashing waves of the ocean. The accompanying video matched the song in power on so many levels. I had to ask myself, was this my generations ‘Poi E’?
Tiki Taane was back, but this new Tiki was unlike any Tiki we had ever met or seen before.
By the time you read this article, much will have been made in the general media of Tiki’s departure from Salmonella Dub. His decision to stop using drugs and alcohol, the breakup of his relationship of the last five years, and the depths of personal soul searching he went through during the creation of ‘Past, Present, Future’.
If you want to read tabloid bullshit about the details of the mans day to day life, look somewhere else. The rest of this article has been structured into short explanatory sections where Tiki outlines the reasons why he wrote the songs on his new album. Who he worked with on each track, and what was going on in his life at the time.
Whakapuaki means ‘an awakening’, my brother-in-law wrote the lyrics on this song for me and my father performed them. Basically ‘Whakapuaki’ acknowledges the higher forces, the higher entities and the listeners, it then clears space to allow the listener to properly listen through the whole album. It’s more or less the ideal introduction song.
Tangaroa means ‘God of the Sea’. This was the first song I wrote for my album, I started it a good four years ago. Since then I have come to realise it was the catalyst for all the changes I have been through the last few years. I wanted to make something that was challenging and progressive, yet at the same time united the past and the future as one. I clocked a Haka recording and discovered the speed was about 110 bpm, which is a great tempo for writing dancehall at. I threw in some tribal elements and came up with a rhythm that was very powerful even without the haka on top, so when my father laid one down, it just took it to a whole other level.
In my heart I believe this song embodies the power and Mana of Tangaroa and Haka.
Now This Is It
My boy Sean Deans (Bass Frontiers stand the fuck up) wrote the beat for this one, it’s a synthy Hip-Hop number. I was at his place in Melbourne one morning, he played me a bunch of beats and I geeked on a few of them. Two ended up on the album, I was going to use three, but the last didn’t make the cut. Anyhow I wrote verses and choruses for it, then did some extra production and engineering on it to fully push the sound out. Zaniah from Kobra Kai in Sydney sung an intro/outro on it for me. Some of you may know her from her work with MC Tali and the Full Cycle crew.
Lyrically ‘Now This Is It’ was a chance for me to throw the gauntlet down. I can feel this is my time and I want to let everyone know, fully back myself and take the risk I’ve always needed to in becoming a solo artist.
Our Favorite Target
I played the drums on this track. I’m not the best drummer, but I jammed out this cool dancehall/breaks rhythm, cut it up, looped it and turned it onto a full song. I thought it would be perfect for Julia Deans from Fur Patrol (Sean’s sister) to do something different on. I sent it to her, she laid down a few vocal takes and it came out amazing. This was great for me, because I got to have both the brother and sister on my album. The song is going to open doors for Julia in other directions, it shows she can really step outside of her comfort zone.
‘Past, Present, Future’ is a real family and close friend’s album. I never planned for it to be like that, it just worked out that way.
Sean Deans writing dancehall beats! I loved this riddim and knew I had to get my brother P Diggs on it for a duet. I’ve always wanted to do a song with P Diggs, and the feeling was mutual. We have known each other for so long and worked together so much. I’ve always been his soundbwoy or helped produce his stuff, so it was great to write together. We wanted to create a song about friendship, respect, love and admiration. He is one of my best friends and it felt so natural to record ‘Faded’. Every time we perform it live, it just seems to get better and better, watch out NZ!
Evan Short from Concord Dawn on heavy metal guitar over some fast breakbeats! Yeee Haaa!!!
This was going to be on the new Salmonella Dub album, but they ended up turning it down, so I took it and blew it out. Even got some live drumming from Uncle Deaks (Salmonella Dub). ‘Wotcha Got’ was my chance to remind people that, you don’t know what you got till you’re gone!
I can’t wait to play this one live. I love heavy guitar and don’t get to hear anywhere nearly enough of it in music these days!
Always on My Mind Dub
I played the drums on this one, most simple drum loop ever. I’m not too flash on the drums, ha!
Then I went to Wellington and got a string quartet to play on top of it, fleshed things out and added in the phone messages. The original version of ‘Always on My Mind’ is pretty happy and up tempo, so I wanted to do something that was sad and said â€œI miss youâ€. This songs pretty embarrassing, but my ex-girlfriend loves it, my mother loves it, and so do most females I’ve played it to. I think it shows my more feminine and caring side.
This is one of the jungle tracks. Motive from Melbourne produced most of the beat, he’s an old mate from Christchurch days. I love the reggae jungle crossover sound and wanted to sing about how beautiful it is. A lot of younger people don’t know about how jungle started as a blend between Jamaican and English music. I felt a need to acknowledge that music and it’s message of unity.
Always on My Mind
This was me banging away on a crappy old acoustic guitar then singing on top. I recorded about twenty takes, by the end of that my tone and pitch was spot on, but the feeling I was really looking for was gone. I ended up going back to track three, it’s not spot on, but the feeling is far more raw and honest. I felt is was really important to do something under produced and real, especially in this age of auto-tune. I recorded ‘Always on My Mind’ for my ex-girlfriend, a beautiful woman who stood by me through all of my craziness the last five years. She’s living in Spain now…
Music Has Saved Me
This one is a P-Money beat, one of the ones Scribe could have used for his new album.
I wanted to write a song that really paid homage to music and the positive effect it has had on my life. To be honest, if it wasn’t for music I would be in a gang or worse. I don’t want to go deep, but I would have ended up in a bad place. The chorus is inspired by a line from Ini Kamikaze’s ‘World Ah Music’, you know the one ‘Out in the streets, we call it murder’. One of the greatest lines of all time, in my opinion.
Past, Present, Future
My grandmother sings on this song, there is a catch though. She passed away about fifteen years ago and the vocals come from a tape recording of her singing one of her babies to sleep in her kitchen in the seventies. No one knows much about the recording, it came to my attention when I got asked to transfer it to CD so my family could listen to it.
The song doesn’t have a beat, I just arranged some strings and noises around the vocal.
My album contains musical content from myself, my father and my grandmother. That’s three generations, when I’m dead and gone and my descendants are listening to it, we’ll all be there shining guidance and light on them.
Traditionally Maori record history through Moko, carving and Waiata. I’m trying to live more in the present and update one of our traditions, this is my contribution.
It’s All In Your Head
I played most of the instruments on this song. Drums, bass, piano, keys. It was really challenging for me, and I think when you listen to it, you wouldn’t think it’s my music. Celia Church did the main vocal. She’s a friend of Julia Deans, another one of those New Zealanders living in Melbourne. Julia did the backing vocals, it’s amazing how many people living in Australia ended up having a hand in this album.
Several years ago I went on a spiritual journey to Rarotonga to retrace the route my people traveled to come to Aotearoa. I sat on this beach that was the launch point for the Tainui Waka, looked out at the open ocean and had a vision of sorts. I felt a need to say thank you to those brave people who climbed onto that waka and sailed out into the open seas for three weeks, a good eight hundred years ago. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today, so I cut my dreadlocks off and buried them under a coconut tree as an offering. I would love to have been one of those people on the Waka. If right now it was announced that we had the option to board a flight to Mars, you’d find me on board, right up front, ready for whatever the future may bring.
This November Tiki will be touring his album across New Zealand with a live band composed of members of Shapeshifter, and dj support from Queenstown’s Sunshine Soundsystem.
Tiki Taane’s debut solo album ‘Past, Present, Future’ is out now on Dirty Dub
Check www.tikidub.co.nz for more information