Songwriter, composer and performer Rob Ruha will reveal the fruits of his new project - Rob Ruha and The Witch Dr. - with the release of the 12-track album Survivance this Friday, December 1.
One of Aotearoa’s foremost producers of powerful kapa haka traditions of song and indigeneity, Ruha launched his solo career in 2014 and gained international recognition for his unique style of music, which became known as ‘haka soul’.
He went on to win countless awards, including ‘Best Māori Album’ (Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards 2014 and 2016), ‘Best Songwriter’, ‘Best Māori Song’, ‘Best Male Solo Artist’ (Waiata Māori Music Awards) and the prestigious APRA Maioha Awardin 2014 and 2016 for his waiata ‘Kariri’ and ‘Tiki Tapu.’
This year, Ruha received the honour of being named as one of five Laureate Awardrecipients in the Arts Foundation Awards.
Now the esteemed artist from New Zealand’s East Coast has embarked on a collaborative project with some of the country’s finest musicians (Darren Mathiassen fromShapeshifter, James Illingworth from Bliss n Eso, Tyna Keelan from The Nok andJohnny Lawrence from Electric Wire Hustle) AKA The Witch Dr.
The results are a stunning 12-track album, which shows a new side to the multi-talented Ruha and delivers a powerful message with an uplifting blend of festival soul and R’n’B, promoting the Māori nation as relevant, spirited, capable, connected, prophetic, morally courageous and unrelenting in their pursuit of self determination.
“The album stems from a discussion I had in the back of a taxi with friends about this academic term called ‘survivance’. It reflects how I feel about that word, what it elicits from me as a First Nations person of Aotearoa, how we address and face issues that impact us as indigenous peoples here in this country and what that means in a global context,” says Ruha.
“Musically, I wanted the album to position that discourse in a current but familiar sonic landscape to attract major ‘click traffic’ to not only the tunes but the messages in the songs. It was important also that the music was warm, offered multiple opportunities for the listener to engage with those messages and not be too intellectually heavy and uninviting.”
The tracks that make up Survivanceare heavily influenced by the music that Ruha grew up on - killer grooves, strong melodies, A-rotate listen-ability with strong R’n’B foundations.
“R’n’B was birthed out of a section of society that wanted a voice and strove to create a vehicle to amplify it and normalize its place. It is in this knowledge that we created musical beds that are fresh with exciting twists, spirited and a bit edgy, powerfully grounded and at times venerable and lamenting. It is a journey of sound that is as diverse and exciting as my Māori nation today,” he explains.
This is evident in the album’s lead single ‘Kalega’ - the perfect summer jam, which takes the listener on a journey to Ruha’s home. "Picture glistening coastal views, fresh fish and chips after a swim, ice cream stops and BBQs on the beach while your favorite jams ring out the car window and you have ‘Kalega’ - an upbeat waiata that celebrates a unique slice of Aotearoa heaven, the East Coast, where the word ‘Kalega’ is as legendary as a kina tongue on bread!”
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