Herbs: Songs of Freedom
NOW SHOWING
Genre:
Documentary, Music, New Zealand Feature
Duration:
1 hours 30 minutes
Age restriction:
PG
Herbs: Songs of Freedom

Some Songs Never Grow Old

This theatrical documentary celebrates the five men from different islands in the South Pacific who gave voice to a generation and the issues of the time through their music.

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 harbor 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.

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