Music taking Kiwi to Japan

Triple winner: Te Awanui Reeder receives the maori Songwriter of the Yaer award from Don McGlashan.
Triple winner: Te Awanui Reeder receives the maori Songwriter of the Yaer award from Don McGlashan.

Kiwi hip hop sensation Te Awanui Reeder's newest musical offering is big in Japan.

The former founding member of legendary NZ R&B band Nesian Mystik has topped both the iTunes albums and singles chart in one of the world's most lucrative markets.

Shine A Light, Reeder's collaboration with Japanese producer Robert de Boron, was the most downloaded song and album in Japan in the last week of June.

"It's pretty amazing. It's not often that overseas artists can break into Japan," Reeder told Sunday News.

"The majority of the market is J-pop, so for a foreign artist to do well, they have to be really good or have a song that cracks it. In saying that though, it's shown me that any of us can crack it.

"It's not just the Jay-Zs but it's [also] people you have never heard of. You have just got to go hard." His collaboration with de Boron, who has had a string of hit albums as a producer, came through the Media Factory label.

"They wanted me to write some songs for Robert," Reeder said. "They just kept asking me to write songs. They seemed to all do well over there. By the end of it, we actually had about four songs and they invited me over to Japan to write an album.

"I thought, awesome. I love Japan. Nesian Mystik did well over there a few years ago. We had a song that hit the Top 20 and we toured there a couple of times, so I have a really strong and natural affinity for Japan."

On album, Reeder features several other Kiwi artists including Oldwun (Donny from Nesian Mystic), Maitreya (Jamie Greenslade from The Babysitters Circus) and PNC.

"Whenever I write, I try to get my friends involved," said Reeder, a New Zealand Silver Scroll Award winner.

"It . . . gives them some money and also gives them an opportunity to travel overseas. So that is a big part of what I am about as well. I am also a fan of their style. I wouldn't work with them if they were stink."

Reeder went back to Japan earlier this week for a series of showcases. He will perform at a number of venues, and at a music festival with star Kiwi reggae group Sons of Zion, who are trying to break into the Japanese market.

Reeder will then head to Hawaii, where he also has a huge audience. His first single Never Never, produced by House of Shem, established him in the US island state and he followed it up with Perfect Day, a collaboration with star Hawaii singer-songwriter Anuhea, which was produced by fellow Nesian Mystik founder David Atai.

"It [Perfect Day] smashed it on the radio," Reeder said.

"It was probably the first time that a song with lyrics in Maori, Hawaiian and English vocals had charted anywhere in the world.

"I followed that up with Back In My Life, which was also massive over there and now my latest single [Baby it's you] with [US-based group] CRSB has peaked at No 3.

"To be honest, every song that I have released in Hawaii since Never Never has been really well supported. They have kind of taken me in as their new favourite Maori since John Rowles."

Reeder is delighted with his international success.

"I have never set out to write songs that I think will chart. I just aim to make the best music I can. I do that sincerely and whatever happens happens.

"I'm not banking on a particular song. It took me a long time to really believe that I could be an artist and survive. I had to learn to trust my craft and skill.

"There have been times when I've thought, ‘man how am I going to make the next payment on my overdraft?'. But I know it's what I am meant to be doing. When I finally accepted that, everything fell into place and it continues to.

"I don't worry now. I just do what I am passionate about. The opportunities keep coming."

Sunday News