Author captures NZ's lost musical history from the Great War in new novel

Chris Bourke, author of new music history Good-Bye Maoriland.
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Chris Bourke, author of new music history Good-Bye Maoriland.

When the Great War began in 1914, the whole of New Zealand responded in a "musical way", says author and musical historian Chris Bourke.

Unfortunately, the 200-odd original songs written by Kiwis during this time have all but disappeared, either never recorded or no longer relevant.

Good-bye Māoriland: The Songs & Sounds of New Zealand's Great War is Chris Bourke's latest book, which captures the legacy of this forgotten time, from years 1914 to 1918.

A brass band performs at a New Zealand Rifle Brigade camp near the line at Ypres, September 1917.
ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY

A brass band performs at a New Zealand Rifle Brigade camp near the line at Ypres, September 1917.

The award-winning Wellingtonian author said the book stemmed from his interest in how music impacts on society, as well as the Great War's centenary in 2017.

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"There is always music surrounding war," he said.

Actors in an open air performance during World War I, France.
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Actors in an open air performance during World War I, France.

"During war time, music is about the people at home responding to the war and expressing their support. Later on, the songs change to grieving and acknowledging the sacrifice."

Interestingly, while many of the Pākehā songs have been lost, the Māori wartime songs which have stayed in contemporary folklore. 

So, one chapter of the book is dedicated entirely to Māori song writing. Many of which encourage people to enlist in the war effort, he said.

Cover of Good-Bye Maoriland: The Songs & Sounds of New Zealand's Great War, published October 2017.
Supplied

Cover of Good-Bye Maoriland: The Songs & Sounds of New Zealand's Great War, published October 2017.

Bourke is known for his 2011 award-winning book, Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music, which depicts New Zealand's Rock n Roll era from 1918 onwards.

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Bourke will be travelling from Wellington to attend the Devonport launch, timed for the last day of the Heritage Festival. 

Alongside Kiwi musician Tim Finn, the opening event will also feature a live band.

"I really like the idea of having a brass band at the launch, because brass bands were the communal music providers," Bourke said.

"Attendees will get the sound of the era."

Attend the launch, October 15, from 2pm at Old Vic, Devonport. Cost $10. 

 

 - Stuff

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