Hope for a Generation: Songs for the environment and the spirit of protest

From RNZ Music, 6:00 am on 15 March 2019

As school children across New Zealand strike to draw attention to climate change, RNZ Music shares a playlist of New Zealand songs that speak to our spirit of resistance and strong sense of place.

Protest sign for today's school strike for climate change

Protest sign for today's school strike for climate change Photo: Yadana Saw

Here is a selection of songs which have stood the test of time, or have returned to relevance recently.

Hope - Fat Freddy's Drop

Dallas Tamaira's vocals glide over the signature horns and bass beats of Fat Freddys. 'Hope' was the first track of the live improv collective to gain international attention - the band's first international tour was called 'Hope for a Generation'. 

"Hope for a generation
Just beyond my reach
Not beyond my sights"

Sensitive to a Smile - Herbs

A song about family, coming together, and caring for the next generation, written by Dilworth Karaka and Charlie Tumahai with American poet Todd Casella. It reached #9 on the NZ singles chart in 1987 and has been covered at least twice since then.

"So make a stand and hold your ground
And maybe the world will turn around
Peace and love and harmony.
Beautiful children have come into my life."

Maisey Rika - Tangaroa Whakamautai

Maisey Rika's beautiful 2012 waiata celebrates Tangaroa — the Māori god of the sea.

" Te tangi a te tohorā, He tohu nō aituā, Te mau a Tangaroa"

("The cry of the whale, Signals a warning, The power of Tangaroa")

Home, Land and Sea - Trinity Roots

"This is a song about out beautiful country" - Warren Maxwell

"From the tail of the fish, to the top
Money all, around this world. Want a piece of this yeah
Seems like nothing, nothing no, no
Gonna stop, I know, you can feel it"

Damn The Dam - John Hanlon

This song went to #5 on the singles chart and won single of the year in 1973 for "accidental" pop star John Hanlon. It was inspired by the damming of Lake Manapouri for a hydro power station, and the resulting inundation of surrounding native bush and wildlife. A self-identified 'idealist" John Hanlon continues to speak up about social issues.

'There is No Depression in New Zealand' - Blam Blam Blam

This commentary on the kiwi "she'll be right" attitude remains as relevant today as it was on release in 1981, embodying the eternal ironic teenager in just 3'11 seconds.

E Tu - Upper Hutt Posse

New Zealand's first hip hop song was a call to arms for Maori to stand up for their rights, released by young act Upper Hutt Posse in 1988.

At a time when American hip hop groups like Public Enemy were drawing on the influence of African-American leaders including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Upper Hutt Posse delivered a Māoritanga take on rebel music, using ‘E Tū’ to pay homage to Māori leaders like Te Rauparaha, Hōne Heke and Te Kooti.

E tū, stand proud/ Kia kaha, say it loud

'Listen To Us' - Home Brew

This 2011 media mash-up and rap song from the Tom Scott-led Home Brew pulls no punches while laying out some of the impact poverty and disenfranchisement can have on young people.

(language / content warning)

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