Aotearoa – the land of the long white cloud – also known as New Zealand, has been a place for experimentation ever since the islands were discovered and inhabited by Māori in the late 13th century. The conditions of that encounter, between Polynesian explorers and this remote land, gave rise to a unique and vigorous culture. The arrival of Pakeha (European colonists) in the late 18th century began another era of transformation, brutal in its effect on Māori, but eventually followed by a Māori renaissance and a slow and ongoing process of reconciliation and an emergent cultural synergy underpinned by the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of modern New Zealand, which Pakeha were slow to honour.
This mix of Polynesian and European cultures, the geographical isolation of the country, the beauty, wildness and diversity of its environments, and the connections to the rest of the world which the digital age affords, makes for a set of cultural conditions like no other. Aotearoa’s isolation leaves musicians and artists free to work in ways that are not heavily swayed by European and North American traditions. Biculturalism, and an increasingly multicultural population, bring deep traditions and unexpected mixes to art and society alike. Affordable air travel and the internet allow “Kiwis” to influence and be influenced by the rest of the world, virtually and in the flesh.
The electronic and experimental music of the country reflects these conditions, and this Themendossier (thematic dossier) offers audible snapshots of some of the key musicians, scenes and creative practices in the sound-worlds of contemporary New Zealand.
The New Music, New Zealand Themendossier has been produced on the occasion of German musician, electronic music producer, and sound artist Hanno Leichtmann’s visit to Aoteoroa, as the 2018 Goethe-Institut New Zealand Artist-in-Residence.