There aren’t too many musical franchises in New Zealand with the rich history of Herbs.
From 1979, the band has scaled the heights of New Zealand industry, with more than
ten Top 20 singles to their credit. They’re as well known for their own work, with hits
like “French Letter,” “Sensitive To A Smile” and “Rust In Dust,” as they are for their
collaborations with the likes of Dave Dobbyn (Slice of Heaven), Tim Finn (Parihaka) or
Annie Crummer (See What Love Can Do). In fact collaboration is something that’s
been a hallmark of Herbs storied career. The list of collaborators reads like their very
own hall of fame, featuring identities such as UB40, Taj Mahal, Billy Preston, Neil Sedaka,
Tina Turner, Neil Young, George Benson, Joe Walsh, and Stevie Wonder. Many of us who
were there will remember having seen Herbs opening for Tina Turner at Mt Smart Stadium
in 1985, or with Joe Walsh performing live in 1989.
In 2012 the band was only the 11th band to be inducted unto the New Zealand Music Hall
Of Fame. Along the way they’ve collected the Polynesian “Album Of The Year” award
three times, along with the international achievement award, and song of the year
credits for the late Charlie Tumahai and band founding member Dilworth Karaka.
It’s often said that Herbs planted the seeds that grew to become the distinctive Polynesian
Reggae sound, carving out a pathway for the likes of relative newcomers Katchafire, Fat
Freddy’s Drop, Trinity Roots and The Black Seeds to follow.
Herbs notoriously courted controversy during their heyday, too. Their song “French
Letter” was written in support of New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance. It obviously
struck a chord, spending 11 weeks in the NZ charts, before being re-recorded in 1996
to reflect the band’s opposition to French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Other tracks
like “Light Of the Pacific” have followed up on the same theme.
There have been numerous changes to the band’s lineup. Time has caught up with a
number of band members, others collaborated on specific projects. There’s a three-Herb acoustic set playing at the Whitianga Hotel this Saturday night.
Founding member Dilworth Karaka joins two of the longest-serving members of the band,
vocalist and keyboard player Tama Lundon, and saxophonist and vocalist Maurice
Watene, to complete the current line-up. There’s nowhere else to be on Saturday
night. If you remember Herbs you’re going to revel in nostalgia. If you’re going to hear
them for the first time, you’re in for a real treat.
Caption : Dilworth Karaka, founding member of Herbs, seen here, performs with Tama
Lundon, Maurice Watene and Luke Whaanga and Racheal at Whitianga Hotel,
Saturday 17 September from 8:30pm. Bar and restaurant open at 3:00pm