Kevin Murphy. Photo: Florence Charvin

Last Wednesday, to kick off the 25th annual New Zealand Music Month, Hawke’s Bay Music Hub held a gala.

Proprietor and local music industry puppet master, Kevin Murphy, issued an open invitation to the region’s musos and affiliates to join him on the Toitoi stage to celebrate a vibrant local scene, much of which is underpinned by Murphy’s philanthropic support and industry savvy.

Murphy launched the Hub five years ago as a platform for local musicians to develop their skills, and to be given opportunities to perform and record. They host mentorship sessions, have a publicly available registry of artists to book for performance, and recently released the third volume of Under the Sun – a compilation of work by locals available on vinyl and online. 

Murphy floated the idea of developing regional music awards, getting the ball rolling by acknowledging three veterans of the scene for their contribution to its growth and development with a silver signet ring bearing a record motif.

The Cabana’s Roy Brown was awarded not only for his iconic live music venue, but for his own musical prowess. He proved his mettle at the grand piano with a rendition of Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released, followed by a tear jerking original song in tribute to his late father, Alan.

Master guitarist and teacher, Dave Boston, added the award to his 2009 QSM. He played a tune of his own composition, Te Awanga Sunrise, on classical guitar, followed by a Beatles medley.

The final recipient was Napier’s Music Machine proprietor, Richie Jackman, whose practical support the evening’s younger performers acknowledged. 

Riqui Harawira played a pair of reo-sprinkled tunes, including one borne from cyclone struggles. Recent high school graduate, Liberty Fowler, fresh from songwriting sessions in LA, displayed a richness of voice and a vulnerability of feeling beyond her tender years. 

Neo-soul artist, Bradley Lewis, who features on the latest iteration of Under the Sun, performed a couple of as yet unreleased tracks and paid homage to both Brown and Jackman, as well as Thomas Oliver, who offers his studio and production skills to a host of local artists.

Video messages from mentors – national icon, Laughton Kora and Music Management Forum Aotearoa representative, Cushla Aston – voiced support both for the breadth of talent in the bay and the worthiness of Hawke’s Bay Music Hub’s endeavours in fostering it.

Though celebratory, a cloud hung over the evening, both from the pulpit and the chatter in the crowd. The Hub has been generously funded in the past by charities, institutions and private sponsors; but as the pie gets smaller, their slice is disproportionately worn thin. 

Under austerity the arts are seen as dispensable, with funding decimated on both a national and regional level. Cost of living pressures can see it reluctantly cut from individuals’ and families’ squeezed budgets. Murphy’s words were a spur to action – to recognise the frailty of our hard won, vibrant music scene, and to value and invest in the industry from which memories are made.


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