Nostalgia is a powerful drug. More potent still is a sense of sentimentality for a time you have never known, one which maybe never even existed outside of the mind.
Arahi has been making waves in the local music scene, collaborating with the Bay’s finest creatives to produce quality content across a host of media. His short film, Haere Ake Nei, created by esteemed local artist, Putaanga Waitoa, was poignant and powerful. His Arts Festival show, The Hurricane Years was thoughtful and theatrical, combining elements of style and staging, dance and spoken word, to showcase his singular musical talent. This summer he shared the Black Barn stage with Dave Dobbyn, vying for place amongst the New Zealand greats.
Arahi creates a cloak of character he dons for performance. It’s a tool of transformation that allows him to become larger than life when he takes to the stage. Vampiric prophet and foppish glam rocker are all roles he has played.
But for this release, he channels a childhood fantasy, the hedonistic eighties rock star, consummately confident, veiled in good vibes and tight leather. His look is superlatively styled by vintage goddess Sarah Bell, of Spoilt Victorian Child, with input from scissors wizard John Lancashire of Napier hairdressing institution, Pearl. This pair of stylish spirit guides bestow on Arahi’s vision a stamp of authenticity. Having lived through the eighties, they remember the good, the bad and the ugly, and can expertly discern what to retain and what to discard. It’s a fertile companionship that produces otherworldly visuals both for media and live shows. The aesthetic is integral rather than ancillary to the music. What is being created here is a thought filled exhaustive experience, a feast for the senses.
The song itself is a fun-filled poppy anthem for the summer that never was.
Predictable situational setbacks delayed the proposed December release, but in keeping with the retrospective vibe the timing is perfect. We need joyful music when times are hard and the sun’s warmth is fading. Particularly mixed like a relic of forgotten decades, it has a full, well rounded sound with Joe Dobson on drums and Phill Jones on bass, with KITA’s Nakita Tu-Bryant on backing vocals and Ed Zuccollo on synth and keys.
Like much of Arahi’s material, it charts the journey from innocence to experience, a classic coming of age tale of the struggle to hold on to hope in a world where disillusionment is inevitable. The title, ‘The Best Thing I’ve Ever Seen’, is presented in perpetual quotation marks, evoking a single raised eyebrow, an ironic tongue thrust into his cheek. The B-Side is his previously released ‘Searching in the Sun’, reimagined as something to get up and dance to and remixed with an eighties twist.
On the theme of yearning for a forgotten yesterday, Arahi has produced a limited run of cassette tapes, an analog antidote to the digitisation of today’s music. He’s interested in preserving aspects of entertainment we were, perhaps, too quick to discard in our rush to embrace the sonically Spotify-saturated future. The pleasure of a fold out cassette sleeve you can touch and feel cancels out the pain of painstakingly rewinding garbled tape with a pencil. Get your hands on one before they’re gone at his website and listen in on April 1.
It’s sure to be ‘the best thing you’ve ever seen’…until the next thing.