One Brotherhood in Aotearoa New Zealand: Protest, resistance and Pacific reggae
The band Herbs has recently been formally recognized in Aotearoa New Zealand for its cultural expression and influence, and for the musicians’ political stance in an important period of activism. The band’s highly original and influential first EP, What’s Be Happen? (1981), is a musical fusion of roots reggae and Pacific sounds. It was the country’s first Pacific reggae album and is regarded as a defining moment in the history of New Zealand popular music. This article examines “One Brotherhood,” one of the most overtly political songs from that album, in relation to its political and social context. Written by band member Phil Toms, the song makes a powerful political statement by connecting protest against a national rugby tour of New Zealand by a racially selected team from Apartheid South Africa with struggles for the return of Māori land. I draw on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism and his conceptualization of utterances as ethical acts in the analysis of this popular song and the ways in which subordinate voices are represented in its creative construction of protest and resistance to injustice and social oppression.