What’s Be Happen? The discourse of reggae lyrics thirty years on
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This article discusses What’s Be Happen?, New Zealand’s first reggae album, released by the band Herbs in July 1981. The lyrics and adopted ‘message music’ constitute a nexus that connects, marks and speaks of salient political and social events and issues in the 1970s and early 1980s. These issues divided New Zealand society at the time, and have helped shape both opinion and many New Zealanders’ sense of their identity. The lyrics refer in particular to protests against the loss of Māori ancestral lands; the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa; the conflict between loss of Pacific Island roots and material ambitions in New Zealand, as well as the day to day experiences and police treatment of urban Māori and Pacific Island people. Analysis of the lyrics in this discussion draws on Bakhtin’s (1981) theories of heteroglossia and the dialogic responsivity of texts.