Southside of Bombay was in constant demand following the success of the Once Were Warriors soundtrack, which pushed ‘What’s The Time Mr Wolf’ to hit-single status in 1994. Many venues underestimated the band’s pulling power.
Although Ruia Aperahama, who wrote and sang ‘Mr Wolf’ and his twin brother Ranea had quit the unit for family reasons, the rest of the members stepped up to the plate to continue recording and touring.
Founding member Kevin Hotu says many venues had little idea of what they were in for when Southside of Bombay came to town, on the back of the success of their singles ‘Mr Wolf’ and ‘All Across the World’. When the band arrived to set up for an evening gig at Opononi in Hokianga he knew the pub didn’t have the capacity for what was about to happen. “I walked in and said, you’ve got to be joking? Then I looked at the carpark and saw there was one entrance that could be blocked off with a table. That’s what we did and people from Waitangi to Kaitaia and Whangarei turned up.”
many venues had little idea of what they were in for when Southside of Bombay came to town after their hit singles.
The same thing happened in Opotiki when it was clear the venue was too small. “People came from Whakatane, Tauranga and Rotorua … Southside of Bombay performed in the carpark and it was chocca. A heavy metal band at the next pub had to cancel their gig because everyone came to us.”
Southside of Bombay made a point of giving young up-and-coming Māori bands a chance as their opening act. They got involved in the Government Training Opportunities Programme (TOP) job incentives, mentoring young people to get involved in the music industry.
“We would invite them to soundchecks so they could see what was required for setting up and the like. I know nine of them who have done really well and are still working in the industry in Auckland,” says Kevin.
Mina Ripia, ex-Moahunters and partner of Maaka “Phat” McGregor, was a regular highlight at Southside of Bombay gigs, joining the band on stage to perform a rap about the Treaty of Waitangi in the middle of ‘What’s The Time Mr Wolf’, which always received an strong audience response.
The Southside of Bombay lineup remained stable for several years and although members were often involved in other recording projects, when summer came around the core members and friends were back on the road. Warren Maxwell played guitar and sax with the unit for four years from 1994 while studying at the Conservatorium of Music in Wellington before going on to form Trinity Roots and joining Fat Freddy’s Drop.
Brisbane with the bros
Southside of Bombay was invited to play a Waitangi Day concert in Brisbane in February 1995 alongside Herbs, Mark Williams, Erana Clark, Bunny Walters, Dalvanius, and a reformed version of Dread Beat & Blood. “It really went off … that’s the first time I’ve seen 25,000 people jammed in together,” says Kevin.
Arriving back from Australia, Southside of Bombay recorded ‘Umbadada’ (composed by Joe Ewens) at Auckland’s York Street Recording Studios, produced by Malcolm Welsford. Kevin says ‘Umbadada’ is about “finding common ground within different cultures … Peace, unity, you can have it if you want it”.
Two further songs composed by Joe Ewens, ‘Divide & Fool’ (featuring Tofiga Fepuleai) and ‘Tauira', were recorded at Marmalade Recording Studio in Wellington and produced by Tim Farrant. They were released by Pagan as a four-track EP. A music video was produced for ‘Umbadada’ by Colin McColl and Regan Jones, funded by NZ On Air.
Kevin says Southside of Bombay was surprised when ‘Umbadada’, named more for a generic sound than having a specific meaning, was awarded Best Polynesian Recording in the NZ Music Awards in 1996.
The band also received two more awards: Best Mana Māori Recording and Best Mana Reo Recording, for the song ‘Kia Mau’, released by Southside of Bombay in conjunction with Mina Ripia of Moana & The Moahunters.
The song ‘Kia Mau’, composed by Tipi Wehipeihana, Mark Te Whare, Kimo Winiata, Mina and Maaka Phat, was Southside of Bombay’s first full te reo release. It was recorded at Kahu Recording Studio in Auckland and features a rap by Kimo Winiata from the band IWI. A music video featuring Mina, Southside of Bombay and IWI was produced by Brendan Butt.
While mainstream radio made no space for ‘Kia Mau’, it was placed on high rotate by Māori radio and remained live favourite for audiences.
When saxophonist Damon Grant moved to Christchurch, Kali Barton was added on trombone. Founding member Brent Thompson also moved south, to further his musical studies. Kevin’s cousin Elliot Fuimaono, with whom he played in Taste of Bounty and Bad Boys, came in as replacement on bass.
Hard core touring
One of the busiest periods for the band was 1995 to 1997; they played concerts and festivals from Kaitaia to Queenstown, and were booked for orientation gigs at universities and polytechnics.
That meant having a “hard core” group of roadies for set up, pack down, sound management and transporting the gear. Number one sound man was Whare Moke with roadies including Roland, Joff Rei, Jonathon Mason, Don Gel, Wicksie and Titch (Michael Colgan).
Titch was killed when the PA truck he was driving plunged into Lake Taupo on the way to a Christmas in the Park gig in Auckland. Whare, who was in the truck with him, survived that tragedy.
When long-time Herbs member Charlie Tumahai passed away at the end of December 1995, Southside of Bombay travelled to Auckland to play at the tribute concert, held in April 1996 at the Powerstation.
Southside of Bombay invited Herbs to join them over Christmas and New Year 1996-97 for the Kia Ora Aotearoa tour of the North Island, playing 14 gigs from Kaitaia to Paekakariki over a 20-day period.
“It was great to learn from Dilworth [Karaka] and the rest of the band about what it takes to become a hard-core touring band,” says Kevin, “including how to deal with people who treat you like rubbish.”
So how do you? “You either don’t go there again or you let them know the night before that you’re not going on,” he laughs – while admitting that’s not something Southside of Bombay ever had to do.
The band also picked up good tips on management and equipment. “Don’t worry about second-hand or cheap equipment ... get the best. We did that and things became easier and it made a real difference to our sound quality.”
Recording the tour
Later in 1997 the band, now match fit, set out on its own North Island tour, recording their gigs for their double CD, Live in Aotearoa. The tour kicked off in Whangaroa then zig-zagged across the island from Kawhia to Cambridge, Rotorua, Turangi, Whanganui, Palmerston North and back home to Wellington.
“These places often had big old bars that could hold up to 300 people and we filled them. At the Cossie [Cosmopolitan] Club in Turangi we had 350 people turn up and had to close the doors. The manager complained because there were people standing out in the car park. I said, ‘I’m sorry I can’t help that.’”
Live in Aotearoa, produced by Nigel Stone, consisted of one CD compilation of the band’s singles, and the other contained choice cuts from the tour. “Nigel and Tim Farrant joined us on the road to record over 12 gigs but a lot of it “needed editing due to electrical humming and noise from the crowds which can’t always be controlled in a live environment,” says Kevin.
In May 1997 Southside of Bombay was invited to New Caledonia to perform as the headline act at the Pacific Tempo Festival alongside Christine Anu. The crowd went wild and sang along when Southside of Bombay performed ‘What’s The Time Mr Wolf’ with lead vocals from Ranea, who had returned to the band.
Change of label
The band moved to Tangata Records, a collective of artists committed to advancing Māori and local music in New Zealand and internationally.
Kevin Hotu: Southside of Bombay was one of a few bands “who parted well, came back together again, and remained friends.”
In September 1997 Southside of Bombay travelled to Australia to perform with Moana and the Moahunters and Dam Native at the Sydney Olympics Festival of the Dreaming.
When Anne Prichard, the band’s keyboard player, left to travel overseas and to live in the UK, Elton Walker joined, followed by Christine Morris.
The first single on via Tangata Records was ‘Running’ (composed by Joe Ewens) recorded at George Nepia III’s Phlax Wax Digital studio in Wellington and produced by Maaka Phat. It was supported by an NZ On Air funded video and produced by Ted Koopu.
It was released just ahead of Live In Aotearoa, which was also on Tangata in 1998 with a support video for ‘Say’. Live In Aotearoa won Best Mana Māori Album at the 1998 NZ Music Awards.
As Southside of Bombay began to wind down in the early 2000s, Ruia and Ranea went on to carve out highly successful careers together and as solo artists, winning multiple awards for their own compositions and recording as a duo and as solo artists.
Maaka Phat and Mina formed WAI, producing the groundbreaking te reo Māori electronica album WAI 100%, which won Best Mana Māori Album at the 2001 NZ Music Awards. WAI also received two nominations for the BBC World Music Awards in 2002 and toured extensively in America, Europe and Asia.
Phat is one of New Zealand’s most prolific producers of Māori music. His most recent success is Whakatō Te Kākano, produced by Maaka Phat for the group Mauri; in 2018 it was the second most played song on Māori radio.
In 2014 Teresa began managing Ranea Aperahama prior to the Jan 2015 release of his original debut solo album Tihei Mauri Ora, produced by Maaka Phat at Suite As Studios in Titahi Bay. The album went on to win best Māori album at the 2015 NZ Music Awards.
After a meeting in 2017 between Ruia, Ranea, Teresa and Kevin, a decision was made to reform Southside of Bombay with the following lineup: Ruia Aperahama on vocals, alto saxophone and keyboards, Ranea Aperahama on vocals and lead guitar, David Fiu on vocals and trumpet, Kali Barton on trombone, Damon Grant on saxophone and flute, Kevin Hotu on tenor sax, Maaka (Phat) McGregor on drums, Elliot Fuimaono on bass, and Christine Morris on keyboards.
Their first gigs in Auckland were at Portage Crossing and Waitangi@Waititi in 2018 to a 20,000-plus crowd, performing alongside the cream of local indigenous artists including Stan Walker, House Of Shem, Ardijah, Maisey Rika and Annie Crummer.
In July they performed at a tribute concert for Carl Perkins, the former Herbs member and House of Shem founder, who had died from cancer. They shared the stage with Herbs, Che Fu & the Krates, 12 Tribes of Israel, Ria Hall, Maaka Fiso and Carl’s sons in House of Shem. Later in the year they performed at the Māori Language Awards at Te Papa Tongarewa.
In 2019 the group performed at East Coast Vibes in Gisborne and were invited back to Waitangi@Waititi in Auckland, then had a double gig in Hamilton with UK band Black Slate and NRG Rising in Hamilton. With Southside of Bombay band members living in four different cities, the band is focusing on performing at selected concerts and festival type gigs in New Zealand and overseas, and plans to release new material in the near future.
Kevin Hotu believes Southside of Bombay was one of a few bands “who parted well, came back together again and remained friends. We looked after one another ... upfront and honestly ... even if it hurt, warts and all.”