Ruru Karaitiana Profile

Chris Bourke
15 Nov 2013

Ruru Karaitiana (Ngāti Mutuahi/Ngāti Kahungunu) was a dance-band pianist who was born near Dannevirke in 1909. In May 1940, he was with the 28th Māori Battalion on board the Aquitania, which was taking New Zealand soldiers to World War II.

Karaitiana recalled that one day during the voyage, he was sunbathing on the deck while “halfway across the Indian Ocean”, when a sergeant came along, stopped beside him and looked up. “Look at that bloody smoke,” he said, pointing to the smoke trailing from the funnels. “It’s going the right way – back to New Zealand – and we’re steaming farther from home!”

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Blue Smoke, the first New Zealand composed record, recorded and pressed in the country. Recorded in 1948, it was issued in June 1949 by the new TANZA ('To Assist New Zealand Artists') label.
Photo credit: Simon Grigg Collection
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Ruru Karaitiana in army uniform
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Original sheet music to Blue Smoke
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The cutting of the first release of Blue Smoke
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Ann Pascoe - Blue Smoke
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The Wellington International Ukulele Trio cover Blue Smoke
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Ruru Karaitiana examines an unknown 78rpm disc for a photographer, c1950. 
Photo credit: Chris Bourke collection
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The NZ Truth reports Blue Smoke's earnings in 1956
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Pixie Williams - Blue Smoke
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Weekly Review 407: Blue Smoke pressing
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Tanza

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Ruru Karaitiana was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2019. The Hall of Fame is an initiative of Recorded Music NZ and the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), whose support of AudioCulture enables the site to stream music content.