The Kini Quartet

Gisborne’s Kini Quartet sweetly spotlighted the state of NZ race relations in the 1960s. 1963 was a year of protest, when folk singer Joan Baez led a crowd of 300,000 anti-racism marchers in Washington in singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ and Dr Martin Luther King gave his ‘I have a Dream’ speech.

Here in sleepy Aotearoa, The Kini Quartet, a barely-remembered acoustic quartet from Gisborne, added their sweet harmonies to the bitter struggle against racial discrimination, one that would dominate the coming decade. They pointed to the racism close to home – not in faraway, burning Mississippi or riot-torn Alabama.

Eldred Stebbing recording The Kini Quartet in Gisborne in November 1961
Photo credit: Gisborne Photo News
The 1970 album Under The Sun contained remakes of much of the Kini catalogue, and included their Studio One hit The Ballad of Pancho Lopez, which took out the show's Best Song prize
Martin Kini, Joe Williams, Esther Taihuka and Barney Taihuka
Peter Posa and Margaret Raggett, composer of The Kini Quartet's biggest hits, in Gisborne, 1961
Photo credit: Gisborne Photo News
Peter Posa (right) recording with the Kini Quartet in Gisborne in 1962. Zodiac Records' Eldred Stebbing was recording the session.
Photo credit: Gisborne Photo News
Rim D. Paul and the Kini Quartet, 1964
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Rim D. Paul Collection at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
The 1965 EP Maori Melodies was the last recording for Eldred Stebbing's Zodiac label for four years. By the time the band returned to the label Martin Kini had left the band.
The Kini Quartet – or at least 3 of them (Martin Kini, Joe Williams and Barney Taihuka) – live in Gisborne, 1962
Photo credit: Gisborne Photo News
The first pressing of the 1962 single Under The Sun. The 7-inch record would remain in the Zodiac catalogue for most of the decade.
The Kini Quartet in the early 1970s: John Hemopo, Richard Bell, Barney Taihuka, and Joe Williams

Martin Kini - vocals

Joe Williams - vocals

Esther Taihuka - vocals

Barney Taihuka - vocals, guitar

Richard Bell - vocals

John Hemopo - vocals


Richard Bells' son is DJ, media personality and broadcaster Philip 'Sir-Vere' Bell.

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