WaveShapeConversion: The Land as Reverent in the Dance Culture and Music of Aotearoa
Type of content
This thesis is the result of more than ten years involvement with outdoor dance events in Aotearoa, with a specific focus on Te Wai Pounamu (South Island) and Otautahi (Christchurch). Two symbiotic themes are explored here – that of the significance of the landscape in inspiring a conversion to tribal-based spirituality at the events, and the role of the music in ‘painting’ a picture of Aotearoa in sound, with an emphasis on those musicians heard in the outdoor dance zones. With no major publications or studies specific to Aotearoa to reference, a framework based on global post-rave culture has been included in each chapter so that similarities and differences to Aotearoa dance culture may be established. Using theoretical frameworks that include Hakim Bey’s TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone), the carnivalesque, and tribalism, the overriding theme to emerge is that of utopia, a concept that in Aotearoa is also central to the Pākehā mythology that often stands in for a hidden violent colonial history, of which te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) has been a source of division since it was signed in 1840. Thus, in the Introduction several well-known local songs have been discussed in relation to both the Pākehā mythology and the history of te Tiriti in order to contextualise the discussion of the importance of Māori and Pākehā integration in the dance zones in the following chapters. The thesis comprises of two main themes: the events and the music. At the events I took a participatory-observer approach that included working as rubbish crew, which provided a wealth of information about the waste created by the organisers and vendors, and the packaging brought in by the dancers. Thus the utopian visions that were felt on the dancefloor are balanced with descriptions of the dystopian reality that when the dancers and volunteers go home, becomes the responsibility of a strong core of ‘afterparty’ crew. Musically, the development of a local electronic sound that is influenced by the environmental soundscape, along with the emergence of a live roots reggae scene that promotes both positivity and political engagement, has aided spiritual conversion in the dance zones. Whereas electronic acts and DJ’s were the norm at the Gathering a decade ago, in 2008 the stages at dance events are a mixture of electronic and live acts, along with DJ’s, and most of the performers are local. Influenced by a strong reggae movement in Aotearoa, along with Jamaican/UK dance styles such as dub and drum and bass, local ‘roots’ musicians are weaving a new philosophy that is based on ancient tribal practices, environmentalism and the aroha (love) principles of outdoor dance culture. The sound of the landscape is in the music, whilst the vocals outline new utopian visions for Aotearoa that acknowledge the many cultures that make up this land. Thus, in Aotearoa dance music lies the kernel of hope that Aotearoa dance culture may yet evolve to fulfil its potential.