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August/September 2016

by Rona Wignall

On Foreign Soil: Arcee

by Rona Wignall

On Foreign Soil: Arcee

Arcee is Rona Claire Wignall, the performer name being both her initials and a riff on that of a feisty female Transformers’ autobot. Born in Manchester, England, she grew up in NZ from 12. Having studied music at Otago University she has recently shifted north to Auckland. Arcee performs typically blunt, conscious hip hop, rapping about issues that affect herself, friends and family. Her debut album ‘The Arcee LP’ was released in August last year. Invited to perform at Fusion Festival in Germany she tacked on a small tour that added France and Switzerland to her international performance resumé, kindly providing NZM with this tour diary.

Auckland, Hongkong, Frankurt, Berlin –
June 27/28

27 hours worth of flights! As soon as we landed at Berlin Airport we were picked up by a private shuttle to be taken straight to our first gig at Fusion Festival. Feeling like Oprah we were prepped for the two and a half hour drive from Berlin to Lärz. Instead we were soon travelling over 200km/h on the autobahn which is a new experience for us. Very scary, and we underestimated German humour. I don’t think the driver got our Kiwi jokes either.

“Guess where we’re from?”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I pick up 1000 artists today.”

“Well, we’re from New Zealand so you can tell the other 999 artists that we won! We came the furthest so we’re the winners!”

“Ja, okay.”

Conversation ends.

We arrived at the festival site a day before it began. They were still setting up but Oliver, our manager from Artistcare, gave us a tour of the site. We we’re looking around saying, “Wow it’s really busy!”

“Oh, that’s just the 3000 crew,” Oliver replied. “The 70,000 festival goers arrive tomorrow.”

We were so shocked at the sheer size of Fusion. The festival is held on an old war-time air strip and the 12 stages are made from the old Nazi plane hangars. A much better use for that area of land now.

Everything at the festival – stages, shops, seating, gates, fences, toilets, sound box – were all made there months ahead of Fusion.

We we’re given free food vouchers for the five days, which we could go to any of the three backstage kitchen and exchange for a meal. Every meal was vegetarian and absolutely delicious.

We found our first German supermaket (Netto) just a short bus ride away from the festival and went round every aisle saying “Woooah look at this.”

Fusion Festival, Lärz – Thursday June 30

We performed at 9pm in the Tube Box Hangar, to a crowd of about 300 people. For a first gig in Germany it was awesome to see a full sea of heads jumpin’ to our Kiwi music.

After our set the organisers asked us to play again the following day, this time at the outside stage next to the hangar. Although the gig was small in comparison we were surprised to have so many people afterwards asking us where to find our music online. We were so pumped to be at Fusion and put on the best shows a jetlagged NZ rapper can give.

The next few days we got to enjoy the festival. It was a completley anti-facist festival with its main focus being equality and love. Racism, sexism or homophobia were completely excluded.

Fresh orange juice was in big demand and we wondered why they kept the orange skins in big buckets outside one of the big marquees. Then on the last day, a massive orange fight broke out between the campers. Hundereds of oranges flying through the air!

We met up with a few Kiwis who were at the festival for a few days, and drank with them at the campsite. It was there we learnt about Pfirsich-Melone, peach-melon, a popular combination of flavours in Germany.

Hamburg – July 2-8

Leaving the festival, we managed to talk our way onto an earlier bus and got to Hamburg where we were picked up by the festival organiser’s son Pavel, who showed us round for the week. We were taken to a 14-bed apartment for the week – so we invited some European-based friends and family to join us!

My sister came over from London and one of my best school friends from Portugal, along with a few friends from northern Germany, to look around Hamburg and come to the gig.

During the week we watched some of the Euro 16 matches at the famous St Pauli stadium. I also visited Schanze 12 Studio to do some piano rap recording with Naked Ape Records.

Although I perform as an MC with an electro set and backing tracks, I also perform a little something called ‘piano rap’ where I play the piano as my rhythm and melody and rap over the top. This style of mine is more about the message and the lyrics, where I rap about issues such as anti-bullying, domestic violence, racism, sexism…

Our gig in Hamburg was at a club located right on the waterfront, the very popular hip hop venue, Hafenklang (which means sound of the harbour). It was on Friday night and people were filing in very quickly. It was also the start of the Bleubird & Ceschi tour which I was opening for, so I really wanted to bring the energy and skill. It was definitely the dopest thing seeing my name on posters all over Hamburg.

The show was incredible, about 100 people with such great energy! Watching American rappers Bleubird and Ceschi was incredible. Based in Florida and NY, their performance was polished and mind-blowing. It’s really neccesary seeing rappers on stage who are better than you, and wanting to push yourself, write better and perform with more finesse.

Leipzig – July 9-12

We jumped on a train the next day for Leipzig, a five-hour journey going through the set and routine for that night’s gig.

We were picked up at the station by the venue owner and taken to an artist flat above the club. An old school apartment sleeping 20 people, full of stickers and graffiti. Following some drinks and American politics discussions with Bleubird and Ceschi before the show, we got ready to go on stage straight, but not before leaving our own impression on the walls.

It was a tough show in Leipzig. Although the room was packed, smoking was completely acceptable inside the club and the fog of smoke made singing and rapping extremely difficult. This is something that’s never an issue in NZ and I would never think about.

Oberhausen – July 13

Over the next few days we explored Leipzig. We watched some beach volleyball in the middle of town, explored the amazing cathedrals and even picked up a tattoo before heading off to Oberhausen, where we were put up for two nights in a hotel. Not as beautiful as previous stops but the show in Oberhausen was awesome.

Strasbourg, France – July 15

Another train ride across beautiful European landscape. This time our journey ended in France – the amazing town of Strasbourg. A little holiday before our final shows in Switzerland.

Strasbourg was incredible, we rented bikes for a whole day and biked around the small towns of petite france. It was Bastille Day and there were celebrations all around the town.

We were devestated to hear of the terrorist attack in the city of Nice not far from us. It really was such sad news.

Zurich, Switzerland – July 16

We arived in Switzerland after a nice bus ride south. The owner of the bar we were performing at kindly put us up in his apartment for our last stop on tour.

We got changed and then headed off to Zum Gaul for an under-the-stars show. About 80 turned up to the gig, with people lined up on the bridge who stopped to have a listen. I performed the new piano rap track I had recently recorded in Hamburg and they seemed to enjoy my fun facts about NZ.

The next day I was invited last minute to take a workshop on female rap, songwriting and performance up on a Swiss mountain. Afterwards I performed to the whole camp of 150 people and then hiked back into Zurich.

We sold out of the rest of our albums and were ready to go back home. During the trip I was contiously filming an ‘on tour music video’ to a new single to release in early August. The track is called Alg (all good) and it features the whole tour.