by Hayley White

Ed Waaka’s Revolution

by Hayley White

Ed Waaka’s Revolution

Ed Waaka is a singers’ singer, albeit one yet to win over the hearts of the general public – though his new single might take him a step closer to that. Taken from an upcoming EP, and inspired by the protests at both Ihumātao and Bastion Point, Revolution came together as a full song around the time Waaka performed for the protesters in South Auckland. Hayley White asked him about his conscious approach to music.

Your newest song Revolution is based around protests (past and current) in Aotearoa and the Pacific. Was there any specific inspiration? 

Revolution was an unfinished song I had originally written four years ago and was based on the idea of social consciousness. Earlier this year I was invited to perform at Ihumātao at the height of police presence and escalating conflicts. Alongside Stan Walker, Teeks, and Troy Kingi, we played to a crowd on a makeshift stage, surrounded by a mass of people who endured the cold weather to hear us sing. It was a deeply spiritual moment for me. I felt a sense of peace and humility like never before. And as an artist, I’ve always felt a responsibility to respond to the environment and interpret it as honestly and truthfully as possible. That was the moment the song finished itself. I thank the universe for the timing.

A lot of your songs seem centred around trying to find peace in a world of war. How does the message in Revolution fit with your upcoming full release?

The relationship between ‘suffering’ and ‘humility’ has always fascinated me. We see it playing out every day without really understanding it. Revolution is my way of asking how we manage that relationship within ourselves and how this could benefit society as a whole. I’ve always been into writing music that’s consciously direct, and it’s become the thread that’s helped stitch this release together.

Can you tell us a bit about the team you’re working with in developing and producing your upcoming album EP?

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some beautiful musical beings on my journey, and have always had an organic approach to how and when to release my music. The process for this release is no different.

Even now I still haven’t decided if I want to release an EP or album. All I know is that I have 12 tracks and a deadline! The ones I release will be decided on how life goes between now and then.

Revolution, for example, was recorded live at The Lab in Mt Eden alongside Andy Keegan (drums), Marika Hogdson (bass) and Finn Scholes (piano, organ). We did three takes all up and just ended up using the last one.

On production/mixing duties I enlisted the help of Andy Lovegrove [Breaks Co-Op]. He has worked on a couple of my past tracks, and I’ve always admired his classic approach to song and vocal arrangement. He’s based in the UK, so I sent him the session we recorded at The Lab, and we continued to develop the song further. I ended up overdubbing extra acoustic guitar, backing vocals, and percussion parts in my home studio, while Andy added his own backing vocals, along with string and horn parts.

I wanted the track to have a nostalgic, timeless feeling, one that I’ll extend across the release as a whole.

You sing, “People think I’m crazy/that ain’t gonna faze me/heard it all before” – what led to you writing those lyrics? 

For me, it was a mantra that I had written for myself to stay motivated and optimistic about my music and the messages I was trying to convey.

As an artist, It’s hard for people to understand the creative process, and how vulnerable it can make you feel. Especially when you speak up on things that go against the status quo. It exposes you to criticism and judgement. It’s a way of saying, ‘I don’t care what people say or think, I’m going to say and do what I feel is true’.

What’s the intention of including the images of the historic protests in the song’s video?

I wanted to remind people of our political history, to be proud of it, to learn from it. It’s here that reconciliation exists. The similarities between Bastion Point and Ihumātao show there is still unresolved hurt and trauma that needs to be addressed and met with compassion and empathy. The more we teach our next generation about these events, the closer we will get to resolution, and maybe even revolution.

What is the message you are trying to convey around the video? Does it give further angles to the song itself?

I feel it’s more of a question than a message, asking ourselves what can we do as individuals to make positive changes in our society? It’s about planting that idea that we can achieve great change if we all work together. He aha te mea nui o te ao, What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is the people.

If you could’ve written any of the classic protest songs, which would it be and why?

One Love, Bob Marley, because the answer to all problems in life is in the song title 🙂

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Tuia 250 event, Te Tangi o Te Moana and others chose to ignore it. What was your own experience of the event?

Initially, I was conflicted, there was a lot of negativity on social media, and feel it was being used to divide opinions further.

I can understand the hurt, it’s a part of our history that doesn’t get taught in detail within our education system, and it’s very one-sided. It hasn’t had the space or time to be discussed and resolved through the generations, which is why the event itself was so controversial.

Along with the artists that performed that weekend like Bic Runga, Ria Hall, Annie Crummer, Seth Haapu, I felt it was important to be present and balance that narrative in a positive way, through music.

Made with the support of NZ ON Air.

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