About Kiwi Kids Music
Tamariki Puoro (Kids Music)
The national association of Children’s Songwriters, Creators, and Producers. The Kiwi Kids Music is an association formed to support NZ children’s music creators and to advance the potential of all our children to live healthy fulfilling lives.
Kiwi Kids Music grew from the desire to promote and encourage the growth of music created by New Zealanders, for children and families. This new initiative has been set up by the people helping create the new wave of NZ children’s music. The spectacular growth of these homegrown songs across different varieties have led to a number of high profile successes in the last few years, from Craig Smith’s ‘Wonky Donkey’ to Anika Moa’s best-selling ’Songs for Bubbas’ and Tiki Taane’s waiata ‘Starship Lullaby’.
Now Kiwi songwriters, producers and performers have come together with the aim of supporting our members by the raising awareness of our local talent and by providing workshops, assisting with access of information and by connecting people, businesses and communities. We believe our children are too often under-valued. Giving them an opportunity to experience songs and stories that have been made especially for them can play a crucial part in their well-being. One of our goals is to reach out to related sectors in the fields of entertainment, education and children’s health and to use music and song to connect those children and their families to useful information.
For children and families, Kiwi Kids Music will provide a portal for kiwis, worldwide, to access music that reflects who they are and where they’re from; opening their music libraries to songs from a variety of musicians and music genres. We welcome writers and creators who are keen be part of this new group and we are also working on building a strong base of friends and supporters for this exciting initiative.
We wish to thank APRA (the Australasian Performing Right Association) for their generous support.
Kiwi Kids Music — A Brief History
As a passionate practitioner and advocate of children’s music in Aotearoa, it warms my heart to think that the first tamariki to land on our shores in those proud waka would have had parents who sang waiata composed especially for them. The history of Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) has been carefully passed down to generations through the arts, and while I am still learning about the history of children’s music in New Zealand, I remain particularly eager to discover more about the songs our nation’s first children heard.
Several hundred years later, 2019 finds me as a parent of three young boys, and while I have made the majority of my living from writing and performing children’s music for the last two decades, the extent to which music written just for children has permeated the culture of our nation today still astounds me. Putting aside the traditional nursery songs that travelled here much later on much larger waka, I note that generations of kiwi families and educational organisations working with children have continued the practice of singing songs as a means to educate young minds about valuable concepts such as letters (The Alphabet Song), numbers (Five Little Ducks), colours (I Can Sing A Rainbow), national identity (The NZ National Anthem), and even peace (Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi).
Children’s music has a deep history in the west, but what of the history of our music of the south? How has original children’s music and its resulting industry evolved in our nation over the last 70 years? I’m glad I asked because now I get to answer that with a brief run down of some wonderful highlights.
Early pioneers of recorded music for New Zealand children include songwriter and jazz pianist, Crombie Murdoch, and wartime singer, Pat McMinn. Together they produced one of the first hit kiwi ‘novelty songs’ for children called ‘Opo The Crazy Dolphin’ in 1956. Following in their footsteps, songstress Shona Laing wrote and recorded her single ‘I Love My Feet’ at age seventeen in 1972. It went on to hit number thirty-nine on the kiwi charts in the month it was released.
But without a shadow of a doubt, the real boom for the original children’s music industry occurred in the 1980’s.
On the airwaves in Wellington and its surrounds, popular 2ZB radio host, Lindsay Yeo began hosting a morning segment for children featuring his sidekick-and-creation, Buzz O’Bumble — a friendly bee with a menagerie of friends. Yeo shared Buzz with listeners, and even had Buzz interview international children’s music superstar, Danny Kaye when he visited New Zealand. Yeo eventually produced original songs for Buzz and performed them in live musical shows for children in theatres where 2ZB had coverage. He also released three LP’s of original and traditional children’s songs.
On TV screens, original New Zealand children’s music first began playing regularly in homes via the talents of Dunedin-based Play School musical directors and pianists, Neville Copland and Doug Wright. Shortly after that, popular After School presenter, Olly Ohlson began writing and performing songs that could feature in his live TV show. Ohlson was also the first mainstream presenter to speak and sing te reo Māori during children’s television programming. He continued doing this right into the early 2000’s while performing as the wise old fish in Jason Gunn’s children’s puppet TV series Bumble.
In the early 90’s, original New Zealand children’s music took primary schools by storm. The government began producing the Kiwi Kids Songs albums via Learning Media who commissioned the likes of Janice Marriott, David Antony Clark, Radha Sahar, John Phillips and more to write memorable songs for the children of our nation. Lyrics to hits like Phil Riley’s Sausages and Custard were being magnified by warm OHP’s in schools across the nation every week. This continued for twenty years until the annual albums were canned.
Meanwhile at home a new generation of 90’s kiwi kids were being introduced to the catchy tunes via Linda Adamson’s original Love To Sing music videos on TV. Add to that Suzy Cato’s melodious ‘It’s our time, kia ora, talofa’ and ‘See ya, see ya later’ songs on the You & Me show, plus the two new songs in every episode, and you had a veritable buffet of original kiwi children’s music airing each day.
And then in the mid 90’s came the popularity of The Wiggles. I mention them because they definitely inspired a raft of creative New Zealander’s to produce children’s music in bands or ‘supergroups’ including the likes of Alphabet Soup (1997), The Funky Monkeys (2003), The Silly Sausages (2005), The Plops (2008), The Polkadots (2009), and Zoo Boogie (2012) to name a few. Interestingly, as of 2015 The Wiggles gained a tangible presence in Aotearoa via the talents of their fifth official performer, kiwi TV and radio presenter, Robert Rakete, aka as ‘The Brown Wiggle’. Their title, not mine!
In addition to some of those performers already mentioned, in the mid-2000’s there were many other established artists writing predominately for children; Julie Wylie, Robin Nathan (of Fatcat & Fishface), Kath Bee, myself, and more. This caught the attention of Arthur Baysting, children’s songwriter and board member for the NZ branch of the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited (APRA). Baysting’s vision was to have APRA unite these children’s musicians under one roof in the hope of strengthening their industry, and finding ways to support these unique artists.
With the help of his colleagues Anthony Healy, and Abbie Rutledge, the APRA team succeeded in hosting the first Children’s Music Symposium inside Wellington’s Capital E building on October 29th 2007. This was the organisational seed that APRA, and the now independent Baysting, have patiently watered and tended for a decade. In 2008 they established the annual Children’s Music Awards that have since honoured winners such as Levity Beet, Claudia Gunn, Rob Wigley, and Anika Moa to name just a few.
But it wasn’t until 2016 when Baysting suggested to his friend and children’s TV star, Suzy Cato that she could be instrumental in helping him bring even more children’s musicians together. With the pair’s invigorated enthusiasm, APRA’s continued support, and the additional ongoing aid of Recorded Music NZ, Kiwi Kids Music was founded and quickly populated with more than one hundred active children’s musicians. At its heart Kiwi Kids Music exists to promote the vast amount of children’s music being made in Aotearoa, share that music with kiwi families, and support both our young and young-at-heart children’s musicians living here and abroad.
And if having our own Wiggle isn’t enough, in the last decade kiwi children’s songwriters have featured as the #1 Best Selling Author on Amazon across all genres (Craig Smith of Wonky Donkey fame), one has sung in a Disney blockbuster (Jermaine Clement as the ‘so shiny’ Tamatoa in Moana), and one has even won a ‘Best Song in a Motion Picture’ Academy Award (Brett McKenzie for Disney’s Man Or Muppet).
We think that’s a genre to get excited about.
A special thanks to MENZA for allowing us to share some of our history with your readers. For more information visit www.kiwikidsmusic.co.nz