There aren’t too many musical franchises in New Zealand with the rich history of Herbs.
From 1979, the band has scaled the heights of New Zealand industry, with more than ten Top 20 singles to their credit. They’re as well known for their own work, with hits like “French Letter,” “Sensitive To A Smile” and “Rust In Dust,” as they are for their collaborations with the likes of Dave Dobbyn (Slice of Heaven), Tim Finn (Parihaka) or Annie Crummer (See What Love Can Do). In fact collaboration is something that’s been a hallmark of Herbs storied career. The list of collaborators reads like their very own hall of fame, featuring identities such as UB40, Taj Mahal, Billy Preston, Neil Sedaka, Tina Turner, Neil Young, George Benson, Joe Walsh, and Stevie Wonder. Many of us who were there will remember having seen Herbs opening for Tina Turner at Mt Smart Stadium in 1985, or with Joe Walsh performing live in 1989.
In 2012 the band was only the 11th band to be inducted unto the New Zealand Music Hall Of Fame. Along the way they’ve collected the Polynesian “Album Of The Year” award three times, along with the international achievement award, and song of the year credits for the late Charlie Tumahai and band founding member Dilworth Karaka.
It’s often said that Herbs planted the seeds that grew to become the distinctive Polynesian Reggae sound, carving out a pathway for the likes of relative newcomers Katchafire, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Trinity Roots and The Black Seeds to follow.
Herbs notoriously courted controversy during their heyday, too. Their song “French Letter” was written in support of New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance. It obviously struck a chord, spending 11 weeks in the NZ charts, before being re-recorded in 1996 to reflect the band’s opposition to French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Other tracks like “Light Of the Pacific” have followed up on the same theme.
There have been numerous changes to the band’s lineup. Time has caught up with a number of band members, others collaborated on specific projects. There’s a three-Herb acoustic set playing at the Whitianga Hotel this Saturday night.
Founding member Dilworth Karaka joins two of the longest-serving members of the band, vocalist and keyboard player Tama Lundon, and saxophonist and vocalist Maurice Watene, to complete the current line-up. There’s nowhere else to be on Saturday night. If you remember Herbs you’re going to revel in nostalgia. If you’re going to hear them for the first time, you’re in for a real treat.
Caption : Dilworth Karaka, founding member of Herbs, seen here, performs with Tama Lundon, Maurice Watene and Luke Whaanga and Racheal at Whitianga Hotel, Saturday 17 September from 8:30pm. Bar and restaurant open at 3:00pm