Te Ahi Top 10 | One Waka
Written by Sam Dunlay on 22 October 2021
Taking out the top spot on last week’s Te Ahi Top 10 is the Ōtautahi band One Waka.
One Waka has become synonymous with the Christchurch Reggae and Dub scene with their exceptional live performances and soulful releases.
We caught up with Robbie from One Waka to chat about their songwriting process, how ‘Take It Easy’ came together and their future plans.
Check out the interview below.
Kia Ora team! Congrats on taking out the top spot on this week’s Te Ahi Top Ten with your track ‘Take It Easy’. Can you tell us a bit more about who you are and what you do?
Kia ora bro and thanks to RDU for playing our tunes!
One Waka’s been a thing for over 10 years now. We’ve always had a love for reggae and all its different sub-styles. Our story is that we’re a bunch of family and friends who wanted to play the music we loved listening to for local Ōtautahi audiences. I think we’ve done a reasonable job of that and also had the chance to take our tunes around the country a bit too.
The heart and soul of what One Waka is about is the land and its people. Telling our stories and remaining authentic to what we set out to do in the first place, which is playing good live reggae roots.
‘Take It Easy’ is an exceptionally vibey track reminiscent of a cruisy Summer’s day. Can you tell me more about the idea you were trying to capture in the song?
Yeah, I feel that. It makes sense… the lyrics to the tune were written by me and my 5 year old daughter at our favourite spot along the New Brighton coast. We live close by and we went back and forth to the same spot singing the same tune and adding bits each time. I took it along to a Waka jam and we worked it to a 70s inspired groove. The songs pretty vibey I guess. You can’t help but be instructed by the lyrics to take things easy. That’s the vibe!
So, ‘Take It Easy’ is the lead single from your recent album. Can you tell us more about the album as a whole?
For the take it easy EP I think we simplified our approach to music and it’s paid off. There are some classic sounding grooves on there which are really full with harmonies and horn sections that also capture the feel of our live shows.
The lyrics and messages often touch on the places we’ve travelled together as a band and the cool people we get to meet. Whanau and our kids are a bit part of the inspiration behind the tunes as is our land and the amazing places especially here in the South Island.
One Waka features a range of members. Can you tell me more about how your songwriting process works?
Yea there’s a few of us! Generally, songwriting is a pretty straightforward process. All it requires is a bit of time in between everyone’s busy lives and some inspiration and we’re away! Quite often I will bring some lyrics to the crew and if it’s a runner then the riddim will form really naturally.
On the same note, how did you go about recording the album?
Recording this Ep was really nice and relaxed I reckon, and it definitely influenced the sound and the feel. We recorded the crucial parts to the riddims with Thom O’Connor at Orange Studios. We went away and recorded some parts ourselves which was nice just to take our time and play around with vocal melodies and harmonies and things like that. Thom did all the mixing (chur bro!) and then the tracks went up to Chris at Kog for mastering.
To add to that we were lucky to be able to add in a dub mix at the end of the Ep done by Gabe Callcott aka Messenjah of Reality Chant and also RDU’s own 420 show. That was pretty satisfying and I’ll never forget playing that version for the first time!
You guys have a pretty incredible live set. During the songwriting process, are you writing with a live audience in mind at all?
Year for sure. To make the cut it has to be able to be replicated live generally. The riddims we love have a heavier feel or something with a drop that’s just so good to skank to and we love playing that and seeing people just groove away. That’s what music’s about for us!
One Waka is a name that is synonymous with Ōtautahi’s Reggae culture. What are your thoughts on the current local Reggae and Dub scene?
To be honest I think we’re possibly guilty of keeping to ourselves a bit and doing our own thing. I know Christchurch has a really good Soundsystem culture scene with heavier bass music and the likes.
In terms of really local live reggae acts in Ōtautahi there’s not as many as there used to be which is one of the reasons I feel so passionate to keep doing what we’re doing.
If we can reproduce an authentic live reggae sound with our own original tunes that have a hint of the old-time feel in there and take that to local audiences who love it and have a great time then I feel like we’ve done our job! If we don’t do it, who will!
In terms of local guys keeping the ‘fyah’ burning for reggae in Otautahi id have to say the Dubwise and 420 shows do the best job at bringing both vintage and fresh tunes to the people. It’s awesome to have DJs like Messenjah and Livity making sure there’s good reggae played on the local airwaves. Of course, there’s also the legendary Salmonella Dub who come from Christchurch too and are still playing huge shows!
Do you have any upcoming gigs we should know about?
We sure do! November the 5th at Blue Smoke at the Tannery is our Ep release show. Tickets available from undertheradar.co.nz
Hopefully, 2022 is a fresh start for the music industry moving on from COVID. What does next year have in store for One Waka.
We’ve got some fun shows booked! A few festivals and road trips so we can’t wait to get out there and play these tunes!
You can listen to ‘Take It Easy’ below.