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Sacred Hill Festival 19th Feb 2011

...perfect package of Aotearoa’s musical repertoire

7 Mar 2011

When I heard the line up for the inaugural Sacred Hill festival it took me a few moments to realise my jaw was still hanging wide open. I immediately started making arrangements and my Amanda Palmer ticket was soon listed as up for grabs. Sorry Amanda, but there was no question of missing this perfect package of Aotearoa’s musical repertoire: Kora, Ladi6, The Black Seeds and Shapeshifter, all on a vineyard in Hawke’s Bay.

After a slight delay (by a gold mine of an op shop in Pukehou) we were back on track to musical bliss. It was a sad moment when we realised our diversion came at the expense of the soulful diva miss Ladi6 who had just left the stage when we arrived.

Disappointment was fleeting as The Black Seeds instantly captivated with favourites ‘Something So True’ and ‘Cool Me Down’, a fitting piece on a sweet summer afternoon. Explosion occurred when the nine piece band busted into an epic version of ‘Fire’. Mike Faboulous’s nine year old son, Sai - when he wasn’t looking shy - was kicking up a storm on stage rockin’ the tambourine. He told me later that was his favourite part. I think we might be seeing more of that kid..

Sunshine Soundsystem kept the beat fierce between sets with seamlessly woven tracks keeping us on our toes. Not a moment late, Kora was front and centre and straight into their quintessential deep and rhythmic riffs and melodies. Dropping new tracks amongst old faithfuls gave us a sample of what the band has been up to off stage. Recently back from overseas, they got a warm welcome home; fans threw energy out which Kora graciously received, swirled up with lyrical flair, and gave it back. Hips were swaying atop shoulders against a backdrop of lush green hills on a beautiful sunny Saturday. The extended intro of ‘On My Mind’ had hundreds of voices echoing up the valley and a mass of dancing. “I hope the grapes benefit from these vibes” P Digsss commented later. Laughton Kora took a moment to introduce the whole band but yet never introduced himself. I guess he figured everyone already knew who he was; and we do. Of course we do. A well chosen ‘Flow’ was the final track, finishing the set with a deafening drum solo and drumsticks flying into the crowd. How truly Rock and Roll.

Downtown Brown stepped in and played some amazing tunes. It truly was a day of consistent incredible music, exactly what I had anticipated. A surge of people started pushing past us, eager to get closer to the stage, at which point my mate turned to me and said, “Who’s on next?” with a beautiful tinge of sarcasm. The air was thick with excitement for the guys who had brought this whole festival together. I found it curious that Shapeshifter has only ever played three shows in the Hawke’s Bay and yet P Digsss hails from Flaxmere… I hoped to get a moment to ask him about that after the show. When they started into a rendition of Jill Scott’s ‘A Long Walk’ and my head confirmed what my ears were hearing, I nearly dropped with weak knees. It was astounding.

Ladi 6 then appeared centre stage, looking radiant in a cute red dress and proceeded to fill the speakers with her throaty, sweet vocals - a full moon rising high in front of her. There was something lovely in the air and everyone was feeling it, and contributing to it. Shapeshifter was creating it as instruments were intricately woven into their rhythmic sounds of drum and bass. Emotion was high when they cracked out ‘One’; feet and bodies stepping and grooving, ears crooning for “If you e-ver fall, I will be a-round”. I decided that after their two hour set of energizing presence and musical pleasure P Digsss probably didn’t need me bothering him about how he felt being back in Hawke’s Bay. He must have read my mind cause his parting words were my answer: “It’s good to be home.”

Words By Christina Bellis
Photos By Dominika Zielinska

Thanks To http://www.sacredhillfestival.co.nz/