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Brief Introduction to New Zealand Arts

Note: This blog was written in 2011. Things may have changed since then.

Music New Zealand has a rich, vibrant music history that you’ll never hear about, even if you move here because most of the music you’ll hear in New Zealand is American. Even on our recent holiday to Rarotonga, we spent an evening listening to live music at an open-mic night, and all the locals played were American songs.

New Zealand does have some up and coming R&B and Hip Hop artists. Those genres are really popular with the Pacific Island ethnicities, and there are a lot of young artists trying to push their way up the ranks. If any of them make it you’ll probably know about it in America, because they’re all trying to get to America, because that’s where the real money is at.

New Zealand claims to have a thriving country music industry. In fact, Gore claims to be the country music capital of New Zealand, but I’ve never heard a New Zealand country music song. I’m sure they exist, but Kiwi country music artists must have the worst promoters in the world.

Busking is really popular in New Zealand. There’s even a busking festival. If you don’t know, buskers are street performers. With all the green hippies hitch hiking their way around New Zealand you’re bound to run into a white guy with dreadlocks playing “John Butler Trio” on an acoustic guitar in front of a grocery store sooner or later. Kiwis and Aussies alike seem to really like laid back acoustic folk music. I know I’ve heard a lot of folk music since I’ve been here, but other than “John Butler Trio,” which is an Aussie band, I can’t tell you the name of any other South West Pacific folk singers off the top of my head because their promoters aren’t very good either.

Movies- New Zealand has a government-owned movie production company called “The New Zealand Film Commission” which produces high quality artistic movies every year. Most of their movies are worth checking out, and some of them even make it overseas. Kiwis also make a lot of short films that are encouraged by annual short film festivals and awards. If you live in Wellington there’s a good chance of getting to be an extra in a Peter Jackson movie, and if you live in Auckland there’s a good chance of getting to be an extra in any number of television shows and commercials. A lot of American and British commercials are made in New Zealand. Even Spartacus is filmed in Auckland. New Zealand actually seems to be a pretty good place to break into the movie business since it has such a large industry for such a small country.

Dance- Dunedin has a number of dance schools that produce local and international dancers. With all the Pacific island cultures melting together in New Zealand it’s only a matter of time before you see a hula dance. You can’t even watch a Rugby game without seeing a haka. If you want to see more, Pacific dance competitions and festivals are a dime a dozen in New Zealand.

Theater- There’s a lot of theater in New Zealand, but every production I’ve been to has been painfully amateur. I know someone out there will bite my head off for saying that. All I can say is, don’t blame me because you haven’t given me a reason to say anything different yet.

Food- Traditional white, British Kiwi cuisine isn’t much to write home about. Hamburgers aren’t as popular in New Zealand as meat pies. French Fries are called “chips,” and Fish and Chips shops are dime a dozen. Sausage rolls are always popular at house parties, and deep fried lasagna is a staple meal at any party house. Fortunately, the cuisine scene has been saved by all the other immigrant cultures. One thing I really love about New Zealand is you get to taste the entire world here. There’s a sushi and/or sake joint on every corner in Auckland. Kebabs are standard fare (though they’re not as good as the ones in Europe). Coffee/Espresso/Cappuccino/Latte cafes are extremely popular, but again, they’re not as good as the ones in Europe. There’s more Pacific island dancing in New Zealand than there is Pacific island cuisine, but if you look hard enough you can find it.

Another funny thing about New Zealand is that the few American chain restaurants here such as McDonalds and Domino’s Pizza serve healthier food with better ingredients than their American counterparts because New Zealand customers are more discerning, and the New Zealand government has higher standards for what’s safe to eat…whereas in America corporate profits are always more important than human life.

Sports- The big sports in New Zealand are rugby, cricket and net ball. Net ball is a slightly modified version of American basketball with no backboard. Rugby is life for a lot of Kiwis, but professional sports don’t have quite the cult status as they do in the United States. Professional athletes generally aren’t paid millions of dollars. As a result, in a breath-taking act of sanity, high school students don’t generally prioritize sports over academics.

Comedy- I’m sorry, but the New Zealand comedy scene is shit. The biggest stars are the “Flight of the Conchords” guys, and they left for America. The next biggest star is probably. Rhys Darby, and despite his solid stage presence, his solo work just isn’t funny…at all. There’s also “The Laughing Samoans,” but honestly, they’re not that funny either, and most of their jokes are inside jokes that only locals get, which is really common in New Zealand comedy. Even New Zealand’s favorite (late) local comedian, “Billy T. James” owed much of his success to lack of competition. On the upside, New Zealand is receptive to foreign comedy. So if you’re a comedian who wants to work in New Zealand they’ll probably give you a chance.

Literature- New Zealand has a proud history of producing quality literature that nobody knows about. On the upside, if you come to New Zealand and write a book about New Zealand it’ll be an instant hit in New Zealand.

Festivals- There are more cultural festivals in Auckland alone than anyone would have time to visit. If you come to New Zealand and feel like its culture is boring and there’s nothing to do then you must have never left your house.

Maori- There’s enough Maori artwork in New Zealand to fill the Louvre three times over. It never gets old, and you’re bound to buy a fish hook necklace for yourself or a loved one eventually.

Painting- If you love paintings of sea gulls flying over the beach at sunset then you’re going to love New Zealand. You won’t have any problem filling your nautical themed art work needs here. If you’re an artist who specializes in painting beach scenes then you’ve got a job waiting for you in New Zealand.

Modern Art- Yeah, we got that pseudo-intellectual faux art crap here too.


2 Responses

  1. Coffee not as good as Europe?! For shame! Oh the wounding. Come, sample our Mojo, our Gravity, our Fuel!

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