Harmony in the House Of Shem

By Howard Campbell Observer senior writer

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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When Bob Marley and the Wailers performed at Western Springs Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand in April 1979, a young Kiwi named Carl Perkins was part of the large audience.

He became a leading figure in New Zealand reggae, forming three bands: Herbs, Mana and House Of Shem. The latter is a major force in Pacific reggae; its core members are Perkins (vocals and rhythm guitar) and his sons, Te Omeka (vocals) and Isaiah (keyboards, vocals).

This year, the band toured established markets at home and Hawaii. They also played the American festival circuit to support their third album, Harmony, distributed by VP Records subsidiary VPAL.

"House Of Shem had a great year. 2015 saw us do a major tour throughout the USA and Canada including four big festivals including Reggae on the Hills, Island Reggae Fest (in California) and Riverfest in Arkansas. We did 47 shows, it was a massive experience and we covered new ground," Te Omeka told the Observer from Australia.

Released last year, Harmony includes the songs Take You There, Hard Road (done with Big Mountain) and a cover of The Beatles' Let it Be.

The set was recorded and mixed by Errol Brown, the noted Jamaican engineer who worked with Marley as well as his son Ziggy.

"This was a highlight of our career, to be able to work with Errol. The reason we chose him was because we love his sound," said Te Omeka. "With Jamaican reggae music we have so much respect for it and believe we need to keep it authentic. Our goal is to come to Jamaica and record a full album."

In the 36 years since Marley's groundbreaking visit, reggae in New Zealand has grown considerably. There are a number of bands, several of whom have performed at the annual Raggamuffin Festival which takes place in February in Auckland.

"Reggae is one of the biggest genres within Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand). Our Maori/Pacific people embrace the music in a huge way when Bob Marley visited in 1979. Aotearoa New Zealand was one of the largest buyers of reggae in the world," said Te Omeka.

He pointed out, however, that there is some way to go in terms of airplay on mainstream radio.

"There are a lot of independent radio stations that play reggae but there are more commercial stations that don't play much reggae. We are pushing for more stations to play as it is one of the biggest genres in New Zealand."

House Of Shem is currently working on their fourth album and preparing for another extensive North American tour in 2016.




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