Although New Zealand is a relatively under-populated country, and lies some 2000 km from its larger neighbour, Australia, its music scene is extremely vibrant.
Prior to European settlement the traditional Maori music consisted of a diverse range of interesting styles. These included chanting and the use of a variety of woodwind, whalebone and stone instruments. Much of this indigenous instrumentation survives to this day, having been kept alive by strong cultural traditions. Over the years the local sounds have been added to by an influx of eclectic styles. This has covered all the bases from blues, jazz and country and western, to more contemporary influences such as rock ‘n' roll, heavy metal, punk and hip-hop, not to mention all manner of electronic dance music.
A variety of New Zealand-based artists have achieved considerable local success before going on to international acclaim. These include bands like Split Enz, Crowded House, Ladyhawke, Flight of the Concords and performers like Lorde. Away from popular music, New Zealand also enjoys a rich classical heritage, with a national orchestra and several highly-talented regional orchestras.
The country's recording industry got underway following the Second World War. The New Zealand Music Awards became an annual event from 1965 onwards. For some years, a common gripe amongst local musicians has been the dearth of airplay opportunities. Even as recently as the mid-90s, the percentage of songs played on New Zealand commercial radio which were of local origin was under 2%. An attempt was made to remedy this imbalance in 1997 when the government formed the Kiwi Music Action Group. Since its inception the amount of native New Zealand talent enjoying chart success has greatly increased, partially due to the introduction of a quota system but also because of the sheer wealth of local talent writing and producing great music.
Rock music has been persistently popular since the 1960s. Bands reaching wider audiences in the rock ‘n' roll era included The La De Ras and Ray Columbus and The Invaders. A decade later, Split Enz enjoyed considerable success with their meld of rock, vaudeville and new wave styles, including 1980's massive chart hit ‘I Got You'. Two of the band members, the brothers Tim and Neil Finn, achieved even greater success when they formed Crowded House.
What many New Zealand bands share is the ability to blend excellent pop songwriting skills with an appreciation of more left-field elements. This offbeat pop sound is exemplified by contemporary exponents such as Goldenhorse, The Phoenix Foundation and The Wyld.
Away from the universe of loud electric guitar music, New Zealanders also enjoy folk, roots reggae and dub music. There is a vibrant heavy metal scene, as well as more underground venues specialising in earsplitting Darkwave and industrial noise!