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Retracing musical journey

Aotearoa has a special place in the heart of United Kingdom reggae band Black Slate.

The band, whose fame peaked in the 70s and 80s and who are known for their hits Amigo and Boom Boom, revisited Gisborne this month as part of a pilgrimage to New Zealand.

They are making a biographical documentary of their travels around the world and New Zealand was the first stop.

They were in Gisborne two years ago as one of the headline acts at the East Coast Vibes music festival, having first visited the region in 1981 as part of their New Zealand tour alongside legendary Kiwi reggae band Herbs.

The visit to Tairawhiti saw three of the original founding members — Anthony Brightly, Chris Henson and Desmond Mahoney — retrace some of that first journey and add new experiences to their story.

They caught up with the promoter of the 1981 tour, local man Hugh Lynn, and had a “jam” with music students of the Te Wananga o Aotearoa Whirikoka campus.

They also had interviews at radio stations Turanga FM and Radio Ngati Porou.

In the Turanga FM interview they reflected on their origins, including that first visit to Aotearoa.

“When we came here in 1981, it was something for us that was out of this world,” said Brightly. “We left the UK as a group with some success. We arrived in New Zealand as mega-stars.

“In the 12 days we were here, we had Maori welcomes. It was so overwhelming.

“We had an experience we had never had before. We had such a warm welcoming, from family to family, and it hasn’t changed.

“We’re back here without our instruments, to be among our family and talk about it.

“The cultural experience is what turned us around and brought us back here again.”

The Black Slate documentary will explore the impact of what British reggae was to the world.

“Because no one really knows,” said Brightly.

“We need to know. We’re trying to put the pieces together and we want to share with the world.

“That’s why we’re here — to hear from the people who were part of the tour.

“We’re seeing pictures of our signatures and people still have them on the wall.

“New Zealand has managed to be part of the reggae music culture and you’ve continued it from one generation to the next.

“Now we’re meeting the children of those who came to see us in ’81 who are listening to our music.

“That alone is priceless.”

REGGAE REVISIT: UK reggae band Black Slate are making a biography documentary of their travels around the world and Gisborne was among their first stops. Three of the original band members Chris Henson (left), Anthony Brightly (second left) and Desmond Mahoney (right) came to Gisborne this month, retracing their 1981 New Zealand tour. During their visit they met with the original tour manager and local man, Hugh Lynn (pictured). Picture by Shaan Te Kani