by Helen Martin
Last year, Kaipara College students Levi Sarah and Taine Ngatai were each asked to write and perform a song to be played on TV One’s Seven Sharp. The initiative came from Play It Strange, a charitable trust that for over 10 years has provided secondary students with a platform “to pursue their musical adventures” through outlets like concerts, workshops and competitions. Explaining the organisation’s mission, CEO Mike Chunn, a former member of much-loved NZ band Split Enz, says, “Songs written by young NZers forge a communal strand, a national voice, a summation of who they are and with that, it’s clear that they are telling us who we are.”
Levi, who won the Play It Strange Who Loves Who competition performing Don McGlashan’s ‘Bathe in the River’ in 2016, appeared on Seven Sharp in August with her own song, ‘Different’. The video, much of it shot on Muriwai beach, featured Taine Ngatai on guitar.
While at school Taine played in bands that made Rock Quest finals. In 2017, with the guidelines that his song needed to wrap up the year for Seven Sharp and have a summer vibe, he and his friend, fellow musician Matt Hopwood, came up with ‘Roadie’ in a night. “First, we jammed for a while and got the music down, then we had a cup of tea and wrote the words,” says Taine, who played guitar and sang in the video. “Recording ‘Roadie’ at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios was pretty buzzy – they’re New Zealand’s best music recording facility – and we had lots of great feedback after it played.”
Since leaving school, as well as studying law and psychology at Auckland University, Levi is working on her first album and performing gigs with her band. Taine says that, as for so many of Kaipara College’s students, the influence of Nick Roberts, former music teacher and now Deputy Principal, current music teacher Greg McLaren and maths teacher Mike Trent was a vital part of his schooling. “I wanted to be in The Band Factory that Nick set up and I switched to Kaipara College in Year 11 because of the music. Everyone supports each other. It’s a family. Nick and Greg opened doors for me and for a whole lot of other people who keep going with their music after they leave school. My dream is to play music full time. At the moment I’m happy working in the Albany Rockshop, learning everything I can and still writing and playing. Now I just have to find the right band.