Te Kupu: Ko Te Matakahi Kupu (Kia Kaha)

 |   |  2 min read

Te Kupu: Ko Te Matakahi Kupu (Kia Kaha)

Dean Hapeta, of Upper Hutt Posse, always aimed for more than bragging and a catchy hook. He styled himself D-Word and has done spoken-word performances. His new nom de disque is Te Kupu (aka the Word). I guess that all confirms it: Word values the power of the word.

As the volatile founder of the Upper Hutt Posse - sometimes favouring some of Louis Farrakahn's racist Nation of Islam philosophies but a sincere advocate for Maori nationalism and self-determination - Hapeta has made some of the most challenging, uncompromising and, unfortunately, most overlooked music in this country.

The Posse's Movement in Demand album of '95 was firebrand stuff couched in an appealing conjunction of his musical past: reggae, hip-hop and rap.

His new album - as Te Kupu - is Ko Te Matakahi Kupu. Launched on January 1, it appropriately comes in two versions: te reo and English language - although Hapeta pointedly keeps the Maori title (The Word Which Penetrates) for both.

Again, it's a highly personal confluence of diluted Rasta righteousness rant and Maori nationalism, plus personal history, Old Testament tropes, some Lee Perry-styled ragga assertion and kapa haka.

Say what you will about its flinty politics, you'll have heard nothing like it before out of this country. Unless it came from Hapeta.

This is the artist as agent provocateur and a manifesto delivered as a hip-hop concept album.

It suffers the same failings as Movement in Demand: the words trip over themselves and ultimately dilute the messages. And the indignation works within a narrow emotional frame.

Sometimes it falls into wordspinning for it's own sake ("what is it constant in our character, resisting perpetration," defies analysis) and the concept hardly offers itself up easily. Some will find the faux Rasta accents, seemingly contradictory principles ("fite for peace"), and relentless irascibleness little more than empty posturing. But time spent is time rewarded.

Built over beds of evocative reggae, with some Miles Davis-styled trumpet from Geoff Murphy (yes, the former Blerta now film-maker one), seductive guitar, snappy scratching and memorable Te Kupu outbursts, it often provides compelling if complex arguments for its many political flashpoints.

Like most polemicists, Hapeta doesn't doubt his "truth," and in that it suffers the same old failings of politicised music: the leavening out of nuance and recognition of other viewpoints.

But he's not engaged in a debate, and in it's indignation and commanding injunctions to get up, stand up for what he sees as the inalienable rights of a culture oppressed, Ko Te Matakahi Kupu is hard to turn away from. Because it aims for more it is inevitable it's failings will be more apparent.

But given the breadth and knottiness of the manifesto, Te Kupu's ambition and the singularity of the vision, it demands to be heard.

The Russian poet and propagandist Vladimir Mayakovsky observed, "Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it."

The question Ko Te Matakahi Kupu asks is whether you want to be Te Kupu's anvil.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Tzenka Dianova: DeConstruction (Atoll)

Tzenka Dianova: DeConstruction (Atoll)

The words "contemporary classical music" probably strike as much fear into the hearts of innocent civilians as "free jazz". For some reason these terms equate to cacophony... > Read more

The Waterboys: Modern Blues (Kobalt)

The Waterboys: Modern Blues (Kobalt)

There are two difficulties writing about this new album by Mike Scott's Waterboys: The first is he's such a strong image-maker, storyteller and wordsmith you want to quote large chunks of his... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Greg's wife's Kotosoupa Avgolemono (chicken soup with egg and lemon sauce)

Greg's wife's Kotosoupa Avgolemono (chicken soup with egg and lemon sauce)

Given the climate in New Zealand right now this is the recipe we have been awaiting for. This is courtesy of Greg's Greek/Cypriot wife and we are assured is renown as a cure for colds. Even if... > Read more

DAVE BRUBECK (2011): A jazz life of constant discovery

DAVE BRUBECK (2011): A jazz life of constant discovery

Dave Brubeck, whose hit album in 1958 was Time Out, understands time better than most of us. In December 2010 he turned 90 and although ailing, as expected, he had been playing right up until... > Read more