The Ultimate Kiwi Playlist For New Zealand Summer Road Trips
The compilation sheds light into New Zealand history and culture.
The best road trip soundtracks feature songs about the places you're visiting - which is easy enough to sort if you're cruising around the US or the UK. In New Zealand, not so much.
You could spend hours compiling your own playlist of Kiwi classics perfect for a roadie from, say, Tongariro to Tikitiki. Or you could check out Radio New Zealand's interactive "song map" highlighting more than 50 tunes about destinations up and down the country. Each mapped song links to a corresponding YouTube video.
"There are heaps of songs about New Zealand that express or unique sense of place," RNZ says on its website. "We rounded up as many as we could think of and plotted them on a map so you can explore the places behind the songs."
Unique is certainly one way to describe some of the songs in the collection which, together, showcase just how weird and wonderful a place New Zealand can be. With an emphasis on the weird. And dark.
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Heading up north through Silverdale? Switch on Silverdale by Edmund Cake, an ode to shopping and suburbia "because New Zealand is not only about the wide open spaces".
To the Riverhead Tavern? Pop on Riverhead by Goldenhorse, a moody murder ballad that begins with the words "When I was in Riverhead, I wanted to tell you that I was dead, my hands were cold and my lips were bled". Actually, that's probably one best saved for once you've made it back alive.
Some tunes offer tips on interesting places to check out. Fat Freddy's Drop's Cay's Crays is an ode to a popular food truck about 20 kilometres up the road from Kaikōura, while Ha the Unclear's Corstorphine is essentially a musical guide to the Dunedin suburb. Fly My Pretties' Closer offers a cafe recommendation in Wellington (Deluxe), while Flight of the Conchords' Hotties suggests heading to Cuba Street if you're after eye candy in the capital.
Other songs give you an idea of what to expect from a destination, for better or for worse. The Nuke's Opoutere certainly tempers expectations with the lyrics "it seems a long, long way from anywhere to Opoutere, it's not too far now, we'll have a view of the estuary".
RNZ music manager Liisa McMillan said she feels New Zealand songs tend to exude a strong sense of place, making them perfect roadie playlist fodder.
"It's a cool way for people trundling along the road this summer to hear more New Zealand music. And for overseas tourists to learn more about the places they're travelling through.
"It offers a human connection that someone else has had with the place; one that inspired them enough to create a song. [The map] is a bit of a gimmick but I do think you feel that wider connection with the landscape and people in a lot of New Zealand music. And it's a bit of fun while you're on holiday."
Some songs offer an aural history lesson. Parihaka, performed by Tim Finn, tells the story of Te Whiti, a Māori spiritual leader who led a nonviolent resistance movement against colonial troops in 1881, while Alien Weaponry's Tū Ana te Whenua is a heavy metal recollection of the Battle of Gate Pā in Tauranga in 1864.
The Eastern's State Houses by the River, meanwhile, is a poignant reflection on the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.
Certain songs afford a glimpse into local lives, both past and present. The Front Lawn's Tomorrow Night shed lights on being young, single and ready to mingle in Lower Hutt in the Eighties, while I wish I was in Wellington by the Mutton Birds and Omaio by Maisey Rika are essentially love songs to those places.
If all else fails, turn to John Hore Grenell's Kiwified version of Johnny Cash's I've been Everywhere Man: it manages to name drop about 100 New Zealand destinations in under two-and-a-half minutes.