Written by Mātai Smith AKA ‘Marts’.
“Wetiweti! Ka mau te wehi! Kīkino kē!”
Katoa enei kīwaha he mea tiki atu i Te Tairāwhiti hei whakatinana i ōku whakaaro mō te hautipua nei, arā, ko Rob Rūhā!
Ahakoa, kāore pea e tika ana mā te kūmara anō te kūmara e kōrero, engari he uri māua nā Hinehākirirangi nāna te kūmara i mau mai ki Aotearoa nā reira koinei pea e whai take ai ahau ki te tuhituhi i tēnei pūrongo māna!
I’ve been privileged to know Rob (or ‘Matua Rob’ as he’s affectionately known as by me and many others back here in Tūranga) for almost 30 years now, right from our Lytton High School days where he was a fine young orator, to his brief stint with kapa haka champions the Waihīrere Māori Club, through to his eventual leadership of Tūranga Wahine, Tūranga Tāne kapa haka.
And not forgetting of course his ‘commanding’ dulcet tones leading yet another champion kapa haka, Te Whānau a Apanui at several Te Matatini, it’s fair to say I’ve been in absolute awe of my whanaunga for many, many years!
So, when the opportunity arose to have a sneak preview at his forthcoming new album, ‘Preservation of Scenery’ and write a review, I was absolutely honoured but also a little bit nervous, for who am I to judge or review such greatness?
Rob’s had a plethora of hits which have blasted on the airwaves of the various twenty-one iwi radio stations around the motu including the likes of ‘Ponga Ra’, ‘Kalega’, ‘Ka Manu’ to name but a few and not forgetting his most recent hit with the talented Tairawhiti taiohi from ‘Ka Hao’ and their Tik Tok hit sensation, ‘35’.
Ironically, I was recently coaxed into performing the now infamous ‘35’ dance with some local Gisborne Intermediate students and by the end of the five-minute quickfire “Na,na, you do it like this Matua!” lesson, I too felt like I was very much part of the Rob Ruha movement, which incidentally is about to move to a totally different but awesome space soon!
His recent teasers about the pending highly anticipated new album posted up on both Instagram and Facebook really captured my attention especially with him proclaiming,
“I’ve had these sounds and waiata in my head and wairua for a long time and I’m real close with them…..these are the songs I have ALWAYS wanted to write and the sounds I have always wanted to explore….this is me now, my next step on my journey – ko tae te wā!”
So, when I finally entered the secret key and password Rob had kindly gifted me into the online private link and then quickly unlocked it, little did I know that I had just gained exclusive access to what I think is undoubtedly his best work yet!
Now this is not to undermine nor belittle all that Rob has produced thus far, engari mō tenā! No way Hosea Gear! (Or Manuel because he’s no doubt related to both of them being from the Coast!)
ALL of his music produced up until now has been absolute quality and mostly kaupapa driven, but always showcased his vocal power and punch, as well as his ability to caress or ‘mirimiri’ a delicate melody when he’s needed to tone it down a bit or ‘put the light and shade into his voice’, just like our Aunty Tangiwai Ria would always say to us at Waihīrere kapa haka practices.
But for me this album is different because it’s definitely showcasing more of the ‘lighter, laid back, relaxed side’ of Rob but still delivered with the greatest amount of passion and vigor he’s renowned for.
We know he is tūturu to kaupapa Māori and that will never change.
He’ll continue to be forthright and the voice of his people, to call out injustices, dishonour and struggle whilst at the same time epitomizing strength, unity and mana motuhake. (self-determination)
On this album though, it’s almost like he’s taking a break from driving that vehicle for the moment and has picked up a brand-new car which he’s now put into cruise mode and is just happy going with the flow, which is a great way to describe each track.
They’ve all got their own individual flow and vibe, even the more ballad type numbers too still evoke various emotions and they’re all feel good ones!
It’s completely easy-going and just full of ‘neo soul’, which I shouldn’t really be surprised by given that’s mine and Robs era of music whilst growing up.
Now, without wanting to draw comparisons (because Robs voice is obviously unique in so many ways) but I simply couldn’t help but feel and hear that he’s definitely channeling an inner D’Angelo on a number of these tracks along with a bit of ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ and ‘The Stylistics’ vibes thrown in for good measure, culminating in his smooth velvety tones also making an appearance or ten!
In all honesty I just truly love this new direction and pathway he has taken; it’s refreshing and quite ‘invigorating’ to hear this kind of sound coming from Rob!
It’s got a cruisy, ‘easy listening’ feel to it, speaking of which you can literally hear and feel the spirit and love he’s put into each track, and he’s obviously had a really good time putting them together.
That also is quite evident in the positive vibes I was getting from this album!
This album is long overdue and once again showcases the amazing, diverse musicality of the man and his ability to not only one minute help spin out an award-winning composition for a kapa haka, or nek minute produce a catchy tune for talented rangatahi to be proud of, but also to FINALLY now take some time out for himself and reap the many fruits of his own labour!
I implore you all to go and get copy without delay, it’s definitely going to be the album I’ll be blasting in my car, in my office and of course on the airwaves of Tūranga FM next week, the week after that and also over the pending summer simply because….
It’s full of ‘Taera’ and ‘U Do U’ do actually need to go listen to it now!
Because, if you’re not quick you might get ‘Lost in the Queue’ and ‘As I Walk’ past you, well I’ll probably wave a quick goodbye, so as I can go home and spend ‘All my Days’ continuing to listen to Matua Rob, AKA – greatness!