Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Video: ‘All Blacks to the Nation’

The video above, titled “All Blacks to the Nation”, is an ad, obviously, but there are a couple reasons I’m sharing it. First, it’s pretty quintessentially New Zealand, and second, because of the music in the background.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will soon get underway in Japan (which is what this ad relates to; Air New Zealand is a sponsor of the NZ national rugby team, the All Blacks). Although the importance of rugby has been slowly declining in recent years, it’s still important to this country, especially when the World Cup rolls around (and this year New Zealand will attempt to win it for the third time in a row). The ad captures some of the passion of fans, kids in particular.

The music in the background is the new Te Reo Māori version of Six60’s big hit, “Don’t Forget Your Roots”, the original version of which I shared back in 2014. The new version is part of a project headed up by Hinewehi Mohi to re-record hit New Zealand songs in Māori (all were originally done in English). Another recent hit included in the project is Drax Project’s “Woke Up Late” (I shared the original video last year). The various clips of the project I’ve heard sound awesome [See also the video about the project below].

The thing is, 20 years ago Hinewehi Mohi sang the NZ National Anthem at a quarter final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup, but she sang it in Māori only. She instantly became probably the most hated person in New Zealand—on talkback radio, anyway. At the time, the NZ National Anthem was sung in English only at All Blacks rugby matches. However, also at the same time, it was sung in Māori, then English, at international netball matches, which I thought was great, and I thought should be done at rugby test matches, too.

Nowadays, the Māori-then-English method is used at all international events where the national anthem is sung, including All Blacks test matches (only the first verse is sung in each language; most countries only sing their anthem's first verse). A lot has changed in 20 years.

To be sure, a simple change in singing the national anthem didn’t end racism or prejudice, nor will re-recording English-language pop songs. But it does put more cracks in it—and it helps advance the Māori language. So, while New Zealand isn’t perfect, obviously—since NO country is, this shows that if this country can get over racist attitudes around our national anthem, it shows that progress can be made even on something that people feel passionately about, and that should inspire hope for all countries.

And all of that is embodied in one simple ad. No wonder I shared it.

This is a revised and extend version of something I posted to my personal Facebook earlier today.


rogerogreen said...

Can you imagine having the Star Spangled Banner or America the Beautiful in some American Indian language? My guess is that it would NOT be warmly embraced.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I was thinking the exact same thing. Certain Americans would object to it being sung in Spanish, of course, but languages of the indigenous peoples of the USA, not Spanish, are what's directly comparable to New Zealand. Not that it would matter:
Certain Americans would definitely not take well to the national anthem being sung in anything other than English—a bit like New Zealand was 20 years ago. I'm just not sure Americans could get past that as easily and New Zealanders did, all things considered.