Katchafire lead singer Logan Bell is frustrated at what he claims is a lack of recognition of the group's US success from mainstream media in Aotearoa.
Bell recently took to Facebook to express disappointment that Katchafire’s achievements were not being given due recognition.
Māori Television spoke to Bell to discuss his experience as Katchafire’s latest US tour entered its final week.
The group’s first foray into the United States music scene was a 2006 NFL halftime performance in Hawaii in front of 50,000 people. The positive response ushered in a regular US touring schedule.
Bell says, “We had no idea we were big in Hawaii, or the mainland (United States), and we have been going back twice a year since,”
Bell has noted the resonance of the band’s music with ethnic minorities during the tour.
“A lot of our following are indigenous peoples, which we are all plugged into...Hawaiian, American Samoan, Tongan... a lot of Indonesians, Filipinos etc. We’re always proud to show off our culture and share the good vibes.”
However, Bell has also noticed a growing acceptance of reggae by US mainstream audiences which has been demonstrated by the increasingly enthusiastic response to the group's live performances.
“A lot more of white America has tapped into reggae music over the last five years...which is great for us and we are seeing more and more cross-over audiences coming to our shows.
The tours have been really huge which is why a doc crew should be capturing and showing the world our unique achievements. The USA market really needs and loves our music and message.”
Bell is frustrated that the band’s US success has had little recognition from Aotearoa’s mainstream media outlets.
“I think mainstream media is somewhat aligned with our government and their agenda so it’s not on their priority list to show Māori people working hard and doing positive things, not only in their communities but abroad.”
Bell acknowledges racism plays a role in such attitudes but frames the issue as one of inequality and power.
“I believe racism exists in New Zealand and have had first-hand experience (of it) but I have never lowered myself to reacting to ignorance. It’s the higher stuff that gets me. It’s old guys sitting in their cigar rooms pulling strings... positive Māori role models never get heard or don’t make it to their full potential- that ticks me off the most.”
Katchafire originally formed in Kirikiriroa in 2000, exhibiting an exceptionally solid work ethic, whanau harmonies and an intimate knowledge of Bob Marley’s back catalogue. The intervening years have seen the group become a household name representing a distinctive Māori flavour of roots reggae with influences including Steel Pulse, The Wailers and The Herbs readily apparent in their five studio albums to date.
Katchafire will return to Aotearoa next month with their first homecoming show scheduled for July 1st in New Plymouth.