For her debut play, Rotorua writer Turene Jones (25) has created a hip hop musical dealing with racism and how US rappers like Tupac Shakur have influenced Māori youth. Jones says her work is very topical and relevant.
“Rap is my favourite type of music and it’s an unapologetic genre. People love it or hate it.
"I love reading, I love storytelling. Rap music is not only lyrically rounded but the artists make the listeners feel that they are going along with the journey,” Jones says.
Her play, named after US superstar Tupac Shakur’s song 'I Ain't Mad At Cha', debuts in Auckland this week. It’s about a young teenager from Gisborne who struggles with being Māori and being judged by his own people. He gravitates to US rappers who give him a sense of belonging.
“I feel that what Tupac and other rappers talk about is relatable to Māori. We know what it’s like to be targeted because of the colour of our skin. We can be smart and articulate and still be judged,” Jones says.
Jones came up with the idea three years ago when she was studying playwriting at the University of Auckland. As part of her course, she had to write a musical and 'I Ain't Mad At Cha' was born. The play was a finalist at the Playwrights B4 25 Competition in 2016 and was chosen as one of the top Māori and Pacific plays by Playmarket New Zealand for its Brown Ink programme.
Actor Tyler Wilson-Kokiri (23) of Ngāti Porou stars as an aspiring rapper and says he loves playing a “cool dude”.
“My character’s loyal to his circle of people. If you’re in his circle, it’s for life,” he says.
Jones says the main message of her play is that racism is not okay.
“I want people to think before they speak and know that what they say to other people could offend them.”
'I Ain't Mad At Cha' opens at Auckland's Basement Theatre on Tuesday June 20 until Saturday June 24.