Fresh sound for East Coast musician

Joining Rob Ruha on the album is the Witch Doctor, a four-piece band made up of Tyna Keelan, Darren Mattiassen, Johnny Lawrence and James Ellingworth. Phot: Supplied.

Award winning songwriter, composer and performer Rob Ruha is revealing the fruits of his new project, Rob Ruha and The Witch Dr., with the release of his 12-track album Survivance, available today.

The esteemed artist who hails from New Zealand's East Coast has embarked on a collaborative project with some of the country's finest musicians who join him for this album as The Witch Dr.

The results are a stunning 12-track album, Survivance, Rob's second album, which shows a new side to the artist and delivers a powerful message with an uplifting blend of festival soul and R'n'B.

Rob says he hopes to capture the Maori nation as relevant, spirited, capable, connected, prophetic, morally courageous and unrelenting in their pursuit of self-determination, through this album.

“I've tried to do what has been exemplified to me by great composers like Tuini Ngawai, Bill Kerekere and Ngapo Wehi who have since passed on, but all had one thing in common.

“What they all did was take one really heavy kaupapa and wrap it in a whole heap of good music so the first thing people hear is good music,” says Rob.

“Then maybe over time, even generations, the messages which are so deeply buried will start to unpack and people will sit around and start to discuss those issues.

“As an artist, that is what I'd like to hope I've achieved and what I want to contribute to Maori music” he says. “And of course having a really good time over summer as well.”

He says the album has some strong Wellington vibes about it, due to being recorded and mixed in the region.

“We recorded the album at Park Road Post Production studios, and for a change we recorded it live.

“The whole band was in the room at the same time which is really good because you get a different sound out of doing that.”

Joining him on the album is the Witch Doctor, a four-piece band established by well-known hip-hop artist Tyna Keelan.

“I co-produced album with Tyna who is a good producer himself and someone who has played lead guitar for bands such as Katchafire.

“He had his own band made up of mates he was rolling around with in Wellington; Darren Mattiassen drummer from Shapeshifter, Johnny Lawrence bass player from Electric Wire Hustle and on keys is James Ellingworth who usually plays for Australian hip hop group Bliss n Eso.

“Having a dedicated band and creating a sonic soundscape that would be uniquely us was definitely a new experience for me with this album.”

Rob says the tracks making up Survivance are heavily influenced by the music he grew up on - killer grooves and strong melodies with strong R'n'B foundations.

“The different sound people hear in this album, which is a heavily R'n'B influenced, was predetermined and intentional.

“I wanted to showcase my abilities, I usually do roots-reggae jams because I was brought up listening to that genre but I was also heavily influenced by R'n'B singers and I wanted to shed a light on that during this album. It was also what naturally came out while we were jamming.”

Two songs which particularly stand out for him on this new album are the tracks Mirrors and Black Letters, which represent similar political and societal discourses around Maori culture.

“I always get really emotional when I sing or listen to Mirrors,” he says.

“Maori get such a bad reputation and even recently there has been so many hate speech groups Maori-bashing.

“Don Brash for example came out saying things like ‘we shouldn't be speaking Maori here it should be only relegated to Maori television, mainstream broadcast shouldn't have to speak it'.

Mirrors basically says, I'm tired of that kind of speech, if you want to say stuff like that go live somewhere else.

“It's also written around the time there was an article released saying that Maori are a child-killing race and the message in this song is this is not an indigenous practice, beating up kids is not what we do it's an introduced practice.

“It's shining the mirror back on people saying look at your own self before you judge other cultures.

“Black Letters is similar in that it fires back at Maori hate groups such as Treatygate, the Hobson's Pledge and other groups.

“It was inspired by a full-paged ad I saw, which featured a tap on it and says 'we shouldn't be giving water rights to Maori, it should be controlled by everyone else'.

“It's like why would you support this kind of speech,” he says. “Online there's also a lot of hateful comments related to these kinds of things, and that's what the ‘black letters' are.”

The album is available to stream on all major music streaming sites and in stores around the country.


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