Almost two years after releasing their first Gagana Samoa (Samoan language) single, South Auckland metal band Shepherds Reign have made history again.
By Bronson Eruera Perich
Their latest single, 'Nga Ao e Rua' (Two Worlds), is a NuMetal style track, combining reo Māori rapping with Samoan metal-style vocals.
Shepherds Reign frontman, Filiva’a James, says the title reflects the collision of metal and hip hop, along with te reo Māori and Gagana Samoa .
“It was pretty good for me to sing in another language,” James said.
“For me, myself, and you know for others out there that are half-Samoan, half-Maori it really means a lot,” bassist Joseph Oti-George said.
“It’s been a long-time dream. Seeing your favourite genre and both of your cultures.”
The track was recorded last year and released during Māori Language Week 2021.
Polynesian unity in stereo
Metal music is often associated with devil worship and anger. But the Shepherds take another angle, using their music to celebrate Polynesian family values.
The bilingual chorus of Nga Ao e Rua is a prime example. Some of the lines are quoted below.
“Polenisia uma, o’o mai loa tātou tūla'i nei (All Polynesians stand together now)
Ōku whanaunga Poroniihia whakarūru ō mātou ao
(People of Polynesia bring our worlds together)
Nga Ao e Rua calls for unity among Polynesians, reminding the listener of the whakapapa links that Māori and Samoans share.
Tauranga Moana Emcee SwizlJager is a longtime friend and fan of the Shepherds. He describes how the collaboration came to be.
“Just out of the blue, they (Shepherds Reign) just messaged me and said, 'bro, we were thinking of doing a song,'” SwizlJager said.
“We want to do a song, where it’s our metal, and you do the raps, and we’ll see what we can come up with.”
‘I’d trust him that whatever he’d write would be badass’
Even the non-Polynesian Shepherds had a hand in the production. Shepherds Reign’s Chinese guitarist Gideon Voon contributed to the single as well. A man of few words, Voon explains his contribution to the bilingual single.
“Me and Fili were just hanging out and he was keen to do a mashup as Swizl (SwizlJager) said, of rap and metal.
“So he asked me, ‘bro could you write me like a riff that was inspired from Rage Against The Machine?’ “
SwizlJager and the Shepherds recorded their parts separately not knowing what each other were doing. But James had faith in his longtime friend.
“I trusted him that whatever he’d write would be badass,” he said.
Working the dream
Covid-19 has stymied many Kiwi musicians trying to climb the ladder of success with Shepherds Reign and SwizlJager no exception. The Shepherds have faced a mass of cancellations, including supporting foreign acts and their own international tours.
But they’re fortunate to have 9-5 jobs to finance their dreams till borders and opportunities open up to them.
In the meantime, Leupolu and Voon work as music teachers. Oti-George works in the essential services.
When he isn’t ripping mics, SwizlJager works in the film industry, ironically as a sound engineer.
“We can’t operate until at least Level 2,” SwizlJager said.
“I quite like lockdown, not gonna lie.”
When asked if more reo Māori infusions were being cooked up by the Shepherds, the band says they’re open to it.
But it may be a while before more reo morsels are served up.