Massey celebrates New Zealand music history with Blue Smoke

Ryan Prebble, who was the sound engineer for the event.

Technical demonstrator Ryan Prebble was the sound engineer at the event.

Two of Aotearoa’s musical pioneers, the late Pixie Williams and Ruru Karaitiana, were honoured at a special commemoration event at the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington this week.

Wednesday 26 June marked the 70th anniversary of their iconic song Blue Smoke, recognised as the first record wholly written, recorded and manufactured in New Zealand, marking the birth of the New Zealand recording industry.

Written by Ruru Karaitiana and sung by Pixie Williams, the song was a surprise hit and sold over 50,000 records, and was even covered by American crooner Dean Martin.

Massey University has strong links to Blue Smoke – Massey’s official waiata, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, is sung to the tune of the song.

Mr Karaitiana had links to Massey through his Rangitane affiliations and through whānau members who attended the University, and the Karaitiana whānau generously gifted the use of the tune to Massey.

Massey was one of the major sponsors of the celebration, with music technology students and staff managing and engineering the sound and lighting, and debuting the new school PA and lighting systems.

Music technology student Troy Ward, the Systems Tech for the event, and Head of the School of Music and Creative Media Production, André Ktori.

Music technology student Troy Ward, who was systems tech for the event, and Head of the School of Music and Creative Media Production André Ktori. 

Head of the School of Music and Creative Media Production André Ktori attended the event, and says to mark such an important occasion in the music history of Aotearoa, “was our absolute honour.

“It’s special to be involved with a project that has strong links to our University, and to Aotearoa’s musical history,” he says.

The School of Music and Creative Media Production has donated its state-of-the-art recording studio for a new project to re-record Pixie Williams’ songs with contemporary artists.

With support from New Zealand On Air, a documentary featuring the story of Blue Smoke and of Pixie Williams’ life is also being filmed, to screen on Māori Television.

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