For me; when the feeling is gone I will no longer be breathing. For there isn’t a day on earth that I can’t imagine not being in love with Betty-Anne Monga.
I was in my late teens when Betty-Anne and Ardijah burst onto the NZ music scene.
‘Who is that ‘Atua Wahine?’ I asked myself after seeing her for the first time on Ready to Roll. Not only was she stunning, she sounded like an angel – a siren singing straight to my heart. I would have gladly drowned enveloped in her supple brown arms, be tangled and strangled within her long dark hair. God, her beauty hit me right between the eyes and the ears, and to be honest I’ve never fully recovered.
Of course Ardijah didn’t really just hit the scenes. They had been working the pub scene in Auckland for many years – but for all of those early years they were a covers band. Not a bad thing to be, because they honed their skills, they learnt their craft. So when the big time came they were ready. By god they were ready. It was only after a wag called out during one of their gigs, ‘play something original’ did they feel empowered, did they feel brave enough to unleash their brand of music upon Aotearoa, and I’m so glad they did. Time makes a wine indeed.
Now, I’m no great fan of RnB. But when it is fused with a Polynesian back beat, reggae, funk and ska roots I’m a convert. To me Ardijah is a seminal band for NZ in the way they achieved the finest quality and subtle blend of these elements. They coined the term Polyfonk – it stuck and it is now the name of their recording label.
Ask any Kiwi worth their salt who were their musicians of the eighties, the answers will invariably be:
Split Enz, The Exponents, Dave Dobbyn (and bands), Herbs, Dragon, Mi-Sex, the chills and Hello Sailor, The Clean and more. But where’s Ardijah? Where the hell is Ardijah?
To me they were the sound of the eighties and the nineties. Hot summer days at the beach, picnics, long drives with the window down, arm out the window and my ardijah cassettes on auto rewind. Balmy nights spent wondering where Betty-Anne was playing and wishing I could be there too. Wishing I could drown…yes, yes, heard it already Roly.
Time has flown by, I am now a 50 something overweight pakeha male, but Betty-Anne is still an Atua Wahine. She is still my imaginery 80’s girlfriend.
Ardijah still gig and make music; now they are master craftsmen who have dug even deeper into their polynesian roots. They have immersed themselves into music of the land, of the islands, of the people and themselves. They are also doing covers again, and their version of Prince Tui Teka’s E-Ipo is a beautifully sculptured piece of immense gravitias and mana – easily equal to Herb’s ‘Sensitive to a smile,’ to which it gives a well deserved nod. Bravo!
So Betty-Anne for me the feeling will never be gone. We have never met (damn-it) but I look back at the eighties and am very grateful that you played such a major part of those years. It was a journey I loved sharing with you. And as you sang so many years ago – time does indeed makes a very fine wine.
Here’s to many more glasses on our journey’s.
Kia Ora Roly