Kiwi Records

 

Kiwi Records – ‘the music and voices of New Zealand’

What could be a more apt record label for New Zealand music than Kiwi Records? This offshoot of publisher A.H. & A.W. Reed began producing records in 1957 to support the company's Maori language, physical education and folk-dancing school texts. Now known as Kiwi Pacific Records International Ltd, the firm is no longer connected with Reed, but it still offers a catalogue of New Zealand and Pacific music. 

Maori and Pacific discs

The first disc from Kiwi Records’s was Maori action songs – 1 (1957) by the Putiki Maori Club. Popular artists of the 1960s included the Amorangi Boys of Rotorua, Inia Te Wiata, and Harry Dansey and the Te Rangatahi Maori Group. Maori records remained important, and from the 1970s they were complemented by the music of the Pacific on Kiwi’s Hibiscus label.

Folk songs and ballads

Kiwi’s recordings of ballads and folk songs captured the past that the publisher's books celebrated. Neil Colquhoun’s group, the Song Spinners, put out Songs of the whalers, Songs of the gold-diggers and Songs of the gumdiggers. In 1972 Colquhoun produced the landmark collection Songs of a young country.

Other typically Kiwi Records artists were balladeer Peter Cape, songwriter Ken Avery, song collector Les Cleveland, the Kokatahi Band of Westland and the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band.

Hamilton Bluegrass band

The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band
Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd

Light, novelty records were as New Zealand as the label’s logo. ‘Ash Burton and the Night Caps’ (Alex Veysey) gave the world Tea at Te Kuiti. The publisher’s success with Barry Crump’s books inspired Bush singalong by Les Cleveland and Tony Nolan and others. Tracks included ‘The good keen men and ‘The good keen girls’. Donald J. Squire went one step further with the Ashley Clinton Sheep’s Choir,which was sheep sounds cut and spliced to produce ruminant singing.

Te at Te Kuiti cover

Kiwi Records only dabbled in pop music, with Tony and the Initials and Simon Morris’s band Tamburlaine being its more successful artists.

Children's choirs and records

Kiwi Records went on the road, recording school choirs under its Schools Make Music series. It then sold the 10-inch discs back to the schools to use to raise money. Popular broadcasters Bas Tubert, Peter Read and Merv Smith read famous children's stories.  Kenneth Melvin read Maori tales such as Maui and the legend of Hinemoa and Tutanekai.

Julie Nelson’s ‘Sticky Beak the kiwi’ (1962) was a big hit. Poverty Bay school teacher Neil Roberts wrote the song; he recommended Nelson, and locals supplied a backing band for New Zealand’s most popular Christmas tune of the 1960s.

Tweats and twains

Under the Kiwi label more than just songs and music were recorded. In the 1960s people experimenting with new home hi-fi gear bought almost anything – recordings of bird songs, steam trains and even the sound of ice in Antarctica.

Antarctica sounds album cover and record

Musicolour products such as The sounds of Antarctica (1965) were early examples of multimedia publishing – a record package with colour books.
Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd)

Hearing the sounds of a steam train emerging from Tony Vercoe’s office (head of Kiwi Records), publisher Clif Reed asked ‘What on earth’s that? How do you expect to sell that?’ But sell it they did to train buffs, who snapped up LPs such as Steam militant! Steam locomotives in the South Island or A power of steam: steam locomotives in the Central North Island.

Radio New Zealand National’s bird calls are familiar to many, but in the 1960s the idea of recording New Zealand birds was unusual. Vercoe recalled mixing Ken and Jean Bigwood’s bird songs at the EMI studio. ‘They thought I was mad’. As loud squawks, chirps and cheeps flooded the building, staff appeared from everywhere to see what was going on, and then started imitating the calls.'

Two people in woods with recording equipment

Ken and Jean Bigwood record bird calls for A treasury of New Zealand bird song.

Bird song album cover

Community contributions

9 comments have been posted about Kiwi Records

What do you know?

Elizabeth

Posted: 17 Dec 2013

I have been looking everywhere for nthe Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Album "Heart of Heart"
Could you please tell me where I may locate a copy

Marilyn Bennett

Posted: 18 Jul 2013

Do you have or can you send me in some format the 1968 Banjo Pickers Convention album.
I was on one of the tracks and need it for a retrospective evening.
Many thanks, Marilyn Bennett

Nakore

Posted: 03 May 2011

I have a record which belonged to my Pap (Pop) who was from Rarotonga. It is called Rarotonga Festival and I am trying to locate an mp3 version of the song 'Aere Ra' (Farewell) so that we can play it at his funeral. It was performed by the people of Arorangi, the Betela Dancers and Drummers, Johnny and Alice Vahua, Fiji Snowball, Lilly Jonassen, and Teina and Joy Ngati. Just wondering if anyone has it or if it is online anywhere to purchase? I have tried looking at different sites and on iTunes but there are only different versions. If anyone could help that would be great.

Julie

Posted: 12 Jan 2011

I'm trying to locate a recording of The Gumboot Tango, The Dog Dosing Strip at Dunsandel and The Way She Handled The Clutch both written by Ken Avery. In fact I would be interested in any of the recordings of Ken Avery's work some recorded by Ash Burton (Alex Veysey. Contact julie@94.co.nz

Trevor

Posted: 01 Jun 2010

Glad to see some of you are enjoying selection from our vast catalogue of Kiwiana. Please keep in mind that this music is copyright protected. Cheers - Trevor Trevor Ruffell Kiwi Pacific Records International Limited Box 919, Hastings 4156, New Zealand Tel: 06 876 -0521 Kiwi Records - Tartar Records - Hibiscus Records - Kiwi Music Publishing http://www.kiwipacific.com/

jacqueline leon

Posted: 03 Mar 2010

HELLO IF ANYONE CAN HELP I HAVE A VINAL 331/3 LONG PLAY BY KIRI...THE ALBUM IS A RAINBOW IN THE SKY I HAVE IT SINCE THE 70s THE ALBUM HAS NO DATE ON IT.......KIRI TE KANAWA....A RAINBOW IN THE SKY........ANY HELP AND COST WOULD BE VERY WELCOME THANK YOU

Chris Walker

Posted: 11 Aug 2009

I recently purchased a Kiwi Records single "The New Zealand Weather Forecast" sing by the choir of St Mary's Cathedral Auckland. If anyone has any more info on this record I would love to hear from you. I am also looking for a song I think was on Kiwi - Ken Avery's "The Dog Dosing Strip at Dunsandel". And Danile I would love an mp3 of the Sheep Choir. Contact chris@waihekeradio.org.nz

Daniel

Posted: 12 Jul 2009

Hello, We have the original 7" 45 vinyl of the Ashley Clinton Sheep’s Choir, and have digitised it to mp3. Is this of any use to anyone or would NZHistory.net.nz like a copy of this? Cheers, Daniel

Anonymous

Posted: 28 Jul 2008

can you tell me what kirrie te kanawa early lps on kiwi records are worth a friend has a couple