Bit of background about Weird Together please Nick..
So Tu and I are both from New Zealand, I’ve been working in Radio & Television for more than 20 years in addition to DJing since I was around 15, Weird Together is my group alongside my production partner Dick Johnson and a whole load of incredible artists that come from all over the world.
Here’s a bit more information on Weird Together from a recent article in the New Zealand Herald.
For the last ten or so years I’ve been travelling the world a fair bit presenting and directing a TV series that I wrote called ‘Making Tracks’, the concept of the series was that I would take famous songs from New Zealand and have cover versions performed a long the way, and also exploring the music culture in each country.
For the last 15 years I had been getting more and more into ‘music of the world’ but my passion only got stronger since the making of the series. I started the group to have an outlet for all of these new music influences I was hearing and also Auckland is a very multi-cultural city and so we wanted to highlight that.
Of all the towns in Africa you decided to shoot the latest track, No Compromise, in Accra. What was behind this decision?
Nick: Karima our singer is South Sudanese but she was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and left to come to NZ when she was 5, so she’s never actually been home. I made a promise with her that if we managed to get some funding for ‘No Compromise’ then we’d film in South Sudan. Sadly around the time that we were to film the video tensions flared up and the South Sudanese Civil War kicked off again.
It was super sad for Karima and she hadn’t been back to Africa since she was 5. Seeing as I’d travelled to Ghana a number of times with the TV show, I felt we should film there, and also the track has a very West African influence with its Highlife guitar and Coupe Decale beat. Accra is my favourite city in Africa, rich in music, humour, and the people are so warm and welcoming. So we really wanted to capture all of those things in the video.
Was the shoot straight forward? Any nightmare scenarios?
Nick: Haha – this is a funny question. Yes, there was a very nightmare situation that happened for both of us. To begin with we had flown all the way from Auckland – Accra which is one of the longest journeys one can do without a break and so we were already tired and jet lagged and both Tu and I got a bit too excited and went to this amazing outdoor club a couple of days before the shoot and ate a lot of street BBQ meat. I’m sure you can figure out what happened the next day. We were both wiped out, I could hardly move, just sweat and attached to my toilet bowl all day.
Also the heat man, it was intense, Tu almost passed out from heatstroke on the first day of shooting it was that bad while I spent most of my time trying to find public toilets. Aside from that, the shoot was a wonderful experience, our local crew was incredible and all of the stars and people that featured in the video were a joy to film with, we’ve even got cameos from two of West Africa’s most legendary musical names – Ebo Taylor and Gyedu Bloy Ambolley.
The pace of the video looks as if you were moving around to quite a few different locations so we’re assuming the camera gear and kit were easily portable?
Tu: Nick and I like to try and work with a small crew when we can. I think this comes from our background in documentary, where being mobile and flexible are both really important. Both of these things ended up being really useful in Accra, as we wanted to show off as much of this amazing city as possible and often plans and schedule had to shift at a moment’s notice.
Our crew consisted of Nick and I, our cameraman Daryl Habraken and our local team of three (Jay, Daniel and Yaw). We shot on a Sony FS700, one set of sticks, a reflector and no lights. Pretty bare bones but culturally and visually the place is so vibrant, it really didn’t need much done to it.
At one point we wanted to get a Jib Arm to shoot our dancers in the abandoned mall which after a few hours wait never turned up. We were informed that this was pretty standard and the best thing to do was to just roll with it the Ghanain way, which we did and in a way I’m glad we didn’t have it. I think it might have stuck out a little in hindsight.
What are your plans for the rest of the year – are more films on the cards?
Nick: Tu and I are currently working on our next documentary project which we can’t talk about too much right at this moment but it’s a Japanese story and it’s a story that changed the face of popular culture! We spent most of last year in Japan making a documentary series called ‘Diggin’ In The Carts‘ about the history of Japanese Video Game music for the Red Bull Music Academy. We’ll be returning to Japan in May to begin pre-production on that but also have a couple more Weird Together videos to shoot over the next few months, one which will be filmed in New Zealand before we go and one which will hopefully be filmed in Trinidad & Tobago.