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Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964

Book hardcover

Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964

History Publication year: 2010

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Winner of the 2011 New Zealand Post “Book of the Year” Award

“Come up to Paekakariki in the land of the tiki where you spend all your days at the beach.” It's another Saturday night in 1950s Auckland. Downtown, nightclubs are banning the jive because the exuberant couples disturb the cautious fox-trotters. Over in Freeman's Bay, the Maori Community centre is the ‘jazziest, jumpingest place in the city’ where sweaty men in zoot suits feed on Maori bread and huge tubs of potatoes. In Blue Smoke, Chris Bourke recovers the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music in the 20th Century.

Bourke brings to life the musical worlds of New Zealanders at home (buying sheet music from Beggs, listening to the radio, learning ‘the twist’) and out on the town (singing in community choirs, seeing Dave Brubeck on tour, jiving to Johnny Devlin). Beginning with the return of the Kiwi Concert Parties from World War I and the arrival of jazz, Blue Smoke also chronicles half a century of change – with the impact of World War II, the rise of swing, country, the Hawaiian sound, and then rock'n'roll, the development of a Tanza and a local recording industry, and the impact of tours by overseas stars. From Kiwi concert parties to the Howard Morrison Quartet, from Ruru Karaitiana's ‘Blue Smoke’ to Ken Avery's ‘Tea at Te Kuiti’, from swing to folk, from Wellington's Ma­jestic Cabaret to Christchurch's Win­tergarden, Bourke brings to life the people, places, and sounds of a world we have lost.

It is a world in which Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders gradually developed a melody, a rhythm, and a voice that made sense on these islands.


Publisher note

Auckland University Press

Author note

Chris Bourke