The Noise of a New Zealander
Posted by danni on Sept. 4, 2015, 3:58 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
Last week, New Zealand rock radio station The Rock completed their annual “Rock 1000” countdown, a list of the top songs ever according to voting Kiwis. These 7 days of New Zealand radio have become world famous with people from all corners of the globe tuning in to listen to the vote-based, week-long countdown.
Back in South Africa, Radio 702 ran a similar countdown annually but on a much smaller scale. Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale and The Eagles Hotel California featured in the top 3 every time the countdown was held, both each winning several times respectively. Whereas in the last 5 years that I’ve been living in New Zealand, the Rock 1000 top 5 songs been fairly random. In fact, hearing the winning song announced last week - Thunderstruck by ACDC - was where the idea for this blog post came from. The winning song choice was strange - ACDC had never featured in the top 5 before and only very rarely the top 10, and never with that particular song. Why and how did the NZ public vote for them this year? It’s not that I disagreed with the choice but I wondered what prompted the song’s resurgence.
The answer became pretty clear when I remembered that ACDC were about to embark on a massive world tour, visiting New Zealand in December 2015. (The last time they did so in 2010, a crowd of 60 000 people appeared to support them.) Phil Rudd, the troubled ACDC drummer, lives in Tauranga and has been in the Kiwi news often recently thanks to his excessive rock-star’ing. It wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to draw the connection between ACDC’s quick shot to the top of the Rock 1000 and their presence in the collective Kiwi-conscience over the past year.
You may think it strange that a connection to immigration could be made here, but bear with me...
It came to me then that when the New Zealand public want to make a statement, it’s possible to do so and be heard. It’s that last bit that’s the clincher. Everyone in the world makes a noise. But where are you most likely to be heard and why?
Coming from South Africa, protests against poor service delivery or worse form an actual hum you hear in Johannesburg CBD when you pass through. Sometimes these protests turn violent and are almost never successful in prompting change. Things that South Africans were making noise about in 2010 are still being fought about in courts, on the streets and in homes (Julius Malema and the EFF, Jacob Zuma and the cost to build Nkandla, the ever-present utilities issues and so on...) with not much change effected. The problems seem too big; the relevant cheeks turned.
Conversely, New Zealand’s population of around 4.5 million means that problems can be more easily dealt with. In fact, as the point of this article suggests, simply bringing about the awareness of a problem in New Zealand is far simpler. New Zealand’s establishment of a strong, stable education system results in a demographic that is, for the most part, intelligent. We grasp technology, we’re into our high-speed internet connections, our innovations in science and our business leaders are some of the best and most experienced in the world. We have all of these features of a cosmopolitan first world environment, but we’re not just noisy cogs in a massive first-world wheel like London and Hong Kong. We can and we do regularly effect change in New Zealand as a people.
When we decided to move to New Zealand, this ability to make a noise and be heard was one of the most appealing and unique aspects of the country to us. In South Africa you could spend your entire career trying to garner the same type of industry recognition as you could gain here in a far shorter period of time.
We speak up in New Zealand - like many do - but our industries, our government, (our radio stations...) and our mostly captive countrymen can actually hear us. Even though as a nation we have a giant’s mindset in many ways, we’re not giants. We’re smart, well-equipped and prepared enough to make a big bang on the world stage, but we’re a small enough nation that our individual bangs are heard too.
When I heard Thunderstruck had been chosen by the Kiwi public as the top rock song ever, I quickly realised how typical (and how possible!) it is for New Zealand to welcome ACDC back to the country in December by placing them squarely in that top spot. A more idealistic view is that the Kiwis are thanking them for coming and I wouldn’t put it past them! They’ve done it before with the Foo Fighters - New Zealand’s favourite band - by welcoming them onto stage with the loudest sound Dave Grohl admits he’s ever heard. Grohl has spoken about this at interviews since then and about how New Zealand is the “little country that could”. At the time, Geonet said that seismic stations in Herne Bay and Eden Park recorded vibrations from the concert at Western Springs across the entire set, 12 km away. The shaking was in time to the rhythm of the music, with lulls between songs.
The only other time such man-made seismic activity has been recorded in New Zealand was during the sound of 80,000 fans cheering the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup victory at Eden Park. I think that says a lot about the world-shaking power of our little big country.
- Danni (Marketing Coordinator, IMMagine)
P.S. I wholeheartedly respect New Zealand's decision this year. Here's the song in case this post has made you need to hear it: ACDC Thunderstruck
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