Reggae is one of the bloodlines of New Zealand music -- which accounts for the extraordinary success of Hamilton’s Katchafire who, two years ago, emerged as the hardest working band in the country. Their astonishing debut album, the prophetically named Revival, sold in excess of 30,000 copies (double platinum) and they scored massive hits with songs like Giddy Up, the biggest selling single of 2002. Katchafire had tapped into that bloodline of New Zealand and people, being reacquainted with what they had lost, loved it all over again. Katchafire’s music was uplifting and celebratory, and their gigs were joyous singalong affairs where people of all cultures and affiliations were welcomed.
And now they are stepping up again with a cracking new album Slow-Burning which shows them reaching a new level. From the terrific cover slip -- a cheeky homage to the classic Bob Marley album sleeve from which the band took its name -- to the eleven diverse tracks within Slow-Burning is a leap forward, both musically and lyrically. The title is again appropriate; you will feel the fire from this for a long time to come. Produced by Chris Macro (of Dubious Brothers) and with international guests, this is a new level of consciousness music from Katchafire which moves effortlessly from classic JA-sounding roots-reggae to material which could be located nowhere else other than in Aotearoa: when they say “don’t frisk me down because of my brown skin” they also bring dignity to bear, “we must hold our head up high”. The deeply felt and fiery I And I stands proudly in the local lineage of politicised reggae that was kick-started by Herbs. More than on their debut they pull in threads of dub and toasting, there are musical references to the sound of classic Trojan records (Close Your Eyes, Hey Girl Version) but, courtesy of the French horn section Mister Gang whom they met in New Caledonia, you can also hear echoes of DD Smash-styled pop.
Katchafire shows are always celebratory affairs and with Slow-Burning the band have even more to be joyous to be about. Be prepared to celebrate with them.