Tomorrow People: Sunshine Reggae

Tomorrow People
Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

One of the breakout acts in the flourishing New Zealand reggae scene, Tomorrow People are all about feel good vibes.

Wellington’s Tomorrow People originally started as a studio project, but after social media exposure became a live sensation with a devoted fanbase. Tana Tupai, the group’s lead keyboardist, never expected his band to have such a rapid rise to popularity.

“When it started with only a few members, we chucked a few demos on YouTube. This was still at the stage where we didn’t think anything of it, but just got a massive positive response about how people really dig our stuff. So we thought, ‘this is pretty cool; we’ve got an opportunity to connect with people that like this kind of music’. Obviously the model these days is totally different to how it was years ago, so we worked really hard on building a fanbase. We then started assembling the band with other muso friends.”

Tana is chuffed with their progress and the response to their debut album, ‘One’, and lead single, ‘Feel Alright.’

“Fast forward to now, we’ve been together just under two years, and we’ve got an album out which has charted really well here in New Zealand. We’ve done things in three years that bands who’ve been together for ten years haven’t, so we feel very privileged and don’t take any of these awesome achievements for granted.”

One of those achievements was being nominated for Best Roots album at the recent New Zealand Music Awards. The Black Seeds scored the gong, but Tana bears his contemporaries no ill will.

“The Black Seeds are legends in the game, these guys are pioneers in the reggae and roots industry in New Zealand. To be honest it’s a privilege for us to be named alongside artists like The Black Seeds — we knew they were going to win anyway! Just from seeing what was showcased at the Awards, New Zealand music is in a very healthy state, which is awesome.”

The crowded reggae genre is especially popular in Tana’s home country, but Tomorrow People have managed to separate themselves from the pack with their unique sound. The eight-piece’s mid tempo reggae is coloured with dancehall ragga, while remaining vocal and harmony centric. 

“We call our kind of music sunshine reggae,” he says. “It's the positive, upbeat messages we have in our music that really set us apart. We have songs people can singalong to and grasp the vibe. I guess we have a distinct sound. We have a person in our group who does ragga rap, and that’s a huge point of difference for us because there's not many bands in New Zealand that have that flavour.

“We’re all good friends, it’s a really family oriented environment in our band. That reflects how we deliver our music onstage and because our music’s really feel good, it’s kind of like a party, just enjoying everyone vibing off each other and having a good time.”

According to Tana, the reason for the genre’s popularity in New Zealand is its compatibility with the country’s attitude.

“It's a very laidback country and reggae music has that real summer vibe, so I guess that relates to the character of the people. Very relaxed, chilled, and just wanting some good easy listening stuff that you can listen to all year round.”

As New Zealand and Australia have so much in common, he believes reggae also has the potential for mainstream appeal here.

“From what I've seen already it is a growing demographic in Australia. We've had heaps of artists from New Zealand making massive noise overseas, and there are a lot of reggae bands that come across quite often, keeping that momentum going and exposing the music we love. So far the crowds of Australia have really embraced what we've done and we're looking forward to exposing our music to new listeners the next time we come through.”

Which brings us to plans for Tomorrow People’s Brisbane appearance. Tana predicts an “epic show” saying, “it’s a great opportunity for us to get together and connect with Australian audiences. We’re going to make sure we share the good vibe that we have, and when we’re partying onstage we want everyone on the floor to be partying with us.”

Tomorrow People play The Hi-Fi Saturday November 24.

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