PROUD: AN URBAN-PACIFIC STREETSOUL COMPILATION TO BE REISSUED ON VINYL
FlyingNunRecords and Huh! are delighted to announce the reissue of Proud: An Urban-Pacific Streetsoul Compilation — the landmark 1994 album, conceived and produced by AlanJansson — to be released on Friday26thMay on extended double vinyl for the very first time.
Originally released on CD and cassette in 1994, and briefly available again in 2000, Proud has been unavailable in its physical form for the past 23 years — although the album has never really left Aotearoa’s collective psyche — being named Independent Music New Zealand’s‘Classic Record’in May 2022, as well as being listed in NickBollinger’s 2009 book 100 Essential New Zealand Albums. Remastered over 12 months by AlanJansson, this Proud vinyl reissue includes iconic tracks from SistersUnderground (‘In The Neighbourhood'), OtaraMillionairesClub (‘We R The OMC’) and SemiMCs (‘Trust Me’). and adds a side of rare 1994 12” remixes including the collectable ‘Sisters On The Boulevarde Dub’ found only on the original promo. The double LP is available on limited edition yellow and red coloured vinyl, as well as a standard black edition — both versions feature sleeve notes from Philip ‘Sir-Vere’ Bell and VolitionRecords’ AndrewPenhallow.
In part, Aotearoa’s musical history has been defined by important albums; records that changed the course of the music we made, records that define a time or records that concisely captured a new important musical movement. Many of the latter are compilation albums – AK79 and the DunedinDouble as examples.
Then we have Proud, a 1994 collection of new artists created in part by an enterprising producer working in inner city Auckland but one that also rather perfectly documented an exciting new musical phenomenon happening around in the streets, schools and youth clubs of South Auckland, and at the same time pushed the parameters of that. By the late 1980s, the soundtrack of South Auckland was increasingly defined by American hip-hop sounds and beats. The region’s ghetto blasters were dominated by the US East Coast and West Coast rappers, but you could also hear the beginnings of a uniquely New Zealand take on that as kids fused the sounds they were hearing with the Pacific sounds they had grown up with in their family homes.
It took a while, but this fusion would eventually be tagged as “Urban Pacific” by a young rapper from South Auckland called CharlieBrown and the name stuck – so much so it is now deemed to be a musical sub-genre of what we call Pasifika. The pivotal moment when this fusion came of age was the 1994 album Proud.
The producer of Proud was AlanJansson, formerly a member of 1980s electronic pioneers The Body Electric (their 1984 hit ‘Pulsing’ had spent 9 months in the charts) and the owner of a state-of-the-art recording studio in Auckland’s Freeman’s Bay, UptownStudios. It was in Uptown that Alan had over some years slowly imagined and created his own unique fusion of urban Auckland music, gathering in all the disparate sounds he was working with or coming in contact with, a sound that would soon come become known as the “Uptown Sound” a sound that he would, in the years to come, take around the world to the top of the planet’s charts. Proud would be an important part of that journey.
The path to Proud was a gradual one. As increasing numbers of South Aucklanders formed crews or began to rap at school or with groups of friends, young promoters began to bring a few to Alan’s studio. VoodooVinyl was a label owned by DJAndyVann and ChrisBateup and as VoodooRhymes they were putting on parties in South Auckland. They recorded several singles with bands who would end up on Proud.
AlanJansson on the genesis of Proud has said “They ran out of money to pay me when I was recording their bands (Semi MCs and MC Slam & DJ Jam) and they didn’t have enough to keep it going. I went and saw my friend Tim Mahon, who was working with the Manukau City Council. He had loved a track by Slam & Jam and they had used it for a Safer Community campaign in Otara. He said he could get some money if I wanted to do an album of the acts, but it wasn’t a lot and they wanted me to match it. It wasn’t enough, but it was enough to get the ball rolling.”
DJ JAM — PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLIE BROWN
“Then Andrew Penhallow [from Australia’s Volition label] came on board and gave me some money. I was taking tracks over to Andrew which [synth player] Dave Bulog and myself had made and on the end of one of the tapes – I don’t know how it got there – there was MC Slam and DJ Jam’s ‘Prove Me Wrong’. He said, “The beats on that are killer, you did this?” I said we’d done it for the Safer Communities campaign, and he said I should do an album of more like this. That’s how it really started – and I was already working with other bands, so it went from there.”
Over the next two years, Alan spent many hundreds of hours working with assorted South Auckland acts and slowly, largely bankrolling it himself, created what we now know as Proud. Amongst the musicians was PhilFuemana, the musical driving force behind the very talented Fuemana family from Otara. Phil had been working on tracks in his home studio which he offered to Alan.
PHIL AND CHRISTINA FUEMANA
“Phil came in and bought me a track by a guy called Aaron, but it didn’t fit on album. Then he played me something else he’d been working on at home and said “I don't think this is going to work. It's a bit too housey” – it had that ‘da da dada da’ intro. I said, “Hang on, if we put some big Miami kicks on there, get some good rappers on there, and add a sung chorus, you’ve got something amazing.” He grabbed some of the rappers who were already on the album, but I said it still needs something more, so he suggested we bring in his brother Pauly, “He raps quite differently.” So, we brought Pauly in and he rapped ‘Are you a friend or a foe…’ and Phil said, “No, it’s not really working …” and I said, “No, it’s great! It’s awesome – we gotta start it with Pauly, open it up with Pauly and you have something unique.” He agreed with me and let me go for it. He had the grooves but didn’t think it was hip-hop enough until we added Pauly.” — AlanJansson.
The duo who would soon become SistersUnderground were then known as the RGBCrew and were playing the Voodoo parties in South and West Auckland.
“Hasaanah and Brenda were with Voodoo as a live act but they didn’t want to sign a record contract with them. They came to me and asked if they could just record with me. They'd be happy to record with me if I didn't have a long-term contract. I said that wasn’t what I was about, and we just agreed to do a track or two and they were free after that. I said I was doing an album called Proud and asked if they wanted a couple of tracks on it, and they said yeah. NZ on Air gave us some money for the first one, ‘Ain’t It True’. The keyboard line on that original demo was played by Mark de-Clive Lowe and I used part of that, then we added a Soul II Soul beat and I added a new bassline and piano part and that got it moving. It’s a neat song.” — AlanJansson
When the album was finished to his satisfaction, Alan took it back to AndrewPenhallow. He had committed to releasing it in Australia and hopefully beyond but he said he thought they really needed a commercial single – just one more track for a single.
“People were saying “OMC, OMC”, but I didn’t hear that as a single. Andy Vann was pushing for the Semi MCs but I didn't think their new song was a single. I thought, there's only one group on there that I think can do the kind of single we need, and that's the RGB Crew.
I said to them, if you change your name, I'd like you to front the whole thing. Have you got anything for a single? They answered, “Well, no, not really. But we got part of a song we really like”, and they sat down and wrote the words to ‘In The Neighbourhood’, asking me if I could write some music for them. So I went away and got to work.
I had an album that was using acoustic guitar over programmed looped beats, and it was the first time I’d ever heard anyone do that. I decided to adapt that, replacing the guitar with the classic New Zealand strum [the sound often affectionately called the ‘Māori strum’]. I thought it was fucking cool and would take it to another level. I asked [guitarist] Lee Baker if he could play what I wanted, and he said yeah, so we put it down. Then, when the [newly renamed] Sisters Underground came in I played to the girls and said that the words they had would work really well with this.
And that was it. It was just sort of, like, you know. perfect. It was, more or less, their acappella vocals and lyrics over the top of the beats with that strummed guitar I’d created.” — AlanJansson
The Uptown Sound had just been invented.
Stepping away from the more urban styles of the rest of the album, the final two tracks featured acoustic log drumming (‘Pacific Beats’ by PukaPuka) and an acappella version of the New Zealand national anthem by VocalFive.
Proud took some two years to record and was released initially on SecondNature, a label owned by Alan and Andrew, distributed via EMI in New Zealand and by Sony in Australia. Issued in May 1994, it topped the New Zealand compilation charts the week after it was released. That same week,‘In The Neighbourhood’ was released as a single, with a still stunning GregSemu-directed video, funded by NZonAir, whose BrendanSmyth was an early and staunch champion, filmed around the streets and markets of Otara.
Airplay for the single was selectively strong in Auckland, with the new station MaiFM coming on board quickly and playing it heavily, as did student radio in both Auckland and Wellington, but beyond those stations, airplay was sparse with most other New Zealand radio showing complete disinterest. However, that airplay was enough to put the single at #6 in the charts. It stayed in the singles chart for 12 weeks pushed along week-by-week by steady sales in the South Auckland stores. It also reached #2 in the Australian TripleJchart and #62 in the Australian national singles chart.
Without a second followup chart single (OMC’s ‘We R The OMC’ was released but only had student radio play) Proud stalled in NZ and soon slipped off the compilation chart.
AlanJansson says, “EMI had no idea what to do with it so that was really it for New Zealand.”
However, Volition had secured a place for Proud acts on the 1995 BigDayOut and Alan offered all the musicians airline tickets, fees and per-diems to tour Australia and New Zealand as part of the festival but was declined by all apart from OMC, SistersUnderground and JeremyToomata (AKA DJPayback).
OMC IN PERTH FOR BIG DAY OUT [JANUARY 1995] WITH AJ AND VISION45 — PHOTO BY ALISTER FERGUSON
“Most bands wouldn't do the Big Day Out, because they thought I was just bullshiting: you telling us, that you take us around Australia? We get a $100 a day, we're going to stay in hotels? We're getting food and accommodation, We get paid? You telling us we're getting all that. No way…”
It was in Sydney that a RollingStone magazine writer saw OMC and hailed Pauly as a “Polynesian Marvin Gaye” and the sound of Proud as “the future”.
OTARA MILLIONAIRES CLUB
Proud was released in Europe and the UK with strong reviews but few sales, as was ‘In The Neighbourhood’, the reality being that there was little to follow it up with at the time. Alan was true to his word and the Sisters had moved on. By the time they were offered a long-term deal by Sony worldwide, they had left New Zealand and remained unaware of the offer. Their song is now deemed a New Zealand classic, much loved and was #58 in the APRATop 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time list in 2001. It is now regarded as a landmark single for both the emerging South Auckland music scene of the 1990s and for New Zealand music as a whole.
PaulyFuemana and AlanJansson then took the Uptown Sound around the world.