Al Anderson says Māori reggae music is 'second to none'

By Mare Haimona-Riki
Legendary reggae guitarist Al Anderson right of frame, with lead singer Chet Samuel.

Reggae legend Al Anderson has nothing but high praise for Kiwi reggae music, as he expressed in an exclusive interview with Te Ao Māori News, saying it’s some of the best vocals he has ever heard.

“I think it’s some of the finest in the business. The singing and the harmonies are perfect, and it really makes us Jamaicans respect it,” he says.

The 71-year-old lead guitarist who performed at Western Springs in 1979 with Bob Marley is currently in the country with his band The Original Wailers and was scheduled to perform at the annual One Love Festival in Tauranga Moana this weekend. However, the festival was cancelled due to the country moving to 'red', much to the band’s disappointment.

“We were disappointed, not only because we couldn’t perform but we wanted to see all the national artists do their thing.  

“I don’t regret it though. You have to keep this disease out of this place. There’s only a certain amount of people here and that thing can’t go rampant, and the government is doing a great job at quarantining people. It’s better to be safe than sorry," says Anderson. 

Al Anderson and Bob Marley. Source / Getty Images

The Original Wailers

Anderson, Chet Samuel, Omar Lopez, Noel Aiken, make up the band which was first formed in 2008. Anderson says the name of the group is a tribute to Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh.   

“Obviously, we are not the original Wailers.

"The original Wailers are Peter, Bob and Bunny. But in order for me to use the name, I had to incorporate their lyric content. So this is a tribute to them, not to their music, them as individuals who wrote these songs. And we make our music through the spirit that they gave us.”

(L-R) Noel Aiken, Omar Lopez, Chet Samuel and Al Anderson.

Embracing Culture

The band have visited Aotearoa on multiple occasions and say that they feel nothing but aroha every time they visit.

“The people here, they understand one love! They show us love and we feel it,” says band member Noel Aiken.

Bass guitarist Omar Lopez still treasures memories of his first pōwhiri seven years ago.

“The first pōwhiri I experienced was incredible because we had somebody give us a rundown on how it goes, and the hongi is something so beautiful and I carry that with me everywhere I go.”

"We see everyone as a family as they are so welcoming and that’s all part of why we love it here," adds Chet Samuel.

The original Wailers with Te Ao Tapatahi reporter Mare Haimona-Riki

Kirituhi

Anderson, who was decked out in an NRL Indigenous All Stars jersey during the interview, also had his arm wrapped in cling film, to protect the fresh tattoo he received from local artist Jordan Clarke from Otautahi Tattoo in Auckland.

“This is the first tattoo I have ever received in my life and it’s an authentic Māori one which I will wear with pride.

“He gave me an authentic Māori tattoo, he put my whole life story here and I'll wear this for the rest of my life, with honour.”

Anderson received his first-ever tattoo by Māori artist Jordan Clarke

Plans for the future

Prior to arriving in Aotearoa earlier this month, the band toured Dubai, London and most recently smaller venues in the State of Florida.

Their new EP Mirror of Heaven is set to drop in March - including their new single Songs of the Divine

"It is a very spiritual song – an amalgamation of drums, floating sounds, and some very intellectual Godly lyrics," Anderson says. 

The One Love Festival has been postponed until April and the band says they would love to come back if given the opportunity.

"We love it here!! This is God's country," says Anderson.