Coronavirus cancellations put Shepherds Reign out of work

By Bronson Perich

Shattered dreams

South Auckland metal band Shepherds Reign were due to be the supporting act for The HU tonight at the Powerstation. However the recently imposed border restrictions meant that The HU were forced to cancel their one night tour of Aotearoa. When asked how the band felt about the cancellation, leader singer Filiva’a James was straight to the point.

Shepherds Reign band members. Foreground - Filiva'a James left, Oliver Leupolu right. Background starting from the left, Shaymen Rameka, Joseph Oti-George, Gideon Voon.

“F@%*!” was his one worded response.

Te Arawa Drummer Shaymen Rameka had a bit more to say on the matter:

"That was something we were looking forward to doing."

Shepherds Reign consists of two Samoans, two Māori and one Chinese Thai. Having struggled through obscurity since 2011, the band achieved worldwide acclaim with their Samoan language single “Le Manu”. Le Manu has been viewed over a million times on YouTube since its' December 2019 release.

The song is a metal cover of the "Siva Tau", the haka performed by the Samoan national rugby team "Manu Samoa". The team named themselves after the legendary Samoan warrior. The lyrics speak of Manu Samoas' prowess in battle and Siva Tau is performed to instill those same properties in the rugby team before they play.

James explained that by making the Siva Tau a metal cover, it became a way to explain their war for supremacy in the music world.

A war where only the strong survive.

Le Manu music video which gained over a million views in less than three months. Source/YouTube.

Rising from obscurity

Shepherds Reign were the supporting act for Māori Metal band Alien Weaponry at the recently held Fringe Festival in February. The boys were happy to support the Waipū trio and were able to meet with them briefly on the night.

"They're cool dudes, we hung out just before we jumped on.

"We saw them afterwards, just all sweaty and tired from their gig," lead singer James says.

The band are open to doing music with the boys from Alien Weaponry but acknowledge that there may be obstacles.

"If there was an opportunity, yeah, we'd do something like that," Rameka says.

Performing with a high profile band like The HU would have helped to promote the band as they had planned a tour of Germany this August. 

Coronavirus travel restrictions now mean that the tour has been postponed, till November.

Wolf Totem video by Mongolian band The HU. Source/YouTube.

Pioneers of a Pacifikan Frontier

Headbangers in the know see Alien Weaponry, Shepherds Reign and The HU as pioneers of a new sub-genre of metal. This sub-genre has yet to be given a universally accepted name, but names like “Haka Metal”, “Ethnic Rock” and “Poly Metal” are being touted on the internet as potential candidates.

While there are new hard and fast criteria for this sub-genre, the basics are that metal style music, is fused with traditional music forms and/or native languages.

However, the Shepherds are not saying that they have invented this genre. James credits Samoan musicians, the Booyah Tribe as being an inspiration for the group.

"Maybe they weren't as heavy as we were, but they definitely had it going in the day.

"Too early! Too smart for their time!"

Rameka says that there could other bands out there that could be making similar music.

"I think there's more music to come, more groups out there.

"Yeah, its something to think about and look forward to!"

World wild reactions

The band have been humbled by the positive reception to their music. One example is a video tribute sent by the WWE Wrestling Hall of Famers 'Afa and Sika Anoa'i, also known as "The Wild Samoans". The Wild Samoans are both uncles of Seiuli Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and 'Afa has trained some of the best names in the business.

'Afa and Sika Anoa'i, AKA The Wild Samoans mihi to Shepherds Reign. Source/Shepherds Reign Facebook. Used with permission.

The video was sent to the Shepherds by Vale Anoa'i, 'Afa Anoa'is' daughter. James described how it felt to have two Samoan legends mihi to them:

"Epic! It was mean! I don't even know what word to say!"

In James' own words, the new fans that have come since Le Manus' release, have been the greatest positive gain for the band.

"I don't know how to thank them enough, that's a big one for me," James says.

Guitarist Oliver Leupolu (Ngāti Hāmoa) acknowledged the support from their whānau and the Pasifika community at large:

"There's way more Pacific Islanders that are into rock and metal than we thought. 

"Probably a few thousand [Youtube] views have been from [my] mum herself!" Leupolu says. 

Rameka reflected on what could be done to get similar support from Māori.

"We probably have to deliver something especially for that community, and therein would lie the response."

Kai Tangata video by Alien Weaponry. Source/YouTube.

The future may be televised

Despite losing the opportunity to perform with a prolific band like The HU, there are alternatives that are being considered. James discussed the possibility of online performances.

"We've never done it before, but definitely, we will try, look in it!"

The boys are looking to have another record completed this year. Rameka explains that they are looking to take a break from making covers.

"I think just for the time being, we'll probably focus on doing more of our own music."

That new record, the band say, will have more Pacific language material, with the possibility of a track in Te Reo Māori.

In regards to the missed opportunity to perform for The HU, Rameka says:

"So yeah, it'll come around again!"

"If we can't leave the country, we might be coming to your town instead!"

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