Māori Shepherds Reign band members proud of Samoan single

By Bronson Perich
Shepherds Reign bassist Joseph Oti-George (left) and Drummer Shaymen Rameka. / Source - File.

Shepherds Reign’s new single “Le Manu” was released on their YouTube channel on Boxing Day. Although this is a rendition of a Samoan haka, the origins of the arrangement came through Shaymen Rameka, their Māori drummer.

Guitarist Oliver Leupolu (Ngāti Hāmoa) says, "I think originally it started with Shaymen, he came as a drummer but he came up with some pretty cool riffs, that just got us going on that."

The Samoan lyrics were created by lead vocalist and keyboard player Filiva'a James (Ngāti Hāmoa) while he was jamming at Chinese guitarist Gideon Voon's house.

"All of a sudden I started thinking of singing the Samoan siva tau over that riff."

When the pair realised that they had a hit on their hands, they took the concept to the others in the band and the rest is history.

"We came up with a structure of the song, brought it over to the boys and the boys made it into what it is now," James says.

Te Ao spoke with Ngai te Rangi and Te Arawa drummer Shaymen Rameka and newest band member Ngāpuhi native 18-year-old Joseph Oti-George about their journey as Māori in the metal music scene.

"I find that the best thing about it is that we surprise people. We come out of the background, sort of emerge out of nowhere and hit people in the faces with our music," Rameka says.

For the past few years, the band did not have a bass player but Oti-George looked to fit the bill.

“Oliver (Leupolu) he was my teacher at school, my music teacher. Two years ago, he asked me if I could play bass with the brothers. But the only problem was I was too young, I was 16 at the time," Oti-George says.

Leupolu, who thought that Oti-George was 18, then learned that he was two years too young, "So I was like okay, that was a long two years waiting," Oti-George says.

When he turned 18, Oti-George was given the go-ahead by his parents to join the band but with strict conditions. When asked if Oti-George was allowed to drink and have female company, Rameka said he had a quiet word to the young band member.

“She's given us her blessing to have Joseph. He's still got to pack a bit of gears, do a bit of loading and unloading. I already had the talks, 'keep it on the side, eh bro.'”

Rameka and Oti-George say as Māori they are proud to have been involved in making the Samoan language track "Le Manu".

“Wicked eh? Crazy! Just vicious eh? Ruthless! Yeah we're all just proud of each other with what we do. Yeah, regardless of your culture. We like pushing it, and everyone loves it so it's good,” they say.

Is the band open to producing any reo Māori content in the future?

“It's to be announced man! We'll let you know! It's in the making,” Rameka says.

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