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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Dunedin sound was a style of indie pop music created in the southern New Zealand university city of Dunedin in the early 1980s.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Dunedin's bards - Roadside Stories


[Archival audio (22 secs) 'Dunedin from the bay' poem] At the centre of Dunedin is a statue of Robbie Burns, the famous Scottish poet, but the city has been home to many writers of its own. Some - such as Hone Tuwhare, a Māori poet from Northland and Janet Frame, a novelist originally from Ōamaru - were drawn to Dunedin by the Robert Burns Literary Fellowship at Otago University. Other outstanding bards were born here. Charles Brasch, was a poet and established Landfall; New Zealand's most famous literary journal. James K. Baxter was the son of a famous conscientious objector, Archibald Baxter, and penned some of New Zealand's most lyrical poems. Baxter and with his long beard and hair and interest in communal living became a leader of the counter-culture in the late 1960s. However, it is Thomas Bracken whose words are most familiar to New Zealanders¬ although many wouldn't recognise his name -- Bracken was the author of the country's national anthem, God defend New Zealand. The Irish born Bracken came to Dunedin in 1869 and worked as a journalist. In 1876 he published God defend New Zealand as a poem in his own Dunedin newspaper. A prize was offered for a tune and was won by a Southland school teacher called J. J. Woods. The young man had dashed off the music in a single sitting. The first pubic performance occurred at Dunedin's Queen's theatre on Christmas day 1876. The song soon began to be performed at public occasions; however, it was not until 1940 that it became the country's national hymn and finally in 1977 it became one of the country's official national anthems. The other national anthem remains God Save the Queen, but God Defend New Zealand is the most commonly used. A Māori translation of Bracken's hymn was made as early as 1878 and the first verse in Māori is now usually sung followed by the English version. A century later in Dunedin a new generation of bards emerged in Dunedin with the arrival of the so-called 'Dunedin Sound' in the early 1980s. This unique sound could be heard being played by bands at legendary pubs like the Captain Cook and was linked to pop groups signed by Christchurch record label Flying Nun. Bands that included the Dunedin sound included The Clean, the Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings, and the Chills. It was a sound described as 'typically marked by the use of droning or jangling guitars, indistinct vocals and often copious quantities of reverberation'. [Critic's comment read out] 'What came to be known as Dunedin sound was an amalgam of jangly garage-pop invested with a spooky, otherworldly touch -- as if being on the other side of the world meant the music was played upside down.' [Narrator] Flying Nun Records, who first recorded the Dunedin bands, was started by Roger Shepherd in 1981. Flying Nun's first big hit was with The Clean's single Tally Ho. The record label was started at the time when MTV was taking off, it was recognised that Flying Nun bands, who found it hard to get their songs played on commercial radio, would benefit from making music videos. In the early days this usually meant bands throwing together an amateur offering with their mates in the hope it would get on New Zealand's weekly TV music show, 'Radio With Pictures.' Of the Dunedin sound bands, the Chills, fronted by a local minister's son, Martin Phillipps, were perhaps the most internationally successful. The Clean and others also signed US record deals. In 1987 The Chills played at Glastonbury in front of 60,000 people around the time they produced hit singles like I Love My Leather Jacket, Heavenly Pop Hit, and the post-punk ballad Pink Frost. [More from 'Dunedin from the bay' poem (20 secs)]



Similar in many ways to the traditional indie pop sound, the Dunedin sound uses "jingly jangly" guitar-playing, minimal bass lines and loose drumming. Keyboards are also often prevalent. Primitive recording techniques also gave this genre a lo-fi sound that endeared its earnest music, but occasionally hard-to-understand vocal accompaniment, to university students worldwide.


The Dunedin sound can be traced back to the emergence of punk rock as a musical influence in New Zealand in the late 1970s. Isolated from the country's main punk scene in Auckland (which had been influenced by bands such as England's Buzzcocks), Dunedin's punk groups - such as The Enemy (which became Toy Love) and The Same (which later developed into The Chills) developed a sound more heavily influenced by artists like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. This was complemented by jangly, psychedelic-influenced guitar work reminiscent of 1960s bands such as The Beatles and The Byrds, and the combination of the two developed into the style which became known as the Dunedin sound.[1]

New Zealand-based Flying Nun Records championed the Dunedin sound, starting with their earliest releases (including The Clean's single "Tally Ho!" and the four-band compilation Dunedin Double EP, from which the term "Dunedin sound" was first coined[2]). Many artists gained a dedicated "college music" following, both at home and overseas. In July 2009, Uncut magazine suggested that "before the mp3 replaced the flexidisc, the three axes of the international indie-pop underground were Olympia WA, Glasgow, and Dunedin, New Zealand."[3] The growth of the Dunedin sound coincided with the founding of the student radio station Radio One) at Otago University, helping to increase the popularity and availability of the music around the city. Student radio RDU in Christchurch, popular in student flats at the time, was already playing plenty of Dunedin music as early as 1981, while commercial radio stations in NZ barely featured any "homegrown" music until a voluntary code was introduced in 2002[4] after a quota system was proposed and discussed during the mid-to-late 1990s.[5]

The development of parallel musical trends such as the Paisley Underground in California and the resurgence of jangle pop aided a growth in the popularity of the Dunedin sound on college radio in the USA and Europe. The heyday of the movement was in the mid-to-late 1980s, although music in the style is still being recorded and released.

Pavement, R.E.M., and Mudhoney are but three overseas bands that cite the Dunedin sound as an influence,[6] and overseas artists such as Superchunk,[7] Barbara Manning,[8] and Cat Power[9] have covered Dunedin sound songs on several occasions. A 2009 tribute album to Chris Knox (who suffered a major stroke that year) included contributions from fan-luminaries such as Will Oldham, The Mountain Goats, Yo La Tengo, Lou Barlow, A. C. Newman, Stephin Merritt, Jay Reatard, and Lambchop.[10]

In 2000, a "Dunedin sound" showcase was presented as part of the Otago Festival Of The Arts held in Dunedin. This showcase featured performances by the Clean, the Chills, the Dead C, Alastair Galbraith, the Renderers, Snapper, and the Verlaines. KFJC 89.7 FM, an American college radio station based in Los Altos Hills, CA, broadcast all six nights of the "Dunedin sound" showcase live to the San Francisco Bay Area via their FM signal and worldwide over the internet. The following year, a double CD documenting these broadcasts was produced for the station's annual fund-raiser.


Though the artists themselves tend to eschew the genre title, "Dunedin sound" artists include the following bands and soloists. Not all of these musicians are from Dunedin, but all show the influence of the music which emanated from the city in the 1980s:

References and further reading

  • Bannister, M. (1999) Positively George Street. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0704-5
  • Bertram, G. "Great still sounds great", Otago Daily Times, 7 December 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  • Chapman, I. (2016) The Dunedin Sound: Some disenchanted evening. Auckland: David Bateman Ltd ISBN 978-1-86953-895-8
  • Davey, T. & Puschmann, H. (1996) Kiwi rock. Dunedin: Kiwi Rock Publications. ISBN 0-473-03718-1
  • Dix, J. (1988) Stranded in paradise: New Zealand rock'n'roll 1955-1988. Wellington: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-473-00638-3
  • Eggleton, D. (2003) Ready to fly: The story of New Zealand rock music. Nelson, NZ: Craig Potton Publishing. ISBN 1-877333-06-9
  • Higgins, M. (1982) The Clean and the Dunedin Sound. In Rip It Up magazine, April 1982.
  • Flying Nun 25th anniversary edition of Real Groove magazine, 2006.
  • Flying Nun: Anything can happen (Television New Zealand documentary, 1990)
  • Heavenly pop hits: The Flying Nun story (Television New Zealand documentary, 2002)

External links


  1. ^ Roy Shuker Understanding popular music Routledge, 2001
  2. ^ Staff, Bryan & Ashley, Sheran (2002) For the record: A history of the recording industry in New Zealand. Auckland: David Bateman. ISBN 1-86953-508-1. p. 144.
  3. ^ Uncut issue 146, July 2009, p81
  4. ^ "New Zealand music quota for radio". New Zealand Herald. 2002-03-26. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  5. ^ "About New Zealand Music Month - New Zealand Music Month | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  6. ^ Williamson, laura, "Three decades under the influence," 23 July 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  7. ^ Superchunk have covered songs by The Chills, The Verlaines, and The Clean.
  8. ^ Manning's album In New Zealand included covers of tracks by The Clean, The Bats, and Chris Knox, among others.
  9. ^ Cat Power has covered Peter Jefferies' The Fate of the Human Carbine.
  10. ^ Breihan, T. "Chris Knox tribute album details revealed", Pitchfork. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  11. ^ Bruyninckx, Joeri. "Kraus, The Man from Uranus". Retrieved 29 June 2013.
This page was last edited on 27 February 2019, at 14:22
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