Album Review: Taiaha - Rubbah Dubs
Taiaha demonstrates his musical ingenuity and freewheeling spirit on first full length release entitled Rubbah Dubs.
Features: Coxy, Jess Swan, Shook, Jesse Francis, Benny Levels, Elapsed Time, Dakreecha, Social Change, Kultar Ahluwalia
Across 12 tracks, Rubbah Dubs is a homage to counter-cultural living
Rubbah Dubs is a mash-up of musical influences sewn boldly together by ‘deep south’ singer, emcee, multi-instrumentalist and producer Taiaha (of Hip Hop outfit Til The Break). While South Australia is in the process of redefining its Hip Hop identity, away from the classic style that dominated yesteryear, Taiaha has carved out his own textured niche, musically and spiritually. There are too many good moments on Rubbah Dubs to unpack them all, so let’s look at the landmarks.
On Big Ups, featuring Coxy, the listener is hit with irie, irie, irie vibes. Taiaha’s soulful vocals bless like a balmy night breeze on the deep south coast of Adelaide; Taiaha’s patch. The passion for local living, and gratitude for the simple things in life, are front and centre from the start of Rubbah Dubs.
Life I Give follows through with a nostalgic piano ballad, on which Taiaha reflects on the love he and his young family share. He sings:
‘Take a left, take a right,
either way, baby make this right,
take my breath away, take your time,
what’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine,
life is short, take it slow,
hold me close and let it go,
now I feel your pain, plain as day,
clear as the skies we swim, that’s the style I’m in,
that’s the vibe we made,
that’s the life I give, that’s the life we gave’.
It’s real, raw and relatable.
Taiaha continues on by getting autobiographical on Jammin Til the Morning, touching on his coming-of-age adversity, escape through music, bohemian lifestyle, finding strength in Maori culture, and finding his place. The bass-heavy beat snaps and Taiaha comes through with hardy NZ reggae-inspired vocals.
On The Love, Taiaha is joined by Shook, to speak on the love that propels them to perform, but also the substances that overarch the music scene. Taiaha croons: ‘I don’t wanna say it when I’m kind of low, you can already see it in the side effects, in our soul there’s a dynamo, so can we all let it shine today?’ The vulnerability on show is impressive, particularly for local Hip Hop.
Soul loops back to Taiaha’s driving ambition to maintain his creative purity and self-respect, while at the same time having to respond to the grinding pressure of providing for a family. ‘They wanna use my soul, they wanna sell my soul, they wanna turn it gold, they wanna burn my soul’. To stay true to self and art, or to get in line for the sake of providing all for the children? It’s the timeless dilemma of an artist with bigger responsibilities.
I am at a loss for words to describe the overall sound of Rubbah Dubs, because I haven’t heard anything quite like it. Technically, there is so much going on- synth, live instruments, and breaks- channelling Hip Hop, dub, house, gospel, trap, grime, and drum and bass. What’s more, Taiaha has played most of the music on this album. It’s impressive. The song structures are sophisticated and bold, while the song-writing is free and frank. It wouldn’t be fair to compare this music to that of other artists, not only because ‘comparison is the death of joy’, but also because it is its own thing- Rubbah Dubs is distinctive enough to claim its own title.
The freewheeling Taiaha covers a lot of ground on Rubbah Dubs, while giving the listener an insight to his value system- doing things for the love, not selling your soul, paying homage to Indigenous roots, counter-culture living, family before everything, representing the local, showing gratitude and showing love. Rubbah Dubs is the creative capsule of Taiaha expressing his individual freedom, while situating himself firmly within his community. Very dope.
Words By Beat Context
Big Ups and Jammin Til The Morning Co-Produced by William Formato
Double bass mixed on DipDip by Aiken Newnham
Trombone and trumpet on Life I Give by Aaron Deanshaw
Cuts on Classic by Jefferson Curtis
All songs created and executive produced by Taiaha Ngawiki
All songs mixed by Ben Quinton and mastered by Paul Fox
Photography by Kevin Rumbelow
Cover artwork by Aaron Schirmer
CD design by Social Change