"Herbs is not just a band. Herbs is a movement"

By Piripi Taylor

Members of the iconic NZ band Herbs and their families are singing the praises of the makers of the documentary that pays tribute to their forty-year history.

The film Herbs: Songs of Freedom by Te Arepa Kahi, produced by wife Reikura Kahi and Hollywood superstar Cliff Curtis, had it's world premiere at The Civic Theatre in downtown Auckland last night, and was met with a mixture of laughter and tears.

"Herbs is not just a band. Herbs is a movement!" - The late Carl Perkins sums it up perfectly in the new film that finally recognises the band that has for forty years been a voice for freedom fighters of the Pacific.

WATCH Te Ao reporter Piripi Taylor's interview with producers Cliff Curtis and Reikura Kahi and director Te Arepa Kahi.

Director Terepa Kahi says Herbs is a group that were at the forefront of the battle-line.

"They weren't a group that sat back and waited for others to fight the battle. They were the ones who paved the way forward and opened the door to a whole new world."

Born out of the injustices at Bastion Point and the racist dawn raid policy targeting the NZ Polynesian communities, the power of song created a new front for human rights groups like Ngā Tamatoa and the Polynesian Panthers.

Senior Herbs member Dilworth Karaka says they formed close relationships with those groups

"I think Herbs we put our music in the slot to not only encourage ourselves but for them as well. Without them, we probably wouldn't have woken up the sleeping lion in us and we all spoke honestly and truthfully."

Kahi believes the band and their messages are still very relevant.

"The band is still very much connected to the generation of today, to the new generation at Ihumātao and the stance they are taking."

It's the second documentary about an NZ musical icon by Kahi after Poi E.  Here, he masterfully weaves an engaging story full of humour and emotion. The two-year project wasn't without its challenges.

"Documentaries really challenge a film-maker. One of the greatest challenges is dealing with real-life where people determine their own paths, it's not something where it is written by someone else. That is really difficult to follow and stitch together," says Kahi.

For the surviving members of the band and their families, however, the film is a long-overdue tribute to their legacy, to those who have passed and an acknowledgement to those among them who continue to keep the fire burning.

"I don't think we left anything out. It was good to watch, nicely balanced," says Karaka.

Te Omeka Perkins of House of Shem, and son of past member the late Carl Perkins, says he is thankful to have something that our children's children can watch and learn from in the future.

"Te Arepa and Cliff and everyone that helped put the movie together, much love and much respect," he says.

Herbs: Songs of Freedom will be released in selected theatres across the country on August 15.