Herbs singer leaves behind great musical legacy

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Whānau, dear friends and the New Zealand music industry are mourning the loss of famous Herbs singer, and percussionist, Thomas Nepia, who passed away yesterday following his battle with pancreatic cancer.

35 years ago a young Thomas Nepia of Glen Innes joined a band named Herbs and became one of NZ's leading stars.  Featuring in hits such as Homegrown, Sensitive to a Smile and Dragons and Demons.  

Lionel Hemoata Nelson (Tainui) says, "He was a pioneer of modern music now.  You can hear his voice in a lot of artists. He pioneered a sound, especially a vocal sound."

Nepia was an inductee into the 2012 NZ Music Hall of Fame.

"We'd do big gigs, awards and he would be the most solid and safe guy, I respect him for that," says Nelson.

Nepia's voice transcends genres and has been heard through generations.

Nelson says, "His influences impacted a lot of artists- Ria Hall, Chong Nee, Che Fu- I even hear him in House of Shem, you know what I'm saying?  It doesn't matter what I do, he's there."

His real legacy is that which he has left his family.

Nepia will travel to his marae in Te Kauri and return to his ancestors.  Nepia is survived by his wife, 4 children, 17 mokopuna and endless waiata.

Moe mai e Tā