Pro Features

Unlikely partnership has a unique rhythm

What started out as a hip-hop collaboration between American Zach Stark and local boy Ratima Hauraki has become so much more, with potential business opportunities that won’t take a rocket to show people where Wairoa is on a map.

The two met when Ratima, whose life had led him in many directions, found his way home to Wairoa. The one constant for him was his music so when he returned, his whanau told him about a recording studio that had opened up at the town’s Gaiety Theatre. “I said, ‘they would have nowhere to put it in the Gaiety Theatre, there are no rooms for it’. But they were adamant there was one in town,” he says.

So, Ratima tracked down Zach and what he found was not so much a ’studio’ as a pakeha with a laptop and a microphone in a room.

“We bumped heads and a week later we had laid down a song. We have been going for about a year now,” Ratima says.

Despite having quite a different background to Ratima, Zach’s life has also led him in many directions. The freelance sound engineer has lived and worked all over the world, but it was an old cinema – the Gaiety Theatre – that brought him to Wairoa.

Zach designed a 9.3 surround sound system for the theatre, the only one of its kind in New Zealand, and seeing that the establishment needed a manager and as his partner loved the area, they decided to stick around.

And the collaboration that launched 5,000 likes and promising business ventures the music video Know Me Now by Rugged and Wylde, also known as Ratima and Zach, if nothing else, it showed both of them just how much can be accomplished with relatively little.

Once set up in his ’studio’, Zach says that with a little self-learning from a few videos and what plug-ins and add-ons are now available online, “you can sound pretty top- notch. The big studios get you the last 10 percent but we get 90 percent of the way without much difficulty, if you have the time and patience to learn and really do the hard work.”

It was then he realised that this could be bigger than one or two songs from Rugged and Wylde.

“Our bigger goal is to work as a region first to get people here on board,” he said. He used the example of Hollywood, how people don’t go there for Sony or Universal of MGM. “You go there because it is Hollywood and Los Angeles and movies. The whole region is promoted so it doesn’t rise and fall on one group.”

This is their view for the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti region, and not just for hip-hop but for all genres of music.

“I would rather see the industry get bigger collaboratively, otherwise everybody walls off and nobody gets anywhere; there are so many talented people here and that shouldn’t happen,” Zach says.

And so, with a little help from Zach’s family, the young entrepreneur went and bought the former Clyde Hotel, located along the town’s main road.

He hopes to lure the big stars down to Wairoa with more than just his laptop, so they can record without the distractions big city life can bring. The family are busy restoring the old building. Having already fitted out an apartment, they are now working on recording studios, not only to draw the big names in but so they can contribute to their region-wide vision.

“Ratima is going to try and start recording people if I am busy at the theatre,” says Zach.

“We are trying to find funds now that will pay Ratima a wage and then we will give a heavily reduced rate for people who want to get started. We are happy to record people and teach them at the same time so they can take the skills with them.”

Ratima and Zach’s vision is one that is long term. Through a planned multimedia hub, the duo plan to work on more than just music. This has thrown up other opportunities that – “depending on what the market dictates” – comprise a five-year plan.

One proposed opportunity that sounds promising is working with the world’s movie industry. Zach explains that a lot of movies run out of funds during their post-production phase and he sees this as a prime opportunity where students can step into small suites in Wairoa and with their editing skills cost-effectively fix this problem.

It is something he did when he worked in Hong Kong and it worked quite well.

“The movie gets finished and the students walk away with a real film credit and potentially get a piece of the pie if it ever goes to market, a small royalty perhaps.”

He says what makes his and Ratima’s vision appealing is that there are very little overheads, whether it is in recording a song or editing a movie.

“These are industries where we don’t have to pollute rivers, we don’t have to destroy mountain sides and we don’t need a lot of space,” he says.

“There are such talented people here who just don’t have the connections, or maybe even the confidence, which is what we want to try and help with.”

To watch Rugged and Wylde’s music videos 111 and Low Life, go to YouTube and type in Rugged and Wylde.