By Tom Etuata, Communications Co-ordinator Museums Wellington


Over the month of May Wellington Museum will be celebrating some of the gems of Kiwi music history with a unique exhibition and concert series for NZ Music Month. The temporary exhibition called ‘Burning up Years: Aotearoa Music History’ is a collaboration with Audio Culture showcasing the Wellington music scene from 1960 to  1978 –  displaying rare vinyl, posters, album art, NZ made music equipment and music videos.  The Friday concert series will be held every Friday in May at Wellington Museum  – with the added attraction of re-uniting some of New Zealand’s musical acts from the early 70s to not so long ago, spanning genres of blues, psychedelic rock, post-punk to hip-hop.

poster poser
Exhibition poster

The exhibition will display a number of rare Kiwi music objects and items as Museums Wellington Events Programmer and the curator of the exhibition Benjamin James elaborates;

“For the exhibition the stage will be set up like it would have been between the years 1960 – 1978. We have a rare Commodore six-string guitar dating from the late 1950s with four-way push-button tone selector and Milton vibrato from Jon McLeary who played for the Spines.  As well as gear from The Ghost of Tapeman which includes a vintage Sonic ss stack and TR100, we have other historical music gear from old brands such as Jansen, Holden, Wasp, Concord, Fountain as well… the list goes on. There will also be rare LPs sought after by collectors, and a listening post where you can listen to bands from the era.”

Music website Audio Culture will provide the historical content of the exhibition – giving interesting insights and stories of particular New Zealand musicians who were popular in their day.

Burning up years
Album cover of Burning Up Years  by Human Instinct (1969)

One of these interesting Kiwi musicians was part of the band that makes up the title theme of the exhibition. Burning Up Years is the title of an album that was recorded in 1969 by the band Human Instinct. Their band line-up had one very important but forgotten Kiwi musician – a guitarist by the name of Billy Te Kahika, otherwise known as ‘Billy TK’.

Billy TK today.  Photo: Paul Moss

Called ‘TK’ because the Pakeha school teachers couldn’t pronounce his last name properly, Billy Te Kahika was a force of rock music energy – with his wild guitar playing, long beard, hat and dark sunglasses, he was dubbed by many at the time to be the ‘the Māori Hendrix ’ in the late 1960s and early 70s. After a few years playing for Human Instinct, he left and formed a band called The Powerhouse in Wellington – playing with members which fitted ‘more like a family than a rock group’- trading rock, blues, R&B and soul riffs at the Lucifer Club in Wellington on Vivian St (which is now a venue where heavy rock bands play called Valhalla).

The young Billy TK.  Photo from the Audio Culture website

It also was a time when the Parihaka and Nambassa movements influenced his playing – changing his sound sonically from a Hendrix-like psychedelic edge to a more progressive, meditative sound that was more closer to that of another great rock guitarist, Carlos Santana.

A formidable band in their own right, Billy TK & Powerhouse played in the first NZ Music Festival in Ngaruawahia, performing after famous heavy metal group Black Sabbath in 1973. Their one and only album was recorded live at the Wellington St James Theatre in 1975.

Billy TK Powerhouse
Album cover of Billy T.K.’s Powerhouse (1975)

Today, Billy is still busy playing and recording albums and will re-unite with his old band the Powerhouse to perform at Wellington Museum on 25 May. It will be the first time the band has played since the mid-1990s.

Another musician who’ll be playing at Wellington Museum and returning to his Wellington roots will be King Kapisi who’ll be performing on 18 May.

King Kapisi (Bill Urale), a Wellington local now living in Auckland is a popular Kiwi hip-hop artist who had the hit song ‘Screems from Da Old Plantation‘ from the album ‘Savage Thoughts’ in 1999. He will perform that whole album with special guests Tha Feelstyle, MC’S and DJ Raw.

savage thoughts album
Album cover of Savage Thoughts (1999)

Post-punk will be revisited on 11 May with rare performances from alternative music pioneers Peter Jefferies (Nocturnal Projections, This Kind of Punishment) and Chris Matthews (The Headless Chickens, Children’s Hour) with blues band Rhythm Hawks rounding out the night.

This unique exhibition and concert series is not to be missed.

Album cover of ‘Electricity’ by Peter Jefferies (1994) Source:

The exhibition ‘Burning up Years: Aotearoa Music History’ runs over the month of May and the concert series will run every Friday of May at Wellington Museum over NZ Music Month:

Friday 4 May

Burning Up Years Opening Night
DJ’s Boss Dude (Death Ray Records), Ms Juliet and TV DiSKO (Radio Active), Eclectica will be playing old vinyl of kiwi-classics, 8.30pm/ Wellington Museum / Free entry

Friday 11 May

Peter Jefferies (Nocturnal Projections and This Kind Of Punishment), Chris Matthews (The Headless Chickens and Children’s hour), Rhythm Hawks (Blues), 8.30pm / Wellington Museum

Friday 18 May

King Kapisi performs Savage Thoughts in its entirety. With guests  DJ Raw, MC’s, Tha Feelstyle and Teremoana Rapley,  8.30pm / Wellington Museum

Friday 25 May

Billy TK and Powerhouse, 8.30pm /Wellington Museum

Visit the Museums Wellington website for tickets & information: