Warm music with a subversive message. That’s the genius behind Herbs and their lasting appeal. Well before the new wave of Pacifican music swept through on a hip-hop pulse in the late-90s, Herbs was plying its gentle, feel-good reggae grooves, with the sting in its tail being highly politically motivated lyrics.

The group, which formed in 1979 and is still active today after at least 30 members have passed through its ranks, originally comprised Samoans, Tongans, Cook Islanders and Māori members. During its 1980s heyday, Herbs carved up a slice of the Charts, with hits like “French Letter”, “Sensitive To A Smile”, and “Listen” making the Top 20. Their albums Light Of The Pacific (1982) and Long Ago (1984) offered sunny grooves and sobering messages on subjects like a nuclear free Pacific. The group found an even bigger audience through their joyful 1986 Dave Dobbyn collaboration “Slice Of Heaven”, a bona fide Kiwi classic that was used in the Footrot Flats animated movie, and their contribution to Tim Tinn’s “Parihaka” in 1989.

Guitarist/vocalist Dilworth Karaka is the only original member still with a band that has seen some brilliant and strange members in its ranks, including the late, legendary Aotearoa bassist Charlie Tumahai, and The Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh, who produced their Homegrown album in 1989, subsequently joining the band but lasting less than a year. Despite not having released new music for 25 years, Herbs still regularly performs here and in Australia, and remains one of our most-loved bands.

Dilworth Karaka • Toni Fonoti • Phil Toms • Spencer Fusimalohi • John Berkley • Fred Faleauto • Charles Tumahai • Maurice Watene •Tama Lundon • Jack Allen • Carl Perkins • Willie Hona • Thom Nepia • Tama Renata • Gordon Joll • Grant Pukeroa • Kristen Hapi.