May 7, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Dudley Benson embarks on National Tour, New Album released

3 min read

Golden Retriever Records is proud to announce todays release of Forest: Songs by Hirini Melbourne the second album from composer and performer Dudley Benson (Ngati Pakeha).

The much anticipated follow up to his 2008 debut – The Awakening, Forest is a full-length album of Bensons interpretations of bird waiata by renowned composer Hirini Melbourne (Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Kahungunu, 1949-2003). Recorded almost entirely with only the human voice, the album features guest performers including Richard Nunns, King Homeboy and Vashti Bunyan.

As ambitious as the album is, Benson has matched it in the upcoming Nov/Dec nationwide tour. Dudley Benson Live with The Dawn Chorus is a series of ten intimate a capella performances in marae and community halls across Aotearoa. Delivering material from the new album, Benson will be accompanied by his new all-vocal ensemble: a close-harmony quartet and beatboxer Hopey One, with maverick dance artist Cat Ruka opening each performance.

  • Nov 12 Auckland Te Mahurehure Marae, Pt Chevalier
  • Nov 14 Kerikeri Kingston House Nov 19 Nelson Trafalgar St Hall
  • Nov 20 Wellington Pipitea Marae Nov 24 Dunedin Maori Hill Coronation Hall
  • Nov 25 Queenstown St Peters Church Hall Nov 27 Christchurch Deaf Society Hall
  • Nov 28 Akaroa Gaiety Hall Dec 4 Waiheke Island Palm Beach Hall
  • Dec 5 Waitakere City Hoani Waititi Marae

Hopey One AKA Hope Haami is a Brisbane-based beatboxer, officially ranked in the top four of female beatboxers worldwide. While stunning international crowds over the last six years, Dudley Benson Live with The Dawn Chorus is the Wellington-born beatboxers first major set of performances in Aotearoa.

Cat Ruka (Ngapuhi, Waitaha) is an independent dance artist whose breakthrough solo performances have garnered critical acclaim both here and overseas. Her 2009 Playing Savage won Best Short Work at the Tempo NZ Festival of Dance awards, with Ruka recently returning from several performances in New York. For Dudley Benson Live with The Dawn Chorus, Ruka will present a new work inspired by the bird waiata of Hirini Melbourne.

Tickets available exclusively from, any remaining sold on the door. All performances at 8pm, doors open at 7.30pm.


Produced over two years, the album project began when Benson arranged and performed a song from Melbournes Forest & Ocean album on his 2008 national church tour. Soon after, he spent a month exploring the deep south, where he visited the bird sanctuary of Te Wharawhara/Ulva Island, off Stewart Island:

It was the end of summer, and very beautiful. A tui or bellbird would follow you through this ancient forest, singing the most complex patterns But I was also profoundly concerned, explains Benson. There was a stark silence permeating everything. Where once there wouldve been an endless chorus, there was a distinct lack of birdsong, and by the end of the day I knew instinctively that it was my duty to sing Hirinis birdsongs and share them in a new context. I contacted his whanau, explained what I wanted to achieve, and thats how it began. Recording Forest as an all-vocal project was the obvious thing to do its a celebration of the voice and the singers of the forest.

Recorded and mixed by Adrian Hollay (The Awakening) and mastered by Mandy Parnell (Dirty Projectors, Sigur Rs), a bold contingent of artists was assembled to create Forests unique sound. Specially formed close-harmony vocal quartet The Dawn Chorus provides the albums foundation, while reigning Aotearoa beatbox champion King Homeboy executes an inimitable rhythm section. Several other guests appear on the album. In Tui, Benson has recorded his first duet an ode to birdsong with the legendary matriarch of contemporary folk, English singer Vashti Bunyan. Taonga puoro authority Dr Richard Nunns offers his expertise to pulsing lead single Ruru; while Franz Josef Glacier bird mimic Gerry Findlay lends his calls to the prayer-like opener Pipi Manu E and ten-minute epic Kiwi. Continuing to explore his choral routes, a four-part choir features on several arrangements. And in his own unmistakable voice, binding it all together in both te reo Maori and English, is Dudley.

Forest: Songs by Hirini Melbourne is available on CD exclusively at from November 1. Lead single Ruru featuring Richard Nunns, King Homeboy and The Dawn Chorus is available to listen now at


Joshua Thomas, Golden Retriever Records
M: 021509000
E: [email protected]

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