I was born in New Zealand. When I was one month old I was put in a foster home. My name was changed and then at the age of three, I was adopted by the same whanau (family) that took me in. I grew up in a loving family of seven.
Being a New Zealand Maori, and Maori being the people indigenous to New Zealand, it was important to me to feel the love, pride and honour of a family. Throughout my life, my passion and intrigue for music grew. I remember my dad introducing me to the recorder at a very young age. That and swimming seemed to be the only thing I was good at. Music and performing brought meaning to my life.
As a teenager, I started playing the drums but on the first day of High School I was told there were too many drummers, so I should try the spare Bass Guitar in the corner. I remember taking this old thing home, and my parents were telling me to play it right-handed even though I was totally left.
So I played the right-handed bass guitar left-handed with all the strings upside down, until I met Bass Tutor Ken Pearson. He looked at me and said, 'What are you playing at!' So I managed to get my totally supportive parents to buy me a left-handed, Vester bass guitar, and I was set.
My passion for music and the bass guitar grew immensely through my High School years. I was introduced to 'Jazz Music' by my school's Music Director, Russell Brooke, who really pushed me to achieve and I'm so thankful to him because I was able to play with some of the USA's top Jazz musicians including Bobby Shew at the age of 16.
When I finished school, I went on to study at Christchurch Polytechnic Jazz School. It was the best and hardest three years of my life. Upon completion I joined the Royal New Zealand Navy Band. I joined the band purely because it was based in Auckland where my family were. I learnt a lot about myself in the military - self respect, discipline, pride and honour and I learnt how to master both the left-handed six string fretted & fretless basses and to conquer the double bass, even bowing it. I also had the privilege to play with some more of the USA's top Jazz musicians including Bob Sheppard - Saxophone, Jon Papenbrook - Trumpet, John Fedchock - Trombone and even a 'one on one' with Dwayne Pate - Bassist from Robben Ford's Band.
During this time of my career, I sat down with a guitar Luthier and had a neck made for my first custom made left-handed, six string bass. He made the body out of Walnut. I had always been known as the 'freak' (nice, I know) because I played left-handed and a six string bass. I sat down with the Luthier and said, well let's make something freaky. So I had a 'fretless' neck made to go with the body. It had a terrible sound and an eerie feel to it, so naturally it sat in the corner gathering dust while I used a six string fretted bass.
Toward the end of my military career, I had a fellow sailor carve a moko (tattoo) of Tangaroa, God of the Sea and other features to represent my military life into the body. I named her 'Kahu', meaning 'peace' in Maori.
In 2006, I had the moko re-done and she sings now like I can't believe. She finally feels as if her mana (pride), kaha (strength), and aroha (love) has come back to life. Her spirit is so warm and she's the most amazing bass I've ever played! I guess she just needed a name and a chance like I was given when I was young.
Kahu and I were given a second chance at life from birth. In a way we actually seem as though we were both made for each other. We are currently writing, recording, singing, playing & planning to get our music across the world. We want the world to enjoy listening to our music, as we will equally write & record every track with the 'spirit' that it should have to bring 'it' alive.Peace & Love, James Kahu