Thursday, May 15, 2014

Roots Foundation: Rockers Sermon

It’s been well documented elsewhere but one of the great tragedies of the recent Kilbirnie self storage facility fire (in Wellington) was the loss some 8500 records owned by renowned Wellington DJ Danny ‘Lemon’ (of the Roots Foundation). A couple of other local DJs – Top Knot and Splash – also lost records and other personal effects in the fire, a couple of Academy Awards/Oscars were lost (which will be replaced), and I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that even a couple of classic cars were destroyed.

It was a terrible event for all concerned, made worse perhaps by the revelation that the fire turned out to be a case of arson, and the fact that in many cases the gear in storage was not insured. I’m fairly certain that Lemon was one of those not covered.
Lemon’s record collection was very special in that it was surely the largest of its kind in the country – being mostly long since deleted rare reggae, roots, rocksteady, and dub vinyl. Priceless and irreplaceable items, among other things. He estimated that only “five percent” of his lost collection would be available for purchase today if he attempted to replace it – a collection that was lovingly compiled over the course of 35 years, gone in an instant, up in smoke. My eyes start to water just thinking about it, and indeed Lemon described it as his “worst nightmare being realised”.

Anyway, I’m going over old ground, but context is important, and the reason for this post is twofold:

The first is to highlight the fundraiser (gig) taking place on Lemon’s behalf on 1 June at San Fran in Wellington. The line-up represents a virtual who’s who of local DJ talent with the most obvious draw being Lemon’s own collective, Roots Foundation Sound System.

But the night will also feature old school luminaries like Auckland’s Dubhead ... who I’m pretty sure I recall spinning vinyl as far back as 1990/1991 when I attended a ‘Unity’ (clothing shop) NYE “warehouse” party at the Auckland Town Hall – possibly the last time I saw him perform. (And quite why I was up in Auckland for that NYE remains a mystery!)

And then of course there’s someone like Koa, a Roots Foundation original, a softly-spoken humble guy who’s been on the Wellington scene forever. I can recall Koa being the resident DJ at a club called ‘Clares’ back in the Eighties, and he’s been everywhere that’s anywhere ever since.
Add the likes of DLT, Goosebump, Marty Vital, Riki Gooch ... local legends all, plus a few others, and it should be a cracking night – with a lot of reggae, a helluva lot of bass, and I’ll wager we’ll hear some old fashioned funk as well.

The second reason for this increasingly long-winded post (it was going to be a quick 100 words) is to draw your attention to an exceptional article by Lewis Tennant on the Audioculture site, which looks at the Roots Foundation story and more generally the evolution of Sound System culture here in New Zealand.
As you know, everythingsgonegreen is a big fan of grass roots history, and this is a superb example of a story that just had to be told, one that would have just as likely fallen through the cracks in the pre internet era. Have a read ... (click on the link below)


  1. Hello Mike, I just want to thank you for this article on your blog, your kind thoughts, support and heartfelt expressions of concern and sadness, following the loss of my music collection. i still have about 400 reciords at home....all is not lost....but what is lost is virtually and largely irreplaceable. There are records that I will be seeking to replace, much of it I don't need to but I will move forward instead, optimistic that the right tunes will continue to find there way to me, as they have so mystically done over the years. I am humbled and inspired by the massive outpouring of support, love and caring that has been shown to me here in NZ and worldwide, over the last five weeks since the fire. Its at times felt overwhelming, all the time feeling pained inside, but also spiritually uplifted and carried along by the sense of collective loss that has been shared with me. It is this generosity of spirit from so many, that gives me the tenacity to immediately start searching, collecting and playing again!! Thank you once more Mike for your sentiments and promotion of the benefit gig I am so privileged to be witness to. Respect from Danny Lemon

  2. cheers Danny, thanks for the comment, hope to catch ya on the night.