Pharaoh Swami is a Kiwi based artist of Ethiopian descent living in Auckland City. In this timely and chilling version of a Māori song called Rua Kēnana by David Grace & Injustice, he has added a new twist to the contemporary rap music scene in New Zealand by sampling it.
He is one of about six people who organized the Black Lives Matter March in down town Auckland, June 1, 2020. It brought out tens of thousands of like minded New Zealanders waiting to see a change to the silent pandemic in this country, racism.
During Covid-19 lockdown Level 2, the protest garnered the attention of the world. Popping up on Al Jazeera and Daily Mail UK among others. Breaking lockdown restrictions to stand in unity with fellow Kiwis, and for George Floyd, a black man who was kneed to death by a police officer in Minneapolis. New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters even suggested the organizers be arrested. But breaking barriers for change is not a concept that’s ever scared Pharaoh Swami.
“BLM wasn’t just about Black Lives Matter – it was also about the fact that Māori and PI are the people who suffer from similar systems that our people suffer from here in New Zealand.
“And we wanted to highlight their issues as well. There is this constant camaraderie between the Māori community and the African community because when we held the BLM protest it was the Māori community who turned up in numbers and did the haka and everything.”
“There was a presence there,” he said.
Anyone who has been in the presence of a good haka knows there’s a spirit that’s evoked, it gives you chills, raises the hair on your arms and lets you know there is something much bigger than you, everywhere.
“In turn, whenever it’s Māori language week, our whole African community has been posting te reo words in their posts – there’s comradery there, because our struggle is a similar struggle,” Swami said.
The original track, Rua Kēnana was introduced to him by his close friends, a pair who are cousins from a Māori tribe called Tuhoe.