The Brothaz adventure beings with the group shooting a video for their song “Operation F.O.B”. As far as I can tell, this is a fake video shoot and a full video for this song was never made. That video shoot involves a huge number of extras, all dancing in a tall lobby of a building.
But after the video shoot is over, things get a little quieter. Awa walks away from the video shoot, taking a path that involves walking along all the most gritty and urban looking places around K Road. Like, why walk on the side of West Terrace with a footpath when the road side is that much more picturesque?
This all leads Awa to a support meeting of Brothaz Anonymous, seemingly inspired by the testicular cancer support group scenes of Fight Club. Support groups are great comedy material, but this one isn’t really done for laughs. All the activities at the group are played straight – the group confessions, the trust-building exercises. It all seems like it could be a legit group.
We never see any of Nesian Mystik actually performing the song, so it feels a bit like a short film with a soundtrack by Nesian Mystik. The song – about the importance of male friendships – is sweet and uncynical, but the video seems unsure of how to tackle the subject. The only plot involves a nearby cleaner being invited to join the group, but even that doesn’t feel fully explained. It’s like something is missing. YouTube commenter MrKebabs summed it up when he asked, “there’s a deeper underlying message to this music video, other than unity of brothers, that i can’t quite grasp… anyone??”
“Unity” was another top-10 hit for Nesian Mystik, and another of their singles built around the theme of Nesian Mystik. It’s an upbeat song with a bit of everything – brass, reggae, hip hop, acoustic guitar – all part of the Nesian experience.
The video is a fun adventure, casting the band as members of a shadowy agency, also called Nesian Mystik. They’re summoned to action by a mysterious black dog. There’s work to be done.
Awa hits the streets delivering boxes of “Nesian Pizza” (well, they couldn’t have called it Mystik Pizza) that contain secret messages instead of pizza. Actually, I would be disappointed if I got a scrap of paper saying “The Movement’s coming” instead of a delicious Hawaiian pizza.
By the way, part of Awa’s verse was previously the chorus of the anti-GMO charity supergroup song “Public Service Announcement” (including Nesian Mystik), which was released about a year prior.
The rest of the band can be found in various disguises around town – delivering newspapers, driving a bus, and posing as pot-banging homeless buskers. Band members also take over various television programmes, shocking their families to see Nesian news, cooking, gardening and music shows. All that’s missing is a home-renovation show.
The band finally meet up to revel in their unity. Yep, they’re all together so you had just better watch out. Or something.
Best bit: the group’s clever disguise as a crazed mariachi band.
It’s all very well for a new technology to exist, but before it can become commonplace, ordinary people have to know what to do with it. The “For the People” music video uses the Silver Scroll-winning song as a primer to the exciting new world of sending photos via mobile phone. From memory, this was done via sponsorship with Vodafone, who recognised Nesian Mystik’s youth appeal.
The concept of the video sees Nesian Mystik preparing for a big party. In getting ready for the party, they keep coming across a whole lot of interesting things around Auckland to take photos of, to then send to their friends. There’s Awa stocking up on corned beef and bread, getting a pixt outside the dairy of a cute kid singing.
It becomes like a game of tag. Someone receives a pixt, they take another one and sent it on to someone else. And it’s not just cellphones – the pixts can come in on a home computer too. Most importantly, whenever one of the group gets a pixt, he looks at it and smiles. See, pixts bring joy. Regular reader Vicki remembers these early days of pixts. She says they cost 40 cents to send and the process was very fiddly – it even looks like the band are having to muck around a bit before the pixt is sent.
It’s interesting to compare the pixts of 2002 with the sort of things people photograph today. While the camera pans across the delicious spread of barbecued party food, no one takes pixts of it. It’s all cute little kids or band members. They’re using their camera phones the way people used to use film camera – with great economy. On the other hand, the song is “For the People” not “For the Corned Beef”.
And there are no selfies. All the things that curmudgeons complain about with digital photography today are absent in this video. Instead it’s nice little fuzzy snaps of people smiling, photos that don’t interfere with real life. Everyone’s at the party, having a good time. No one’s slumped in a corner, deep in a FOMO check of their Twitter or Facebook feeds. No hilarious Snapchat annotations. And no one’s figured out yet that in the future, an entire music video will be able to be shot on a phone camera.
There’s a thing with Nesian Mystik that their all songs sound like they’ve been written to showcase the specific talents of the individual band members, but yet at the 2002 Silver Scroll awards, Colliding Traits managed to turn “It’s On” into a lite metal number, redeemed only by guest vocals from Lavina Williams. But the original still has a feeling of freshness and coolness that Aucklandness that it first had back in 2002.
The video is just so Aucklandic. It’s filmed around the city in locations chosen to both give things an urban edge and to represent Nesian Mystik in their home turf.
The star of the video is a young boy on a bike. Seemingly inspired by the group having a jam outside their house, he takes off for an epic journey around the city, heading from Kingsland to the tank farm to Victoria Park and up to City Road – all places that have a gritty urban look. And that’s an impressive ride with plenty of hills in the way.
In between the side, we see Nesian Mystik in other places around the city. They’re hanging out on the marae atea of AUT’s Ngā Wai o Horotiu Marae, driving around the city, before all coming together on a K Road rooftop for some breakdancing. And then the video ends with the kid on the bike heading down that really steep street behind Real Groovy.
It’s such an Auckland video that I was compelled to map its many locations. Which in turn makes me want to do a tour of the “It’s On” locations to see how they are a decade later.
Even though the music video has used locations that look really cool and urban, it still feels like ordinary Auckland of 2002. This is not a slick metropolis or a dangerous urban landscape. It’s just Auckland, a place where a group of friends can get together and make some music, watched from a distance by a boy on a bike.
Best bit: Awa’s tino rangatiratanga t-shirt, just casually making a statement.
“Nesian style is here / Ladies beware.” And with that declaration/threat, Nesian Mystik arrive on the scene, determined to change things.
New Zealand had attempted boy bands before, most successfully with Purest Form; least successfully with En Masse (and little in between), but Nesian Mystik did things differently. They wrote their own songs, they played instruments and did rapping as well as sweet harmonies. And – most importantly – they managed to create their own sound – a South Pacific pop-soul-hip-hop-R&B mash-up.
The group had come together at Western Springs College and were in the 2000 Smokefreerockquest finals along with Evermore and the guys of Die! Die! Die! And then there they were, a year later, with their first single.
The video is mostly set in downtown Auckland, in a canyon of skyscrapers and urbanity. The boys spend most of the video hanging out on top of a parking building, with cool cars and hot chicks. It might have just been a fantasy for the purposes of the music video, but they were laying down some pretty bold ground rules. These guys were ready for some next-level pop stardom.
We also see the six-piece group hanging out around a bonfire in a suburban/industrial part of Auckland. That’s a bit of a trope in New Zealand hip hop videos – the ordinary suburban Auckland street. And it’s interesting what they’re doing with the video – posing, cars, women – all standard cliches from hip hop videos. But because the song is so sweet and the group seem like really nice guys, they get away with it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to party with Nesian Mystik on top of a car park?
Best bit: the breakdancer who spins around then flops down flat.