Kiwi musician Sammy J at Expo this weekend

New Zealander reggae artist to bring 'island vibes'


David Light

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Published: Wed 17 Nov 2021, 6:16 PM

IN TYPICAL KIWI fashion Sammy Johnson (aka Sammy J) is not one to create a fuss. His soul, jazz and reggae fusion music can only be rivaled in the easy-going stakes by his answers to our questions. Performing at Expo 2020 Dubai’s New Zealand pavilion on November 18 and 20, we caught up with the artist to find out about the chilled-out show he has in store.

How does it feel to be representing New Zealand at Expo 2020 Dubai? What are you most looking forward to seeing at Expo and in Dubai?

I’ve been in LA for a while and I’m in the middle of a tour so I can’t wait to connect with Kiwi musicians and share our sounds with a new audience. It’s an honour to be representing my country and my people.

How far does being a New Zealander influence your music and your performing style?

New Zealand sounds are really unique as we have a mix of so many Pacific cultures to inspire us. I draw on my Maori heritage and island vibes in my music.

Do you believe there is enough Maori representation in the entertainment world?

In New Zealand there is great representation for Maori culture including our own New Zealand Maori music awards, and the representation continues to grow. I am looking forward to bringing my Maori music to the Middle East at Expo 2020.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a musician and who were your influences?

My family is very musical so I have always had a love of singing. My influences in music come from all genres but I have a real love of music from the soul music of the ‘60s.

How did your US following come about? Did you tour or did it grow out of the online scene?

Originally it came through online videos and through the music I was releasing in New Zealand. About five years ago I started touring all around the USA and have built a great following. The fans there are fantastic and I am blessed they play my music on all the reggae stations.

Tell us about the latest release, your sixth album, Cool & Easy. How was it influenced by the pandemic?

Cool & Easy was definitely inspired by my love for traditional reggae. The subject and the overall vibe was a mixture of how I had been feeling at the time and me trying to bring an essence of Polynesia into the mix.

How did the pandemic affect you as an artist? How did you spend the time?

The pandemic effectively stopped all live performances and travelling the world. I spent my time working on my music and did a couple of shows that I recorded and have released online.

What are your hopes for next year? What can we look forward to?

Getting back to touring and being with my fans and performing live again. I am also going to work on a new album for 2022.

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