Sweet, Irie sounds of the South Pacific

Leading a new wave of “sunshine” reggae music from the South Pacific is Sweet & Irie, who will be performing at Raggamuffin, Australasia’s biggest reggae festival.

The creation of singersongwriter Edward Ru. Sweet & Irie puts out an “irie sound”. Irie, of course, being Jamaican parlance for nice, or a positive feeling following a blazing spliff of collie weed, although Ru claims “we never really thought of it that way.” Whatever!

Born in South Auckland and raised in Otara, Ru was witness to a tough upbringing that later fuelled his song writing. “We grew up the hard way, and I thought I didn’t want the same things for my kids,” explains Ed.

Sweet & Irie first gained attention in 2006 after releasing “Ban the Burn”, an anti methamphetamine song “for my people”, which was picked up by the Maori Party. Soon afterwards Ru bumped into Dawn Raid’s Brotha D who invited them into the studio. The result of that effort is an album called Localize It – a play on Peter Tosh’s landmark recording Legalize It – that debuted at No 16 on the NZ album charts. “I was shocked!”

At Raggamuffin in Rotorua on January 23rd they will share the stage with reggae legends Sly & Robbie, Wyclef Jean and Shaggy, but he’s most looking forward to seeing Lauryn Hill and Julian Marley.

“I still can’t believe it. I haven’t been in music for that long, and I look at the poster and see me on it! Last year I went to Raggamuffin with Ali Campbell [of UB40] and now I’m playing there!”

NORML will also be there, with this year’s stall aimed especially at encouraging Maori to participate in the Law Commission’s review of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

It’s an issue Ed is keen to discuss. “I think it’s crazy, but I’m not the government or the law, I’m just Sweet and Irie. That’s the way I live my life and everyone else lives their lives they way they want to live,” he says. “What’s happening out in the world is a bit sad. I just come back to the Bible which says no man should judge no man. “

Amen to that!

Sweet & irie’s new album ‘Localize It’ is available now, and catch them at Raggamuffin in Rototua on Sat 23 January 2010. Look out for NORML’s stall there too!

[Originally published in NORML News Summer 2010]

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