Meet Jason Rapana bass player who stuck his ground and defied convention. He talks to us about his up-and-coming band H4LF CĀST and how he wants to inspire other young people to follow their purpose.
Jason Rapana is a student bass player in his 3rd year of the Bachelor of Creativity (Music) with weeks left to graduate. He is a member of rising band, H4LF CĀST, with a growing fan base and meaningful sounds to share with the world.
Who was your first teacher and why did you choose to study music?
Coming from a musical family Jason looked up to his brother who studied music. His family and Marae up in Tauwhare (a small rural community in the Waikato District) all played the guitar. Growing up he describes feeling “like the black sheep of the family like I didn’t fit in. When we would visit they would ask me ‘can you play the guitar yet?’ I felt embarrassed so when I was around 13 I picked up the bass. My dad taught me to begin with but that only took me so far so I starting taking lessons.”
“I’m a big advocate of people waking up and deciding to do what they want, when they want to do it.”
His love of music continued through high school where he joined a band. “Things didn’t go as expected, I was disappointed so I put down the bass. It wasn’t until years later that my friend and current band member Keanu Te Kawa, the drummer for H4LF CĀST, convinced me I needed to get back into music and suggested we both study at Whitireia. I wasn’t easily convinced, by then I had a 9 to 5 job and so I put it off for a while. I’m glad Keanu was stubborn and wouldn’t let it go. Sometimes it takes a close friend to see your strengths and what you’re capable of better than you can. Turns out it was the best decision I’ve made to date. I feel I’m on a path of my own choosing versus doing what others think I should be doing with my life. I’m a big advocate of people waking up and deciding to do what they want to do when they want to do it.”
At 24, Jason thought he was too old to start studying. He realises now it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and start fresh on a new career path. “I feel like I’m starting to own it, that I’m going to pursue music for real. People ask me ‘what are you gonna do after the study?’ and I used to respond saying that I might teach at a high school, but that’s not genuinely what I want to do. I only said that because it’s a job people could accept. Now, I’m being true to myself. I’m still in the process of getting comfortable with saying ‘I’m going to pursue performing music and making a living out of it.’ Even as I say it now I’m uncomfortable, I’m trying to believe in myself. There’s something there about owning it and you will become it. I’m in this for the long haul, it’s my purpose. I came to this realisation only recently. I cared too much about what others thought of me, I felt pressure to start saving to buy a house and preparing for a future family. But I don’t even have that right now!”
“We want to be a band that stands for something."
How did you come up with your band name?
“Initially the name started off as joke. Someone threw it in the mix because most of us are half Māori, half Pakeha. We performed with that name and it stuck. Together we decided that this is who we are as humans and we can represent both sides. Sometimes people take it too far, they fully acknowledge their Māori side and neglect their Pakeha side. As a young half cast myself it represents who I am and I want to own it and accept them as equal. One is not better than the other. I know there’s lots of history involved here but the concept of accepting who you really are is how we came up with the name. We want to be a band that stands for something. I know this sounds cheesy but I want to inspire other young half casts [to] do want they want to do.”
Describe your sound, is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
H4LF CĀST creates and performs medicinal Maori Hip-Hop with soulful Reggae/DUB grooves bringing global awareness to the power of cultural knowledge. Frontman, Nikau Te Huki, entwines his ancestral wisdom delivering powerfully conscious lyrics with a psychedelic, shamanistic twist - alongside Louisa Williamson, George Maclaurin, Keanu Te Kawa, Jo Jenkins and Jason.
Jason describes one of their songs called Tane, “it’s about what it means to be a man in the 21st century. We sing about social matters that are important to us. We aren’t full-on serious all the time we do like to mix it up.”
What do you enjoy most about being a musician? What do you hate most?
“Right now, at this point in my life, I get to wake up every day like it’s Friday. I get to do what I love, I’m living my passion. I also like the community that it brings, you meet so many cool and like-minded people. What I don’t like is the mentality of people who think that being a musician isn’t a ‘real job’. There’s this school of thought that you’ve got to keep grinding away at it until you crack it. I ask myself what does cracking it mean? My definition of success or ‘cracking it’ in the music industry is in the moment that I fully, 100% decide to pursue music. That’s when I’ve personally cracked it. Everything else is your surroundings, you still have the same mentality and mindset, it’s just your environment that changes. You might get more gigs and earn more money, but that stuff is not everlasting. Gigs run out, money runs out but the love and passion for music stay if you do it for the right reasons. Obviously, I do want to make a living outta this and I want our songs to be heard but the moment I decided to pursue music as a full-time job and fully dive into it in my way, that’s cracking it for me.”
“We have been awarded a grant and part of the criteria is to record a song in Te Reo Māori.”
I heard you recently had a sell-out gig at SanFran, people were lined up down the street and some had to be turned away. Tell me more about that.
“We only started the band in September last year so we are new to the game but we felt ready to put on our own show and the venue reached full capacity. I didn’t see the line myself but I was told there was a cue of a hundred people lining up, going around the corner of the street. There was this funny moment when we were all on stage and giving it our all, the crowd was loving our sound and my band member and friend turned to me and said ‘I feel like we are a proper band now’ it was such a crack up feeling. We performed mostly original music and a couple of covers. We are building a following and trying to think strategically about our next steps."
I also hear you have a band manager? How did that come about?
Yvette is our Manager, our tutor Johnny Lawrence at Whitireia introduced us to her. She watched us playing a gig and afterwards came backstage for a chat. It’s been a learning experience having her involved. She deals with the business side of things, admin and promotion which enables us to focus on the music and being creative. We still have a hand in all of that but she takes a load off and has been a huge help. We come up with strategies together, once a week instead of band practice we have a business meeting, we yarn about the future, up-and-coming gigs, what’s our focus for the next 12 months and long-term goals. We are having those hard conversations now and putting in the safety nets we need if things get tricky down the line. It’s been a natural progression, she came at the right time. Now we are at the point where we feel she’s a part of the team. We consider Yvette the seventh band member who doesn’t play music, we have built trust and a good relationship.
We have been awarded a grant and part of the criteria is to record a song in Te Reo Māori. Our plan for the rest of the year is to record two singles and continue developing our online presence. We are organising a summer tour around New Zealand and in the meantime, we have lots of gigs in Wellington.
16th November - Fundraiser gig in Kapiti
23rd November - Tuia250 in Picton
Resolution NYE Festival 2019/20 in Auckland