Ben Kemp



The sound of a piano is ringing through this ocean,
4 simple notes along side,
They are tied together by the fisherman’s knot,
With the ends neatly clipped,

The tide is low, shallow in this sink,
The shoulder of the coast is no longer submerged,
My belly rested on the seabed,
I have not the strength to ask, but I am listening…

The piece of music is biological,
An algorithm with an end,
4 primary colours on a palette that is the arm of the painter,
I am your brush…

The bed upon which my belly rests is warm,
Finer than feathers…
A casket around my body, but no dark hole…

Gentle hands & a rocking chair,
             & From their palms the same 4 notes,
            But not a piano…
            A gut string guitar…
            Handed down through 4 generations,
“Infant, girl, woman & grandmother”

The branches of my whakapapa are being clipped,
With secateurs,
& Musical instruments, unfretted,
My carcass is made up of leaves that fall in spring

How far have I travelled?
The miles have collapsed, but the seawater is made up of tuku tuku panels,
Navigating our way through the whare,
I am inside…

She is wailing, weaving freshly picked flax between the 4 notes,
My ears tell me she is beautiful…
For there is no seam in her voice…
I drink…          But my vessel is almost dry,

We are one tree, one body…
Fed by the same root & connected by the same fisherman’s knot,
I am my brothers & sisters & they are me…

My skin is growing cold, dry,
Spilling a glass of clear oil that is swallowed up by the sand,
                        The oil is the mystery of consciousness,
                        An undefined quantity that now runs through their fingers,
I did not ask, but I am grateful for their help…

I have never seen without the lens of seawater,
The undulation of the ocean is like a pulse,
I have fallen… but the music has not died for the instrument is now a bamboo flute,
                         & a child…

My mother is near me, but she is dead now,
dissolving into the tuku tuku panels,

They are crying for what has been spilt,
& they will cry for me too…

Gentle hands, & the rocking chair, carved from the finest tree,
Crafted by the most gifted of makers…

I did not ask… & you came…



Ben Kemp first went to Japan as a 23 year old, having completed a degree in Marketing and Computer Science at Otago University. Living for two and a half years in Tokyo, Ben spent much time absorbing traditional art and culture, and discovering his passion for kabuki theatre and Japanese literature. On return to the North Island, Ben discovered a special mentor-student relationship with Rowley Habib, one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent Maori writers, all the while maintaining his connections with Japan. It was at this point that Ben’s creative work anchored itself. Responding to a magnetic pull back to Japan, Ben returned to Tokyo in 2002. Ben Kemp’s debut album A River’s Mouth was released in March 2005. He backed this up in February 2006 with the creation of Papatu Road, an album that beautifully represents Ben’s concept of creating a unique Polyn-Asian sound. ‘Opoutere’ was written after the whale stranding on Opoutere beach in New Zealand. Visit Ben’s website