Dawn Raid – the new film directed by Oscar Kightley – follows the story of two Manukau Polytechnic students, Andy Murane and Tanielu Leaosavai’i (aka Brother D) who turned a bootleg T-shirt business and hip-hop night at a local bar in Otara into the influential Dawn Raid Entertainment empire.
They are also the duo behind some top homegrown talent including Savage, Aaradhna and At Ease and suffered the near-demise of their record label in 2007.
Andy and Brother D joined Charlotte Ryan to explain their motivation behind making the documentary, and crack some jokes.
They said they were humbled by the release of the film and the reception from people who have been enthusiastic about it.
“That buzz there – for the last few years we’ve never had that attention,” Brother D said.
The film has been released in Fiji, Australia, Bali and the US.
Brother D said the Dawn Raid movie is about a community and the sound that they have taken around the world in the last 20 years.
“I always knew if we could get our community on board it would be far bigger and greater and I believe we did.
“We wanted to put a positive lens on South Auckland. We get bashed all the time – all the negative stereotypes.
“We wanted to tell a positive story from where we’re from. Just like naming our company Dawn Raid – we want to flip to the positive.
“These are kids who are trying to do their best. From something that was painful in the past and we want to turn it around.”
Andy said even naming their company Dawn Raid upset some of their community at the time but there is no escaping that the raids by police on homes in South Auckland to look for overstayers are a part of history and the two men were adamant they wanted to use the name.
They met at business school and while Brother D was already a touring musician they saw there was room for more talent so they decided to establish a small independent music label.
They had already opened a bar at Manukau Polytechnic which quickly became a popular nightclub with live music. They were also making money selling T-shirts on campus and at the time of opening a shop for their stock they also set up a hairdresser’s salon next door – helping a barber friend who was cutting hair in a high school’s toilets at the time.
“All these things just seemed to happen in our journey,” Brother D said.
Andy said: “We didn’t plan everything – it really popped in our lap and you grab an opportunity when it’s in front of you. That’s been our whole life, like the movie – we did not plan this. People came and approached us.”
Andy said Oscar Kightley was the lynchpin without whom the film wouldn’t have happened while Brother D said the director was a person they trusted.
Part of the movie centres on both men’s relationship with Andy’s father. At one stage Andy said he got into trouble with the law and his father “fed him with books” because he was a livewire heading along the wrong path.
“He made me books to read and I thank him to this day because of that inspiration. He also passed that knowledge onto D – he made both of us read.”
Biographies, self-help and business books were top of the reading list.
“He gave two knuckle-heads some books we were going to like because it was about making money, hustling and we’re into that,” Andy joked.
Brother D added that Andy’s dad, Pop, loved both of them and “put a shield” in front of them and they’re both grateful to him.
Faith in their artists
Both men said they had great faith in their artists and gave them opportunities they might not otherwise have had.
Hip-hop artist Savage has had a triple platinum single in the US, selling three million copies.
In 2015 soul singer Aaradhna sold out the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem – the only New Zealand artist ever to achieve this.
The Apollo Theatre is regarded as the home of soul music and has played host to many top singers including James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.
Andy said many Black artists are not getting the credit they deserve and this was “a colour issue”.
While both men remain shareholders in the Dawn Raid company and the catalogue is still available, they don’t sign artists any more and have no active engagement with the company.
“It’s tied up with some corporate people. We’d love to see it returned to myself and Brother D and returned to all the artists. That’s another day, a conversation for another day…” Andy said.