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System Virtue by Emma Paki: Iconic New Zealand Songs

Emma Paki was born in Whakatane, the New Zealand town closest to where White Island erupted in December 2019. She was born to a Maori heritage; and received her first guitar at the age of 8.

Paki’s debut single was ‘System Virtue’ – a brilliant piece of rootsy and socially conscious pop. Paki’s voice is lovely, and her lyric finds the balance between realism and optimism. ‘System Virtue’ has a soulfulness and authenticity that recalls the gravitas of Bob Marley, but Paki has a unique artistic voice that shines through.

‘System Virtue’ was rightfully acclaimed – Paki won NZ Music Awards for Best Songwriter and Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1993. It was also the most played New Zealand music video in 1994. Josh Frizell also won an award for Best Video; the black and white film does a great job of reinforcing the song’s message.

The song’s producer, Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, keeps ‘System Virtue’ authentic and raw. Paki’s percussive acoustic guitar is at the forefront of the arrangement. The main supporting instrument is the fretless bass – while it dates the song a little, it provides melodic interest.

Paki’s 1994 single ‘Greenstone’, produced by Neil Finn, was another success. Due to record company issues, Paki’s 1996 album Oxygen of Love was forced to feature a slicker rerecording of ‘System Virtue’. Emma Paki’s never released a followup album, although a 2010 EP Trinity recaptures some of the appeal of ‘System Virtue’. Paki’s currently offering music lessons online at https://www.facebook.com/pg/emmasongs/services/

System Virtue Lyrics

Burnin’ City – Babylon, disguise us
Public Enemy in Babylon, guide us to freedom within world
System Virtue all around the world I see in a TV box
Distant cousins beautiful, the sun is here goin’ around you
God Of Nations At Thy Feet

System Virtue around the World
Different races [nations] around the world
Let’s be real and learn the rules
Gather good vibes and you’ll be cool

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7 thoughts on “System Virtue by Emma Paki: Iconic New Zealand Songs Leave a comment

  1. A nice sound to this song. She does have a melodic voice. It does have that nineties vibe and I like it…including the fretless bass. They add a nice touch. I’ve played a few before…I cheated though…I had to have the dots.

    After I saw this today I looked up her bio…I read where she was living on the streets for a while before this. I can see why she would have social conscious lyrics.

    The nineties were a great time for female artists from Sarah McLachlan to Alanis Morissette.

    Liked by 1 person

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