Songbird

A new limited edition lovebird pendant created by rock chick Boh Runga is helping to fund music therapy for special needs children.

bohBoh Runga, the gifted songwriter, musician and frontwoman of Kiwi band Stellar*, can now add jewellery designer to her long list of creative talents.

In 2007 Boh collaborated with the New Zealand Mint to create ‘Birdland’, a beautiful range of gold and sterling silver charms, necklaces and bracelets inspired by New Zealand’s native birds.  A special edition of Diamond Eyed Lovebird pendants has recently been added to the collection. Only 500 necklaces have been made and each comes with a tag (numbered 1 through to 500) making every piece unique. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the pendants is going to the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre – a charity close to Boh’s heart.

The Centre is the first in New Zealand to provide music therapy for special needs children of school age and younger. It was established by singer and songwriter Hinewehi Mohi and her husband George, after they spent time at the Nordoff Robins Music Therapy Centre in London in 1999 with daughter Hineraukatauri, who has severe cerebral palsy.

“I’ve never been as involved with a charity as much as I have with the Centre. I was an assistant in the therapy of two autistic boys for a time. It made me a better person,” says Boh from her current base in Los Angeles.

Boh is now the Centre’s patron, thanks in part to the encouragement of her husband Campbell Smith, who first took her to visit the Nordoff Robins Music Therapy Centre in New York.  She says she loves to witness the joy that music therapy can bring to the children and their parents. “They are able to communicate in an environment that is completely geared for them. They relax. Music is their freedom.”

Although she toyed with jewellery design ideas and made a few pieces of beaded jewellery when she was young, Boh says she had no real experience in jewellery making before the Birdland venture. It was thanks to a fortuitous meeting with people from New Zealand Mint that she was given the opportunity to create the collection which initially featured five native birds – the tui, fantail, kiwi, black robin and kakapo.

She says that seeing the very first samples of her jewellery designs was a huge highlight. “I felt the weight of the samples, saw the curves in the metal and how they were polished. They were the only examples of my designs in existence at that time. I was a bit lost for words.”

The sweet, plump little birds seem in contrast with Boh’s rock chick image, but there are some darker pieces of jewellery to come, she says. “One of the new ranges I am working on is definitely not as cute. It’s very rock and roll, but very wearable. It’s called Metal Rocks – it’s going to be good!”

Boh is in LA at least until the end of the year, but says she would love to stay longer. She is collaborating with some other well-known songwriters and writing music for a solo record, which she says is a “bit of a departure, but very liberating.”  She is still performing – she played a gig with Brooke Fraser at the Troubador in early June, and is planning a gig at the Largo Theatre, which is the new incarnation of the world famous Coronet Theatre.

So just what is a typical day in Los Angeles like for Boh? “I reluctantly wake up at 8.30am, and drag myself to go for a hike up Griffith park, but only every second day, as I’m not a morning person. Then I check Craigslist because I’ve been looking for a new car, check eBay to see what new fun things have been listed, and go through my emails.” After coffee with her friend Pelle, one of the guys she is working with, Boh says she will start writing or sorting through song ideas or pieces she already has. “Then I’ll check Craigslist and eBay again, do some grocery shopping, and have dinner. Of course this would change if I had any friends over from New Zealand, and there are always restaurants and bars to fit in somewhere.”

The eldest of the three musical Runga sisters, (younger sister Bic has a successful solo career, while Pearl has been in several bands), Boh is also well known for her personal style and love of New Zealand fashion. “I’m lucky in that many of my friends are involved in the fashion industry and I have an opportunity to see what exciting new looks are coming out. I love drama in clothing. I like quirky pieces that also nod to the classics of the past. We have creative minds in New Zealand that can combine all of that.” She says that while she didn’t take much from home with her to LA, she can’t live without her Kathryn Wilson Jimmy Boots. “I love them. I wear them with absolutely everything and I also thrash the green linen Zambesi jacket that my sister gave me.” She  hasn’t really dabbled in fashion design herself, apart from designing the dress she wore in the Stellar* video for their hit song Violent. “It was fun to have the dress made for me. I still have it.”

Boh believes that the Birdland jewellery range will appeal to anyone who enjoys fashion, but also to those who want something to remind them of New Zealand. She is enjoying the opportunity to have another creative outlet outside of music. “I love being involved in music, but wearing something that I’ve helped to create is exciting and seeing someone else wearing one of my birds is even more of a thrill.”

The Diamond Studded Lovebirds designed by Boh Runga are available through Redcurrent stores nationwide, or online from NZ Girl at www.nzgirl.co.nz

Six Things Boh Misses Most about NZ

Family and friends
Coffee
The sound of the wind in the bamboo in the garden at home
New Zealand wine

The familiar stars in the night sky

The women with flowers in their hair at the Grey Lynn Foodtown

Boh said about the story…….

“Hey, Jo
Wonderful. Thank you for that. I hope it helps the school.
Cheers, miss.
Enjoy your weekend!
b”

Boh Runga, Kiwi songstress and jewellery designer