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 A view across Homunga Bay

The Nambassa Experience

Nambassa was 'News Zealand's Woodstock' though it occurred ten years later and was also sustained successfully over several summers by its youthful promoter: Waihi's Peter Terry. Certainly he was out to rock the country, but broad consideration was given to ways of promoting alternative lifestyle options, as we'd describe it these days. Back then it was just hooking the hippies. But rock it he did. On each occasion, enough of the 'sex, drugs and rock 'n roll' culture was disported over a couple of nights of late television news to predictably outrage the red-necks - and prime the interested for the next one.

Among the seekers  Entertainment on tap

There were previous music festivals; and subsequent ones of a similar scale - notably the Sweetwaters series. There were, and are, a multitude of smaller festivals held all round the country. Perhaps being there has caused some bias, but in my view none have matched the Nambassas for size, cultural inclusiveness and spirituality. I gather this sort of mix still happens in England (Glastonbury) and Australia (Confest), and possibly in the Burning Man festival in the USA. Early on here though, I noticed the efforts to cater for the widest possible audience - from kids to pensioners. Well, almost! 


I think the eventual failure of the later Sweetwaters festivals was largely due to a required emphasis on the sponsor's products. The predominance of alcohol, it seems to me, both encouraged the gangs and alienated those who were, spiritually; still 'in the closet.' The many who were happy to use the cover of a music festival to seek or explore the options for satisfying ways to live; were, eventually, simply overwhelmed by the unenlightened and the uninteresting.


There are, and were, spiritually-focussed festivals, like Te Wairua - a mid-eighties gathering lead by our most prominent Sufi, Halima MacEwan (who was in her sixties then - and is still going!). Although Te Wairua could have evolved into a local Glastonbury, the hosting farmer died. So the focus remained on just health and spirituality - with no 'bands' as such, leaving any 'closet seekers' uncomfortably naked in such an atmosphere! Worse, from the sustainability angle the focus narrowed mainly to seminars for facilitators - something which is rather better nourished by the permanent Tauhara Centre in Taupo. In the end, nowhere but at a Nambassa-style event is one likely to find a Roman Catholic service conducted under a yin-yang symbol or, for that matter, a bunch of Sanyasins demonstrating one of Rajneesh's seventeen forms of meditation! (Perhaps The Gathering on Takaka Hill fulfilled some of those needs, but now that's gone too.)


All of these photos were taken at one of the three Nambassas I attended. The 1979 Nambassa, my first, was held in a farmer's paddock near Waihi, just above Homunga Bay. The last was held in a farmer's paddock near Waihi, with the Ohinemuri River (or perhaps a tributary thereto) running through it.

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© John Lowe