GFC FILMS, in association with the New Zealand Film Commission, present
The rise, fall and spiritual rebirth of the most iconic and influential music label in Pacific history, Dawn Raid Entertainment.
DAWN RAID is the story of two Manukau Polytechnic students, Andy Murnane and Tanielu Leaosavai'i (aka Brotha 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. From humble beginnings to fame and fortune, Andy, Brotha D and the Dawn Raid artists gave voice to a disenfranchised Pacific community, for which the violence of the dawn raids, twenty years previously, was still raw. But the bravado and contempt for the status quo that drove Andy and Brotha D to the top, was also the unraveling of their empire. Unpaid tax debts, rifts between artists, and a feeling of betrayal and failure underpinned the downfall of Dawn Raid Entertainment, though not before they had created an immeasurable musical legacy that would pave the way for future New Zealand artists to reach international audiences.
In 1996 two Manukau Polytechnic students, Andy Murnane and Tanielu Leaosavai'i (aka Brotha D), who occasionally moonlighted as bootleg t-shirt creators, started a Hip-Hop night at the Hunters Inn in Otara. No one wanted to give urban Hip-Hop a platform. Andy and Brother D believed they could do so.
Twenty years before, the Government initiated dawn raids, indiscriminately targeting Polynesian communities in South Auckland searching for overstayers. In the years following, the New Zealand Polynesian communities seethed with resentment. A generation of artists grew up searching for an outlet. Andy and Brotha D would give it to them. They just didn’t know what their Hip-Hop night at the Hunters Inn would soon unleash.
Giving local artists a long-awaited voice, the music nights soon began selling out; the profits flying in. Ambitious, and ever wanting to carve their own path, Andy and Brotha D soon decided to parlay their cash from the illegal t-shirt sales and the Hip Hop night into their own record label – Dawn Raid Entertainment. They would own the music; be the masters of their own fate. No longer unwanted in their own society, the pair would become influential, respected, rich. Dawn Raid Entertainment spoke to the past of a community and became its path into the future, changing the face of New Zealand music and reaching a global audience. At their peak, the Dawn Raid team would be collaborating with Pitbull and Soulja Boy, see their tracks featured in the Seth Rogan comedy Knocked Up and have gold and platinum albums by the truckload.
But this wasn’t to last. The same bold push against societal prejudice, the rage that drove them to do the impossible, would in the end see them undone. The arrival of music piracy collided with ambitious, and arguably reckless growth ultimately ending in financial disaster. As Andy says in the film “we took our eye off the ball” and the business school dropouts ended up battling the IRD for unpaid tax debts that ended in liquidation. Rifts developed, artists would rail against the betrayal, and a sense of failure would hang over those who built the Dawn Raid empire. A group of business leaders got together to bail the company out, and “Dawn Raid 2” was born, but now employees in their own company, the new venture never quite managed to top the impressive heights of the first wave of Dawn Raid. But not before they created an immeasurable musical legacy that would pave the way off-shore for future New Zealand artists.
While this is, in part, a story of failure, it is ultimately a positive and uplifting story. DAWN RAID is a narrative of the hustle and daring chutzpah. How some lads from Otara, Auckland changed the music scene in the Pacific. DAWN RAID celebrates the underdog and what can be achieved when the mind is focused on a single-minded goal.