Rangi Ruru Wananga Karaitiana was the composer of the popular song 'Blue Smoke'. He recalled, ‘We were on the troopship Aquitania in 1940 off the coast of Africa when a friend drew my attention to some passing smoke. He put the song in my lap. It was a natural’. Within a day or two Karaitiana had completed the lyric and melody in his head, and performed the song for a shipboard concert. Although it was performed at various troop concerts during the war, ‘Blue smoke’ was rejected by London publishers.
Back in New Zealand in 1947, Karaitiana assembled a quintet, and in October 1948 they recorded a version of ‘Blue Smoke’ in Wellington with singer Pixie Williams. The backing music was Hawaiian-style, and instruments included guitars, ukulele and lap-steel guitar. The 78 rpm disc was the first record wholly produced in New Zealand from composition to pressing, and provided a début hit-seller for the New Zealand-owned TANZA (To Assist New Zealand Artists) record label. Although Karaitiana considered it ‘a poor first effort’, ‘Blue Smoke’ topped New Zealand radio hit parades for six weeks, and sold more than 20,000 copies within a year.
Find out more about 'Blue Smoke' on NZHistory.net.nz and read a biography of Karaitiana, in English and te reo Māori, on the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography = Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau website
Death date added from DNZB