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Album inspired by Kent settler

PUBLISHED: 16:15 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 16 August 2010

JORDAN REYNES: Based album on Kent settler Susannah Hawes

JORDAN REYNES: Based album on Kent settler Susannah Hawes

AN acclaimed songwriter from New Zealand has written an album inspired by a north Kent woman who emigrated to the country in the 19th century. Jordan Reyne s folk album How the Dead Live, tells the story of Susannah Hawes, one of the early pioneers from

AN acclaimed songwriter from New Zealand has written an album inspired by a north Kent woman who emigrated to the country in the 19th century.

Jordan Reyne's folk album How the Dead Live, tells the story of Susannah Hawes, one of the early pioneers from England who left Gravesend in 1874 with her family to begin a new life in New Zealand.

The musician spent six weeks in Karamea, on the South Island's West Coast, as part of a programme partly run by New Zealand's Department of Conservation that gave artists an opportunity to explore the environment and the wildlife at locations across the country.

She said: "Karamea's history is so rich and yet so personal, it was a privilege to investigate it.

"There are many, many stories I could have chosen as inspiration for artistic work. Initially the temptation was to try and cover as much of the history as possible, but this did no justice to the stories themselves and did not work well as a focused narrative.

"Instead I honed in on a quite simple narrative; the story of one of the first pioneer women, Susannah Hawes. This story constitutes the backbone of this album."

Karamea was where Susannah and her husband Henry settled after a three-month journey from Gravesend on the ship the Michaelangelo.

Ms Reyne researched the history of the area, and found letters written by Susannah Hawes about her life in Karamea which inspired her music. She wrote the mainly acoustic album, which is said to have an eerie and desolate feel to it, using sounds that would have been heard in the environment at the time, and set these to folk instruments.

At the time there were less than 80 settlers in the town, whose only connection to other towns was by boat or by foot. Many of the first settlers did not survive the harsh conditions and the poor soil. The town remained an outpost, cut off from the rest of the country.

Susannah Hawes outlived her husband by more than ten years, and died at the age of 84. Her relatives, along with the Scarlets, another of the first families to arrive in the settlement, still live in the area today.

How the Dead Live is out now, and is available through www.sounz.org.nz.

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