Announcing Laughton Kora as the next headline act

Laughton Kora (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Pūkeko) joins us to headline the Tangata Whenua Stage at Newtown Festival. Immersed in a whānau full of waiata, prolific and beloved musician, producer, mentor, actor and self-described “total clown” capable of backflips, Laughton’s influence on the fabric of Aotearoa’s music community runs deep and spans decades. From jamming in dad’s band to forming KORA with his brothers to founding L.A.B. (the L stands for Laughton) to an eclectic range of projects and roles over the years, we welcome him back to Newtown, their second home.

From Whakatāne and with whakapapa ties to Parihaka, Laughton Kora is the eldest of four (Brad, Francis and Stuart). With his father Tait Kora, Laughton began his music career at age 6, performing at RSAs, cossie clubs, rugby clubs and says he knew about 300 songs by the age of 12. Citing his father implementing virtuosic music training, he took a break and instead pursued interests in rugby, surfing, martial arts, pinball and Star Wars. He particularly excelled at breakdancing as Dr Flex in a crew called the Teeny Millipedes, winning the North Island championships. Later in high school, he returned to guitar and formed the ACDC-inspired band Aunty Beatrice with his brothers, and would go on to win the 1991 Smoke Free Rock Quest with a song called “Mince Pie”.

After school, Laughton went to Queenstown, working as a chippy and getting cheap season passes in exchange for playing gigs. Visiting Francis who was studying at Toi Whakaari (after an auspicious meeting with a tohunga), Laughton casually did the audition and got in too. While they were students living in Newtown, they would perform gigs for food. Laughton and Francis caught a break when Dallas Tamaira (Joe Dukie) and Chris Faiumu (DJ Fitchie) of Fat Freddy’s Drop took notice. Phoning in the rest of the brothers and a friend, the first KORA gig as a full band would be at the Hataitai Velodrome for the One Love Waitangi Day festivities. The rest would become history. Spending time recording with Lee Prebble here in Pōneke, they recorded hits like “Politician” (with the music video filmed at their flat on Constable Street), and KORA would take their music all over Aotearoa and the world.

Aside from KORA, Laughton has been a huge part of the music community with solo projects and forming bands such as L.A.B., Soul Charge, Heavy Metal Ninjas, Kinetic, and collaborating with Fly My Pretties, Ria Hall, Tiki Taane, Team Dynamite, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and performing festivals like Cuba Carnival, Rhythm and Vines and Big Day Out. Laughton also maintains roles as itinerant guitar teacher, drama coach, and mentor for the NZ Music Commission. 

In more recent years, Laughton’s acting career has flourished on both stage and screen. He has had roles in musical theatre shows like Grease, Little Shop Of Horrors, and Jesus Christ Superstar where he boasts popping two ribs from singing. He also had a lead role for TVNZ miniseries Coverband (2014) where he says “there was a moment on the show where it “stopped being acting and started being real life”. In the same year, he was also a part of critically-acclaimed Māori Television documentary Songs From The Inside where renowned artists taught songwriting in prisons.

Laughton figured out that he “didn’t have to stick to the format”, able to bridge style and discipline as well as community and stardom, which is shown through his early years at school through to today. Raised on a huge variety of music, the bands that he has been a part of are praised for their genre-defying artistry. We are excited to see what Laughton Kora brings us at Newtown Festival 2021 to the Tangata Whenua Stage, which is kindly supported by Te Puni Kōkiri, Illumination+Optics, Te Upoko O Te Ika Radio and Atiawa Toa FM.