In January, Grant Fell, longtime bassist for the New Zealand band Headless Chickens, died of cancer. Shortly before his death, Fell and his bandmates learned that Headless Chickens would win a Classic Record Award for their 1987 album Stunt Clown at New Zealand’s Taite Awards. And last night, when the band accepted the award, they scattered some of Fell’s ashes on the stage.
MusicFeeds reports that, while accepting the award, Fell’s bandmate Chris Matthews said, “I think Grant probably always wanted to play on this stage” as he duped some of Fell’s ashes on the ground. This did not sit well with a lot of people in the audience.
Many of the people and musicians in the audience were Māori, and tikanga, the Māori way of life, holds that the bodies of the dead are manifestations of their soul. TEEKs, a Māori singer-songwriter who was nominated for the Taite Music Prize (and who lost it to Aldous Harding) reported that he wouldn’t have gone onstage to accept the award if he’d won:
First time I’m glad I didn’t win an award. Wouldn’t have gotten on stage with those ashes under my feet. Huge congrats to Aldous, still extremely humbled to have been nominated don’t get me wrong, but I was raised in a culture where that shit isn’t ok.
— TEEKS (@thisteeks) April 17, 2018
Just to carry on from what I said last night, I’m sure no offence was intended, totally understand the sentiment behind it and why they thought it might have been a good idea. I guess the thing we need to realise is that we live in two different worlds
— TEEKS (@thisteeks) April 18, 2018
As NewsHub reports, Fell’s widow Rachael Churchward, who is part Māori, issued a statement about the ash-scattering: “We were not setting out to shock or offend anyone, but Grant wanted his ashes scattered in places he loved — and he loved being on stage playing music. I understand it’s not in line with tikanga, but we all come from different places and we don’t adhere to every tradition. Music is a big part of our identity too.”