"The most fascinating musician to have emerged in this country in the last ten years.” - Grant Smithies, Sunday Star Times
"One of the most distinctive, singular and divisive musical figures to emerge within his home country since the dawn of the 21st century.” - Martyn Pepperell, The 405
"Dudley Benson is a caster of spells and a weaver of dreams. One of the best and most persuasive that we have.” - William Dart, Radio New Zealand
Dudley Benson (b. 1983) is an avant-pop musician based in Dunedin, New Zealand. A rare independent artist that negotiates a fiercely unique vision, critical acclaim and chart success, Benson’s work seamlessly blends elements of pop, choral, classical and electronic music to arresting effect. He has performed in and been commissioned by New Zealand’s major public art galleries and national museum, toured Europe & the UK, and sold out shows in the clubs of Tokyo. Achieving somewhat of a cult status, Benson has duetted with Vashti Bunyan, been remixed by Matmos, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and Barbara Morgenstern, and recorded albums in both English and te reo Māori.
Through a trilogy of genre-defying records, rare live shows and collaborations with dancers and visual artists, Benson’s work celebrates nature and deconstructs nationhood. His 2008 debut The Awakening marked the singer’s arrival with a disarmingly moving song cycle that explores memory and our longing for the places of our past. Coloured by a baroque pop ensemble of recorder quartet, harpsichord, string quartet and four-part choir, The Awakening spurned a now-legendary tour of New Zealand’s churches and cathedrals, and was many journalists’ pick as one of the best New Zealand albums of 2008.
Two years later, Benson released Forest. A collection of re-interpretations of waiata by the Māori activist and songwriter Hirini Melbourne (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu), Forest is set in the canopy – each song is a native New Zealand bird, and recorded within the limits of the human voice: choir, beatbox, alt-barbershop quartet, and bird mimic. The album pulses with the fragility of the natural world, and earned Benson a nomination for the 2011 Taite Music Prize.
Shortly after receiving a 2014 New Generation Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, Benson released Forest's remix companion, Deforestation, featuring radical interpretations of the Forest waiata by electronic producers Matmos, Barbara Morgenstern, Justin Walter, Shuta Hasunuma, and others.
Benson’s much anticipated follow-up took eight years to produce, and is his most ambitious and realised project yet. Zealandia is Benson’s 2018 love album to an unseen land – twelve intricately-arranged songs recorded with symphony orchestra, fifty-person choir, and beats crafted from rocks and minerals within the continent. At times achingly beautiful, at others fizzing with bold electronic textures that mirror the rugged Southern landscape of Benson’s homeland, Zealandia is a monumental journey both in sound and scope – a search for identity and a call to arms to question New Zealand’s colonial history.
Benson’s triumphant return saw the album chart in the New Zealand Top 10, solidifying his status as a cross-over cult-pop artist. The Zealandia project continues to evolve through a series of self-directed music videos and remix EPs, and a 2019 inaugural European and UK tour.
2019 UK & European solo tour
2018 Zealandia album released (2xLP/digital/CD/newspaper)
2017 Performs commissioned work A Wedding for Christchurch Art Gallery's Waitangi Day
2014 Deforestation remix album released (LP/digital/CD)
Winner 2014 New Generation Award, New Zealand Arts Foundation
2012 The Awakening & Forest albums released in Japan
Japanese solo tour
Performs commissioned work at Te Papa, New Zealand national museum
2011 Live Series: Volume One live album released (Ltd 2xCD/digital)
Department of Conservation & Creative NZ Artist in Residence, Naseby
2010 Forest: Songs by Hirini Melbourne album released (CD/digital)
New Zealand nationwide tour with acapella band
2009 Performs commissioned work for Auckland Art Gallery in response to Rita Angus'
retrospective Life & Vision
2008 The Awakening debut album released (CD/Ltd CD/digital/book)
New Zealand nationwide church tour with choir, string quartet and Richard Nunns
2007 Minerals & Rocks remix EP released (12" LP)
2006 The Orders, Medals & Decorations EP released (Ltd. CD)
Steam Railways of Britain debut EP released (Ltd. CD)
Photography by 1. Josh Thomas 2. Russ Flatt & Matthew Galloway
3. Phoebe Lysbeth Kay & Matthew Galloway 4. Charly Walsh 5. Guy Coombes