'Hallelujah, Hallujah' – Kiwi band sings Leonard Cohen classic in tribute to late musician

Imperfect Offering’s Peter McMillan said it was a "privilege" to perform Cohen’s much loved song. Source: 1 NEWS

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The Great Kiwi Bake Off - Episode 1 Recap, cupcakes and kids' birthday treats

The jaunty music. The bunting. The soggy bottoms. The baking. Oh the baking!

Welcome to The Great Kiwi Bake Off, New Zealand. I hope you’ve eaten, because watching this on an empty stomach is the kind of torture that should only be reserved for those people you really, really do not like.

And look, there’s no point beating around the bush here. The British version of this glorious show is a modern broadcasting masterpiece. Nice telly with a deliciously sweet aftertaste, in the best way possible.

Forget politicians playing nice with their own parties and royal (baby shower) tours, this is not something we can risk screwing up, Aotearoa.

So, do Kiwi cooks have what it takes? Are our jokes just as naughty as the English greats? Apart from canned spaghetti and sausages, can anything edible really be cooked in a tent?

Guys, the answer is… yeah, I reckon.

But doing the real deciding is a duo you wouldn’t want to mess with in a dark alley armed only with a French Stick.

Meet the Dame of Desserts, Sue Fleischl, and Dean Brettschneider, the man who has baked his way around the world. She is the perfect combination of sass and serious expectations, while he plays her straight-man offsider who seems a little scared to be scary.

More importantly, we’re going to keep it simple and refer to them forever more as FleischlSchneider. 'Cos, it sounds so, uh, friendly.

To kick this whole crazy ride off, the Fleischl end of the hashtag tries to convince us cupcakes, which are the Signature Challenge, are "not terribly, technically difficult".

Sue has clearly never seen me in the kitchen.

And don’t even get me started on the children’s birthday cakes the bakers have to deliver for the Showstopper Bake. I am sweating at the very idea of ever having mini-me’s that demand I construct anything more than a supermarket sponge with a few 100’s and 1000’s.

Thankfully, these 12 bakers are exactly the kind of people you want – and expect – in the kitchen; salt-of-the-earth Kiwis (with a few quirky characters thrown in for good measure).

There’s Stacey, the stunning blue-haired, body-building, power-lifting tattoo artist, with the cake-themed outfits.

Jeff, who has eyes like the bluest ocean and a penchant for musical theatre (even if his wife calls his performance "rubbish" – hashtag SingItJeff.

Clayton’s bold approach to the first challenge is to get his "buttercream going, melting a bit of chocolate, decorate some stuff and have a beer – happy, happy". (So chilled out…show off!)

While Hottest Home Baker Joel bravely came out as a cupcake man to his rugby teammates – and then let out the Kiwiest of Kiwisms ("Aaaaaw Noooo-ah") when one of his little fellas ended up face-down on the floor.

Lovely Larissa and Adorable Annabel could be sisters. And Sonali’s relying on the luck of the Irish – and maybe getting the judges drunk on a booze-packed cupcake.

Hosts Hayley Sproull and Madeleine Sami seem to be big supporters of this tactical approach. And those two might need a wee drink.
After all, they have big shoes to fill, since, historically, Bake Off hosts are tasked with making sure TV’s nicest show doesn’t become sickly sweet.

Remember, there’s no cash prize, no car or profit to win. There’s no romance drama or singing and dancing. These people are just here to bake lovely food and, by proxy, are just lovely people.

If we didn’t have Hayley suggesting a bunny cake could maybe have real bunny in it, or Madeleine pointing out phallic decorations in the kitchen, there’s a very real concern the show would just have no bite.

And too much sweetness can be a bad thing. Just ask anyone who’s had to eat 12 birthday cakes.

There were show stopper highs and quite worrying lows. Cakes were dropped, and cakes were moist. There was dry ice and ear-less dinos and unicorns and mermaids.

In the end though, Angel Annabel was crowned the first ever New Zealand Star Baker with a buzzy bee cake that drew gasps, while Smiley Jennie, with her very wet cupcakes, and cute-but-a-little-cheaty, lolly-filled, marshmallow-coated Igloo cake, that was shown the door.

Was it a case of "I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed you sorta didn’t make any of this apart from the sponge" from FleischlSchneider? Maybe.

Should Ol’ Blue Eyes Jeff and his sloppy adult-only mess been shown the door instead? Perhaps.

But the bar has been well and truly set, the expectations shouted from the tent-top, and God help any baker who visits the supermarket on the way to the oven.

And more than anything, I hope Sue knows her probing "did you make the marshmallows?" will haunt my baking nightmares forever more.

The Great Kiwi Bakeoff is on TVNZ2 on Tuesdays at 7.30pm and then on TVNZ OnDemand

Bridget Jones is a TVNZ publicist and former entertainment reporter

Dean, Madeleine, Hayley and Sue from The Great Kiwi Bake Off.
Dean, Madeleine, Hayley and Sue from The Great Kiwi Bake Off. Source: TVNZ

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Israeli court's Lorde fine a 'political stunt' says Andrew Little

An Israeli court's decision to order two New Zealand women to pay damages for convincing singer Lorde to cancel a show in Tel Aviv was a "political stunt" that goes against principles of freedom of speech, New Zealand's Justice Minister says.

Jewish-New Zealander Justine Sachs and Palestinian-New Zealander Nadia Abu- Shanab were last week ordered to pay $US7800 ($NZ11,870) for causing mental harm to three Israeli teenagers who had purchased tickets to the concert.

The lawsuit was the first ruling to cite a controversial 2011 Israeli anti- boycott law that allows civil action against entities who call for a boycott of the state.

The duo have rejected the ruling, and have instead used the attention to raise more than $NZ34,000 on a crowd-funding website to support mental health organisations in Gaza.

Justice Minister Andrew Little today said the court process lacked procedural fairness.

"It's very unusual for a court in one jurisdiction to be making decisions that affect people in a different jurisdiction," he said.

"It does look to me like a political stunt - at least the legislation on which the court was operating was a political stunt - and it should be treated accordingly."

In December, Sachs and Abu-Shanab's letter to Lorde was published by website The Spinoff.

Days later, the 21-year-old Kiwi musician cancelled the performance, which was to conclude her Melodrama world tour.

Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab say they won’t pay, and are fundraising for mental health services in Gaza instead. Source: 1 NEWS

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Koi Boys talk fame, reality television and life after The Voice Australia

The Koi Boys have returned to the motherland after The Voice Australia catapulted the group to fame two years ago – and just in time to perform an evening of Motown classics with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

The Koi Boys' Kevin Keepa, Danny Faifai and Nuz Ngatai joined TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning to talk about their success overseas.

Keepa said, "Lots of doors have opened for us that might not have prior to that. We’re rolling along quite nicely, actually, ‘cause we’re here – look! Keeps us foot still in the pond, so to speak".

Another member, Faifai, described their new life in Australia as "glamorous".

"Sun! Nah, at the moment, it's really cold over there. Yeah, nah, it's been great, man. We're pretty busy. We just got back from Fiji couple days ago. We've been doing functions – quite a few of them overseas," Faifai said.

"That's what The Voice has done for us – open doors."

Keepa described The Voice Australia as "an eye-opener", saying the group "went through quite a bit" during their time on the show.

"[The Voice Australia coach] Jessie J was quite cool. She had a potty mouth, you know, off-camera, but I think I remember I said that, you know, we thought we knew everything until we went on that show," he said.

One member, Ngatai, was on reality TV show The GC before appearing on The Voice Australia with the Koi Boys.

"I was already part of the boys during that time, and I was on season one and season three of The GC. I think the boys actually cameoed on the first season, where they captured me at Koi doing my own thing on the streets, so yeah, it was a great journey," Ngatai said.

Faifai said life after fame has been "pretty hectic".

"Every Sunday is just full-on. The audience comes up – it's always different, they're always from around Australia and overseas, and they’re always booking out bars – gets ugly," he said.

Keepa says there have been moments where entire restaurants have been booked out by Kiwis looking to see the group live.

"A lot of folk coming from New Zealand over to see us, so restaurant all full of Kiwis, mostly, sometimes. We always ask, ‘Any Australians here?’ No one puts up their hand up. Everyone’s Kiwis," he said.

However, he says despite the fame, the Gold Coast-based group "get homesick a lot".

"See my whānau, my family and the kai, which is always the best. Here, when you come home, not saying that – will that get me in trouble? Nah. You know, I was saying to Danny, 'Oh, you know I saw Keith Quinn on TV', and said, 'You know you're back home when you see Keith Quinn on the TV screen'. Just things like that."

Faifai says they're currently writing new music, as well as "working on a new project for 2019" – filming an unnamed reality TV series.

The Gold Coast-based group will be performing some Motown classics with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Source: Breakfast


Kanye West meets Uganda's President, gifts him a pair of signed sneakers

Kanye West handed Uganda's president a pair of his autographed sneakers on Monday during a visit to the East African nation in which the rapper is said to be recording music in a tent.

The 74-year-old President Yoweri Museveni said he and West held "fruitful discussions" about promoting tourism and arts. He also gave West and his wife, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, "Ugandan" names, the State House said in a Facebook post.

The couple has been vacationing in a national park in Uganda while excited tourism officials see the visit as an endorsement of the country's tourism potential.

Kanye West gifted the president a pair of sneakers. Source: State House Uganda

While Uganda's presidency released photos of a hoodie-wearing West meeting Museveni at the State House, some Ugandans wryly pointed out that the president cracked down on hoodies earlier this year, saying motorcycle riders could no longer wear them in a bid to fight rising crime.

Museveni, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, has been at the center of unrest in recent weeks after a local pop star-turned-opposition lawmaker, Bobi Wine, alleged torture by security forces. The government denies it.

Uganda's large youth population has increasingly expressed frustration over unemployment and accused the president of being out of touch. The government recently imposed a tax on social media and the constitution was changed to remove an age limit on the presidency, leading some to worry that Museveni plans to rule for life.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni poses with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian-West. Source: Facebook/Stet House Uganda