To most, Céline Dion‘s voice is lulling and enchanting, but for some locals in Porirua, New Zealand, the Quebecer’s music means sleepless nights.
Residents of the small city on the country’s North Island have complained they are being tormented by the “excessively loud music” coming from the region’s “siren battles.”
The battles, which have been steadily growing in popularity, see music lovers rig their cars or bicycles with sirens and loudspeakers (often, as many as possible) to blast songs. Competitors, or “siren kings” as they’re often called, fight to win prestige as the contestant with the loudest, clearest sound.
One siren king told the New Zealand magazine The Spinoff that Dion’s music is commonly used in siren battles because her songs are high treble, clear and do not use much bass. Reggae is also popular in siren battles.
The underground subculture first emerged in south Auckland among the area’s Pasifika population in the mid-2010s. Now, those outside of the siren-battling community in Porirua are calling for local authorities to put an end to the late-night escapades.
Porirua Mayor Anita Baker told the Guardian the city’s siren kings are terrorizing locals nightly with loud, unwelcome renditions of Dion’s songs, like My Heart Will Go On.
“We need to find somewhere alternative for these people to go or they need to stop,” Baker told the outlet. “It’s vibrating all over the city wherever they do it because we’re in a basin. It’s really frustrating.”
For angry residents, the solution can’t come soon enough. A petition calling for an end to siren battles was made to the local council this month and has already garnered hundreds of signatures.
“Enough is enough,” the complaint reads. “Porirua City Council must act and stop the gathering of car meets blasting music and emergency sirens noises at all hours of the night. Ratepayers are tired of the inaction and dismissive attitude shown by the Council and the Mayor concerning this issue.”
The petition maintained that the siren battles “disturb the peace” of Porirua.
The Guardian reported that some locals are even considering moving away from the area to escape the nightly noise.
Between February and October, police reportedly received around 40 calls relating to siren battles.
A spokesperson for the local Porirua police force told Radio New Zealand they are taking “preventative and enforcement patrolling” measures to crack down on the noise. Authorities said charges have been laid against offenders who have been apprehended. Police claim some of the speaker systems used during battles are stolen property.
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What do the ‘siren kings’ say?
Despite the tension with outsiders, the siren battle community is tight-knit and still growing.
Paul Lesoa, a founder of the Auckland-based siren battling team S.W.A.T. (or Switching Without A Trace), last year told The Spinoff that the subculture was founded as a way to express creativity and keep young people out of trouble.
“We just love music, we love dancing, and doing this is better than night clubbing or drinking in a bar in the city, where there’s fights,” he told the outlet.
Lesoa said the biggest misconception about siren battling is that equipment is often stolen. He said most people will buy their gear overseas or from local suppliers — with some spending upward of thousands in the process.
He added that siren battling is a highly technical hobby and often requires skills in wiring, soldering and other electrical work.
Lesoa said attempts to obtain legal permits for siren battles have been fruitless.
“Everyone has their own hobby and other hobbies get their own space so all we want is our own space, so we can go somewhere and not get fined, not get in trouble and then go home,” he said.
“It’s not easy wiring all these sirens together and there’s also real camaraderie in learning it and helping each other out,” he continued. “It keeps guys off the streets, it keeps guys out of gangs, and it’s a brotherhood here. And for some they’re now thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I could make a job out of this.’”
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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