Siren kings: Porirua tormented by late-night Celine Dion ‘music battles’

Publish Date
Friday, 27 October 2023, 2:59PM
Porirua says it has had enough of Celine Dion, after car drivers joined a craze of blasting out her ballads at 2am. Photo / SWAT Team / Getty Images

Porirua says it has had enough of Celine Dion, after car drivers joined a craze of blasting out her ballads at 2am. Photo / SWAT Team / Getty Images

A North Island city has made headlines around the world thanks to drivers tormenting locals with late-night Celine Dion siren battles.

Armed with a playlist of Dion, a vehicle, and speakers turned up full blast, siren battlers are taking to the streets, often as late as 2am, and causing sleepless nights for the 60,000 residents of Porirua.

The battles involve groups of people gathering in an area with their cars, blasting music from sirens more typically used for emergency warnings.

Many of the vehicles used in the heated battles carry between seven and 10 sirens.

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The culprits behind Porirua’s regular rude awakening claim the siren battles are a way to express themselves, but residents and the mayor have had enough.

“It’s a headache,” Porirua Mayor Anita Baker told AFP on Thursday.

They “love Celine Dion. They like anyone with a high pitch and great tone in their voice”.

Power ballads including My Heart Will Go On and It’s All Coming Back To Me Now can be heard across the region at night with battles regularly starting as early as 7pm and running as late as 2am.

SWAT Team, which operates in Auckland, says sirens can cost between $80-$100 each. Photo / SWAT Team

But the screeching has seen locals at their wits’ end. The police have been called numerous times but the group of siren battlers then flee the scene before gathering again at a new location.

“It’s really loud music. They only play a quarter of the song, so it’s like having a turntable and it comes screeching out,” the mayor said.

“It’s happening down in our city centre, which is like a basin, so the noise just goes out like a drum to all the suburbs,” she said.

Locals have signed a petition asking the council to put a stop to the battlers’ love affair with Dion.

So far it’s attracted more than 300 signatures.

Baker told RNZ that despite the petition, she doesn’t have the power to bring an end to the battles.

“I wish I had the power to. I would be probably like Crusher Collins, taking their cars away.”

But while many impacted by the noise are big Dion fans, they are praying for not just a change of tune but an end to the siren battles.

“Although I enjoy Celine Dion in the comfort of my lounge and at my volume, I do not enjoy hearing fragments of it stopping and starting at any time between 7pm and 2am,” resident Diana Paris told AFP.

Porirua City Council had previously reached an agreement with those participating in the siren battles, which involved groups going to industrial areas and finishing by 10pm. But the battles have returned to the city.

Police had received up to 40 reports of incidents between early February and early October this year.

Why Celine Dion is popular in siren battle subculture

The French-Canadian diva has become the choice of artist for many who partake in siren battles.

According to Paul Lesoa, one of the founders of a group that runs Auckland-based siren battles, Dion’s songs have high treble that are perfect for blasting and part of the attraction is how iconic some of her songs are.

“Celine Dion is popular because it’s such a clear song - so we try to use music that has high treble, is clear and not much bass,” he told the Spinoff in 2022.

“We hold battles and compete for different titles and categories. The battle involves three rounds which are scored by judges and one of the main things judged is the clarity – so any distortion or reverberation will make you lose.

“Reggae is our go-to as it has nice beats and doesn’t sound distorted.”

He also said being in a siren club is more than just a hobby and that it has the potential to create positive change among a demographic more known for gang violence and unemployment.

“You’d be surprised how talented and creative these guys are,” he says.

“It’s not easy wiring all these sirens together and there’s also real camaraderie in learning it and helping each other out. 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’.”

Siren music exploded around seven years ago, and blew up internationally when Manurewa’s Jawsh 685 viral track ‘Laxed (siren beat) was used by Jason Derulo in his hit song Savage Love.

This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.

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