Being English, there are often times where I am left feeling quite alien in New Zealand. I still don’t really know who The Wiggles are, and, despite immersing myself in New Zealand music since arriving in 2011, you can hear a literal ‘swoosh’ as those ‘classic’ Kiwi songs go right over my head. And yet, there are occasions where I feel so completely as though I belong, and in those moments I swell with patriotism.
Over the past week, I have had a consistent sense of belonging as I watched the country come together to support one another in wake of the earthquakes, and as I sat through the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards on Thursday evening it felt as though I might burst.
The entire evening consisted of Kiwis celebrating Kiwis and I’m not sure that there is anything more humbling than that, particularly in a nation as small as ours. There were so many incredible, awe inspiring moments throughout the night (spoiler: not one of them involved Jono and Ben), and these are just a few of those that had us intermittently screaming “YASSSS” through our glassy eyes and overenthusiastic clapping.
Broods slaying EVERYTHING
I haven’t been particularly low-key about my adoration of Broods over the past few months (as you can see here and here), and so, naturally, their abundance of nominations had me freakin’ stoked. While the brother/sister duo couldn’t make it to the event due to currently being on tour in the US, for each of the 5 awards that they won they had produced a thank you video. It was evident that they’re not the type of people to sit preparing a speech for hours, with a lot of fumbling over words, but this only added to the charming modesty that radiates from the pair. Musicians’ appreciation for the fans is my favourite thing in the world, and after it was announced that they had won the People’s Choice Award, it became clearer than ever that Broods are doing this for the fans. I love them more than ever.
“Getting People’s Choice award is such a big deal to us. When we were writing this album we weren’t writing it for critics, we were writing it for our fans so we could connect with them and have awesome songs to play live in front of them”
– Georgia of Broods, via NZ Herald
Fat Freddy’s Drop performance/international achievement award
Fat Freddy’s Drop are one of those bands that, whatever genre you tend to listen to, are just incredibly easy to love. This is something I have come to learn over the few times I have had the pleasure of witnessing one of their outrageous live shows. Since I have an inclination towards pop punk, rock, and alternative music, I never expected to get into a band that has a full brass section as well as a dude running around in (arguably inappropriate) gym gear, and yet here I am today, totally obsessed with them. Having spoken to multiple people across the world about Fat Freddy’s, I can say without hesitation that this an award that they deserve more than any New Zealand artist right now. Their VNZMA performance of Slings and Arrows went down a treat and solidified exactly why they walked away with their 2016 Tui.
Aaradhna giving her award to SWIDT
With the endless discourse surrounding racism in New Zealand, this is a moment that stood out to everyone in Vector Arena and across the nation. Aaradhna was announced the winner of the best Urban/Hip Hop track, but used the platform of her acceptance speech to take a stand. She rightfully pointed out that her music does not fit into the urban/hip hop genre, and that she was placed in the category for no reason other than that she is a “brown girl”. This, ironically, is also the title of the track that won her the award, in which she expresses her disdain at only ever being seen as the colour of her skin when she is so much more than that. Aaradhna proceeded to pass on the award to hip hop group SWIDT, who graciously thanked her and accepted the Tui. Her performance shortly afterwards deservedly received a standing ovation, as she hit the final high notes and proved once and for all that she is worth being known for her voice, not just her skin tone. You can read the full transcript of Aaradhna’s speech here.
Tami Neilson – Red Carpet beauty/powerhouse performer
Tami has been on my radar for quite some time, having seen her first perform while I worked at The Tuning Fork some time last year, and since then I’ve had nothing but admiration for her. Seeing her rock the red carpet, looking fabulous in canary yellow, made my little heart all toasty to see how far she’s come in just a year, and her performance of Holy Moses mid way through the show was probably my favourite of the night. I adore the way she refuses to leave the 1950s, in both image and sound, and the way that it is nigh on impossible to stay seated as she quite literally lights up the stage. It’s difficult to explain the aura someone has without experiencing it first hand, but Tami’s is one of pure delight. We’re beyond lucky to be able to call her one of our own.
Best Maori album: Celebratory Haka
The best thing about an all Kiwi award show is that it provides a platform for the celebration of music that isn’t necessarily mainstream. You certainly won’t hear Maori music on The Edge or ZM, and yet it’s such a vital part of New Zealand culture. As Rob Ruha made his way to the stage to collect the Tui for his album Pūmau, a group dressed in traditional Maori clothing took to the aisle to perform a celebratory Haka. If there was a dry eye in the place, I’d have been surprised. I feel like ‘pride’ is a word that I’m using a lot when describing the events of the VNZMAs, and yet I can’t think of another that is anywhere close to being as accurate. This culture is one of togetherness and of whānau and as everyone focused their gaze on the dance, I spared a glance at the stage where Rob Ruha and his crew were displaying huge amounts of love. It was, for me, the most moving moment of the event.
Bic Runga – NZ Herald Legacy Award
The final award of the night is the most prestigious, and we were lucky enough to have Bic Runga attend the award show. Not growing up in New Zealand, I must confess that her name was lost on me, but as Bic Runga collected her award sparkling in gold, I watched the crowd as she held their full attention during her acceptance speech. The affection that the New Zealand public has for this icon is limitless, and as she closed the show with a truly exceptional performance of Stay, every single person in the audience was on their feet for the second standing ovation of the evening. New Zealand is a proud country, and at the risk of sounding hella cheesy, this reaction made me feel super blessed to call it home.
As I said, the entire night was filled with New Zealand pride, and there were plenty more moments that had us laughing, crying, and cheering – sometimes simultaneously. Aside from Jono and Ben, whose jokes were questionable at best, and down right inappropriate at worst, it truly was a flawless evening. Added moments of joy were owed to the triumph of our good pals, MAALA and Villainy, who took home awards for Best Male Solo Artist and the Tui for Best Rock Album, respectively. Check out some photos of the red carpet and live performances below and see the full list of winners here.