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Lowdown: NZ Music Month Takes Over

02 May 2024

A swag of awards are on the horizon, a hall of famer sets the record straight on clickbait plus the interview that's spread like wildfire through the creative community.

New Zealand Music Month is officially upon us - and the industry will be hitting full noise on screens, stages and airwaves across the country to capitalise on it.

With the theme of Amplify Aotearoa, there will be plenty of good news stories to share along the way, with a number of ceremonies to count down to.

The first of which falls this weekend, with the Children's Music Awards - where one award recipient has already been announced.

The 2024 Baysting Prize for Children’s Champion - for an individual, group, or organisation that has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the development and wellbeing of Aotearoa's children - will be awarded to the New Zealand Ukulele Trust (NZUT).

Founded in 2007, the Trust has reached over 760 schools through its Kiwileles Programme and worked with sponsors to give out over 2500 ukuleles to schools through its Ukes in Schools initiative.

NZUT Chair Tim Carson is rapt to receive an award dedicated to the memory of late children's music advocate Arthur Baysting. 

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NZ Ukelele Trust making its mark. Photo: Joshua McCormack.

“Arthur was instrumental in the setting up of the NZUT and was an early judge for our songwriting competitions. We are thrilled that his family continues to support his legacy with this prize, acknowledging the importance of creating content specifically for the children of Aotearoa NZ. 

"We are a charitable trust that relies on the volunteer work of trustees so this award will allow us to increase our reach to more schools across the motu and raise the profile of music education.”  

They'll be among a number of people who fuel the creative fires of our future generations being honoured at Auckland's Tuning Fork on Sunday (5 May).

Best Children’s Song (both Preschool and Primary categories) Best Children's Music Video and Best Children's Performer will be awarded, along with the first Tūi of NZ Music Month, Best Children's Music Artist. That sought-after category will be decided between proven and popular acts Captain Festus McBoyle, BeetBITE and Claudia Robin Gunn, who is featured in The Big Idea's video series.

Country quartet vying for top prize

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APRA AMCOS NZ have also announced the finalists for the Best Country Music Song   award, to be presented at the Country Music Honours on 24 May. 

There are some familiar names in the four songs to make the shortlist.

Creative powerhouse Delaney Davidson is used to being a finalist in this genre - and many others - as a collaborator with some of the industry's most celebrated names like Tami Neilson, Marlon Williams, Barry Saunders, and Troy Kingi.  This time, he's doing it solo with Racing Through the Night from his tenth studio album Out Of My Head

In the footsteps of Neilson's award-winning tribute to her father Beyond The Stars, Holy Arrowsmith is back as a finalist in her first release in two years with a similarly motivated song. She explains of Desert Dove, “In Tucson, Arizona my grandfather fed the birds every morning. There was a dove that would wake me while I was visiting, mournful and resolute in its song. 

"When he died, I heard that same dove in New Zealand and it filled me with a sense of him. It is a song about distance, loss and grief, and finding courage in the face of these things.” 

Also back on the finalist list after shifting focus to her own agency - Quirky Music - is West Coaster Katie Thompson. Do You Think Of Me? is her first collaboration with co-writers Victoria and Andrew Knopp.      

Another former finalist, Jamie McDell rounds out this year's contenders with Madeline from 2023's Beach House EP. 

All jazzed up

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Performer and composer Andrew Faleatua has landed the 2024 NZ School of Music/Creative NZ Jazz Composer-in-Residence - a funded, six-month position that will give him a salary and research grant to develop a significant album of new work.

"To spend six months solely dedicated to making music with local talent is a dream," he states. "I cannot wait to get into the rehearsal room with university staff, students, and the wider jazz community to materialise musical ideas that have been brewing for quite some time."

Faleatua has worked with the likes of Maisey Rika and Jordyn Rapana on the piano and is also an accomplished film composer, lending his skills to the scores for Song of Sina, Behind Tomorrow, and Fo’i Mai Pepe.

With a Masters in jazz piano at the University of Auckland, a PhD focused on ethnomusicology and composition at the University of Sydney and a fellowship at the University of Huddersfield, Faleatua's credentials couldn't be ignored.

NZSM residency coordinator Associate Professor Michael Norris notes, “We had a number of very high-quality applicants for this position, showing the breadth and depth of talent in jazz composition in Aotearoa.

“Andrew’s application was particularly notable for the way it promises to develop new cultural practices that emerge from a point of contact between jazz and traditional music of the Pacific, but coming from a standpoint of deep understanding and engagement."

Faleatua plans to explore how traditional instruments such as fagufagu (Samoan nose flute) and pū (conch shell) could be integrated into a jazz context, while also working with local jazz and taonga puoro players to find further points of musical connection.

Rapley sets things straight

Teremoana Rapley. Photo: Supplied.

If you’re looking for inspiration - Teremoana Rapley has been a great choice for decades.

Whether it’s her hall of fame music career - which gained yet another accolade with last week’s Independent Spirit Award at the Taite Music Awards - or the exceptional work she has done for countless creatives as an advocate, administrator and advisor, Rapley is one incredible woman.  Count The Big Idea in the long list of the Teremoana Rapley fan club.

And if you need any other reason to be impressed and inspired by this multi-talented artist and generous human being - take a look at her strength of character and positivity in the face of an inoperable brain tumour diagnosis, as told to André Chumko in the Sunday Star-Times (and well worth a read).

She’s been living (and thriving) with it for two years - it’s just news to those outside their inner circle. Sharing something so personal in such a public forum isn’t easy - and certainly not when the story deviates from the original.

She shares on social media “I admit I wasn’t ready for what seems to be three different platforms regurgitating three identical stories for clickbait based on goading both people who know and love me, as well as those who don’t know of me to become emotionally responsive to the possibility of my early death.

“I have spent the past 24 hours responding to family and friends who think I am on my deathbed because of their ‘coverage’.

"Fams, I am the healthiest and pain-free I have been in over two decades, I am so good.”

Rapley reiterates the following points:

  1. I am not on my deathbed or possibly dying in a few months from brain cancer
  2. I am living (keyword there) with brain cancer
  3. I consider cancer a blissing and a means of my body stating that I need to change what I was doing, thinking, prioritising and 
  4. That the dis-ease is not for me to own. I am learning to let go of what does not serve me.

The fire burns bright with Teremoana Rapley - and it’s a warmth the creative community needs more of.

Open access

Fonua Mana (Bull & O'Sullivan Architects, 2022). Photo: Peanut Productions.

One of Ōtautahi's annual fixtures is back this weekend, with architectural festival Open Christchurch,(3-5 May) opening up 50 buildings of various ages, styles and uses for the public to explore - along with a host of special events and guided walks.

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Court Theatre (Athfield Architects, 2025). Photo: courtesy of Christchurch City Council.

Of particular interest to many in the local creative community is likely to be a chance to get behind the hoardings for a tour of the new Court Theatre's much anticipated new premises. It's proven so popular that it's already booked out, showing how eager people are to get a sneak peek at what lies ahead for this cultural cornerstone.

Arts lovers can also get inside Te Whare Tapere/The Common Room - a kaupapa Māori space at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora.  It will include a roundtable discussion on what it is like to create and maintain such a space at the Arts Centre featuring Juanita Hepi (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Ngāti Mutunga, Moriori, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Wai, Ngāpuhi) & Chris Archer (Creative Director at The Arts Centre).

Other creative highlights include New Foundations, with a group of young storytellers presenting their reflections on architecture; Albert L. Refiti's free lecture on Roots and Routes of Pacific Architecture; and rare public access to the striking art deco building across from Margaret Mahy, the award-winning Fonua Mana Tongan Church, an update on the Christ Church Cathedral reinstatement project and Rangi Ruru’s Te Koraha.

New option for artists

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Mei Hill. Photo: Supplied.

A new opportunity has opened up for creatives - with artradie, a new online marketplace for Aotearoa visual artists.

Founder Mei Hill explains to The Lowdown “Being a visual artist myself, I wanted to establish an online space where each artist not only has their own shop, they also have easy access to all the tools needed to sell their work online. I wanted to make it affordable for artists too because I know from my own experience, how costs such as commission fees can really affect what visual artists earn from their work. 

“Over the years of selling my own artwork, I’ve learned a lot about what’s out there and also what’s required to make a successful sale. There are online sites here that are essentially a curated gallery of work. I thought what about if instead of one space, there was a platform with lots of spaces or shops as we call them on artradie.

“Being Māori, I’m a ‘tradie’ at heart and I guess some would say a creative entrepreneur so once I had the idea, I got straight onto making it happen. I guess I saw a gap and an opportunity, and I thought I’ll know whether this will work for visual artists by getting it out there.

“It’s a self-funded project and I’m proud of that. It’s also whanau-based and the site reflects our values. For example, artradie is all about Rangatiratanga – empowering visual artists to share their unique voices and stories through a buying and selling experience that they control.”

Hill says the reaction is "so far so good" with site feedback, and she hopes it makes a difference to others looking to gain a foothold in the market.

“There are many visual artists here who aren’t represented by galleries, or if they are, they would also like to sell work in other spaces. It’s really tough for visual artists who want to sell work and who aren’t represented by one or more galleries. Even visual artists who have their work in galleries often don’t have buyers.”

Sweet deal

Crocheting is going mainstream this Mother's Day.

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Dynamic duo Lissy and Rudi Robinson-Cole have earned a huge reputation in the creative community for their vibrant and large-scale installations but now they're going small and you'll see their mahi in supermarkets and dairies around Aotearoa.

Their crochet designs will adorn limited edition boxes of Cadbury's Roses.

The husband and wife team state "to put art that is so close to our hearts, and rich in meaning, onto its much-loved giftbox is a real thrill. Our mahi has been inspired by memories of our loved ones and we hope it encourages you to reflect and give thanks to those special people in your life this Mother’s Day. This box design is our way of honouring all of the beautiful wāhine and whānau across Aotearoa.”

Hard ACT to follow

Todd Stephenson. Photo: Supplied.

Out of ten, how much do you think Todd Stephenson wishes he didn't accept an interview with Steve Braunias?

Or at least done just a smidge of research first?

In an interview that's done the rounds of the creative community faster than a CNZ funding announcement - the newly appointed ACT party spokesperson for Arts, Culture and Heritage has found himself needing to dig his way out of a hole in the minds of the creatives he states he looks forward to engaging with.

There are only a select few that can match wit with Braunias, who is a fierce defender of the literary world and a hell of an interviewer. If you scroll through social media, you'll find not being able to name one Aotearoa author or any example of engaging with the arts in this country has gone down like a lead balloon. 

Indeed, Stephenson's subsequent social media posts on un-arts-related subjects have been met with musical theatre/literary jibes - something he may need to get used to.

Given ACT's previous treatment of much-respected poet Tusiata Avia, many were not going to miss their chance to give it back.