The future of NZ music? A new generation of performers on K' Road

Photography/ Charles Buenconsejo

Making it

Just off Karangahape Road, a bunch of music students are singing, rapping, and performing their ways towards the future.

Singer Laekin Anania is leaning back against a shop window inside St Kevins Arcade; a man across from her is listening intently while she talks about the music line-up. Nearby, fellow music students – looking like a cluster of black fabric and pink dye – are eating vegetarian burgers, fuelling up for the night ahead. “We aren’t dressed up properly yet – we’ve got a bit of time before we’re on stage!” one of them yells. Down the arcade’s steps, Karangahape Road falls from view. Junior Fuimaono looks up briefly and smiles – he’s busy writing something on Mercy Fuatele’s arm with a black marker – then his grey snapback cap dips again. Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Teia Kennedy is on the hunt for a manager to take her to the next level. She’s wearing a wide-brim hat with a patterned shirt and green boots. “This is my look,” she says. “Not everyone likes it, but it’s the real me.”

Downstairs at The Wine Cellar, the energy is electric as students and staff from the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand (MAINZ) set up gear and find bandmates for the first-ever MAINZ Arcade, a night where more than 50 students perform everything from soul, rock, R&B, thrash and hip-hop to experimental, undefined genres, with original songs and arrangements. This is one of a suite of live venue events led by MAINZ programme manager Kingsley Melhuish in which students are thrown in the deep end to get a feel for the music industry while fostering whanaungatanga – the connections, belonging, and relationships they’ll need for productive collaboration and getting ahead in a tough industry. There’s also monthly gig MAINZstage, featuring the performances of alumni, current students and staff (many of them industry heavyweights) and friends of the faculty. Held on the last Friday of each month, it transforms the school’s auditorium on Victoria Street into a free, all-ages gig.

At Whammy Bar, the other venue for the event, the buzz is rising, and good friends Jazzmin Pearse and Cathy Vaiangina, both vocalists, are getting ready for their set. Lucy Eldby, a bassist, stays close to the sound desk. Ta’a Filipo – an alumnus freshly back from acting gigs in LA – loves to make beats for his sister, rapper Marie Filipo. Drummer Daniel Barker is busy chatting to one of his tutors, while guitarist Richard Moore takes a moment to tune up.

For some students, tonight is their first time in a bar. As sound check wraps up and the lights go down, a father behind me congratulates his son on making it this far. Then the music begins.

Junior Fuimaono, Rotiva Siamomua, Rodney Afuie, Mercy Fuatele, Arnold Moemai (left to right)

Funk and soul performers

Do you play covers or originals?
Rotiva Siamomua: We play originals and heaps of funk and soul.

Arnold Moemai: Our passion we have for music is what drew us here.

Cathy Vaiangina

Rapper, bassist and producer

Your rapping is dope – is that your calling?
Honestly, I make everything! Hip-hop, R&B, reggae, trap, everything! I’ve got an open heart. I love the networking at MAINZ, just connecting with like minds and getting to collaborate and make tracks.

Richard Moore

Ambient alt rocker

What would you call your music?
Well, it’s hard to name – I just call it ambient alt rock, that seems to cover it. Performing live, for me, it’s that thing where you get into the love of the music, your band vibes, the audience vibes, whatever that is – it’s that.

Laekin Anania

Acoustic musician

Describe your sound?
I play acoustic tracks mostly – I’m learning how to make my music sound a lot more produced. It’s so cool having that knowledge. When I’m on stage I feel so proud, it’s a big thing to do that. I like to make people feel how I feel when I’m looking up at someone on stage.

Lucy Eldby

Punk musician

Tell me about your band.
I play in an all-girl punk band. Our songs are mostly about things that make us angry. Music is a really good outlet for that – it’s so invigorating. We make music we think is awesome, and people fucking love it.

Dan Barker

Funk and soul artist

What are you working on?
I’m making funk and soul at the moment. It’s really easy to make friends at MAINZ. You get to hang out with people like you. It’s all rock ‘n’ roll.

Josh Mati

Hip-hop artist

Are you making beats?
I make old-school hip-hop, nineties hip-hop, I love that sound. Jazz is my life. I’m definitely influenced by a nineties flavour

Jasmine Reeves

Singer-songwriter

What’s the true power of music?
I love that music brings everyone together, we can all enjoy it – it’s for everyone.

Shannon Marr (left) and Janson Ward

Hip hop, reggae, jazz and funk musicians

Why did you come to MAINZ?
Janson Ward: We’re exploring, we’re here to expand what we know.

Shannon Marr: We’re about hip-hop, reggae, funk, and jazz, just
a fusion of everything really.

Janson Ward: It’s nice and diverse and they push you at MAINZ. They get you to connect with different people, to experience different energy, to make different sounds.

Teia Kennedy

Acoustic folk artist

Have you adjusted to the big smoke?
Kind of… coming up from Wairoa to Auckland was huge. This year is definitely better than the last. My music is acoustic folk, I wouldn’t really know what to call it but that’s how I’d label it. This is me, this is my look. Not everyone likes it, but it’s the real me.

Ta’a Filipo

Beat maker, producer and actor

What do you love about performance?
The rush… [we] celebrate nightly and everyone rages!

Rose McGrannachan

Event management student

You’re in events, right?
Yeah – I’m doing a MEM (Music and Event Management Diploma). It’s less about making and more about facilitating. This is my love – festivals, music, all of it. Events are like books: you have a reader and you have a book and I’m the person in between the two of them making it all happen

Adam Fuller

Live sound student

What’s it like behind the scenes?
I’m studying Live Sound. It’s been pretty good and I’ve gotten a whole lot of live performance experience, especially with Rockquest being on lately and gigs like tonight. I really wanted to do stuff on stage but I wasn’t talented enough to perform, so I’m the guy setting the levels and making it all come together.

Jazzmin Pearse

Pop singer

Tonight is a big deal, yeah?
For some people here tonight – some of them are really young and it’s the first time they’ve even been to a bar! I’ve met a lot of people at MAINZ and made some really good friends like Cathy [Vaiangina]. I love pop, it’s a little shameful but I’ve always loved it! It’s easy to sing along to and I’m a singer so that’s my thing. Tonight is a big deal.