Photography/ Charles Buenconsejo
Just off Karangahape Road, a bunch of music students are singing, rapping, and performing their ways towards the future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Beat maker, producer and actor
What do you love about performance?
The rush… [we] celebrate nightly and everyone rages!
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
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.
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.