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Pacific Music Awards 2023: Pasifika musicians celebrated in island style

Mary Afemata

Pasifika musicians recognised at Pacific Music Awards 2023

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Traditional beats of the islands proved to be the winning recipe at this year’s Pacific Music Awards - just as much as the contemporary sounds of today were celebrated.

Starting in 2005, this year’s awards night saw many of New Zealand’s and the Pacific’s most well-known artists come together to celebrate all things music at the Due Drop Events Centre in South Auckland.

One of the biggest wins of the night went to Napier’s Victor J Sefo, for the song that went viral during last year’s Rugby League World Cup tournament - 685 - as Toa Samoa fans used it as an anthem to support their team.

The young musician, who shared his story in the Herald yesterday, won Best Pacific Song for the hit that also features New Zealand-born and Apia-raised rapper Poetik and West Sydney-based musician and actor BIGGs685.

“To have my own postcode to be number one in a different country - man, it speaks volumes,” Sefo said last night.

L-R: Victor J Sefo, BIGGs685 and Poetik performing the hit song 685 live for the first time last night. Photo / Emma Cooper

An emotional BIGGs685, real name Elijah Tovio, said he was lost for words at the recognition and acknowledged that the song had made history on various levels.

Last night was also the first time Sefo performed 685 live - much to the delight of the cheering crowd.

Sefo, who is not signed to a label, also took home the Independent Music Award. The award was presented to him by rapper, singer and songwriter Kings, who is also known for his independent road to musical success.

“It’s crazy that I’m getting recognised. End of the day, producing is all a part of being independent. Best song - it’s all about being independent.

“I’m not meant to be here. I’m supposed to be picking apples back in Hawke’s Bay or something I,” Sefo said.

“I found out in doing it [independently], I had my own voice in everything that I did.”

‘I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the community’

Best Pacific Male Artist Melowdowns and video director Connor Pritchard. Photo / James Ensing-Trussell

Avondale MC and rapper Melodownz was named Best Pacific Male Artist; as well as being awarded the Best Pacific Music Video and Best Pacific Music Album accolades for his album Lone Wolf.

He was one of the big winners of the night and paid tribute to the Pacific community for their support of Pasifika talent.

“I just want to encourage all the indigenous artists doing their thing. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the community. It’s always cool to give back.

“If you’re an established artist, make sure you go back to the community and touch base because...there is some crazy talent out there right now.”

Best Pacific Female Artist Olivia Foa'i. Photo / James Ensing-Trussell

Singer and songwriter Olivia Foa’i - daughter of Pacific music legend Opetaia Foa’i, of award-winning group Te Vaka - was another notable face on stage.

She was named Best Pacific Female Artist and also won Best Pacific Language for her song: Sunlight.

South Auckland reggae band Three Houses Down won Best Pacific Roots / Reggae Artist this year, for their hits The Dream and She Loves Me; while another much-loved Southside group - Deceptikonz - was awarded the coveted Best Pacific Group award for their come-back album In Perpetuity.

Members of South Auckland reggae band Three Houses Down and some family members. Photo / Stijl / James Ensing-Trussell

L-R: Nanai Manutoipule Viellani, Melody and Punialava'a Lale Peteru, of Samoan band Punialava'a. Photo / James Ensing-Trussell

Samoan music royalty Punialava’a was awarded the Best Pacific Gospel Artist gong for their song Tagi le atunu’u pele (A beloved country weeps).

The song was penned by founding member Rev Lale Peteru, who started writing the song as Samoa was hit with a devastating measles epidemic in 2019, when the majority of the total 83 deaths were children.

Other notable awards included the Best International Pacific Artist - which went to Tongan-Hawaiian singer Josh Tatofi - and Best Producer to Mareko x Ricky Paul for their collaborative work on Untitled: ACT 1.

Recording artist the late Antoni Williams received this year's Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo / Emma Cooper

The People’s Choice Award-Best Pacific Artist gong went to fan favourite Wayno, while the Most Promising Pacific Artist went to rising Southside singer Teo Glacier. DJ Lady Shaka received a Creative NZ award for her innovative and genre-bending music and international success.

Other awards recognised the success of artists’ songs via various platforms. SWIDT featuring Lomez Brown picked up the Radio Airplay Award for Kelz Garage and Savage and Aaradhna’s 2005 hit They Don’t Know won them the Streaming Award for reaching 28.2 million streams on Spotify and YouTube.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to the late Cook Islands singer Toni Williams, whose voice captivated audiences throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s in songs like The One I Sing My Love To and Rose Can I Share A Bed With You.

- additional reporting: Vaimoana Mase

Hero Image: Victor J Sefo accepts the award for Best Pacific Song at this year's Pacific Music Awards. Photo / Emma Cooper

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