Fed by street culture and schooled by strict choirmasters, South Auckland musicians combine grit and polish into a musical signature like no other. Tight church -tuned harmonies and Polyfest winning moves are just a couple of the telltale hallmarks. Though putting this sound on the world stage and telling South Auckland stories hasn’t been easy.
Indeed, if you wormhole back to the 1990s, South Auckland music was very rarely heard outside the four walls of community halls, churches, nightclubs and garages. Radio stations just didn’t play music made by Māori and Pacific artists. They were also ignored by major labels.
Musicians had to make it for themselves. Musical lodestars, such as, Phil Fuemana, Ardijah, , OMC and Dawn Raid, helped to pave the way for those bristling with talent and ambition.
So how did South Auckland turn from a grassroots musical hub into a dream factory?
One of the forces that helped to fire up the Southside musical explosion was the Ōtara Music Arts Centre (OMAC) which fostered the careers of David Dallas, MC, Ōtara Millionaires Club (OMC), Cydel and others by providing a much-needed recording studio for musicians who did not have access to this kind of professional equipment.
Radio stations like Niu FM, Mai FM, Flava, Radio 531pi, Soul FM and cropped up to spread their music across the streets of South Auckland and beyond, and many of these stations helped to champion these artists by holding award nights, concerts and events.
Perhaps the biggest change came from within the community though. Musical visionaries provided the belief and scaffolding to help local talent reach for something a little bigger.
One such cultural catalyst was producer, musician and visionary Phil Fuemana, who can lay claim to producing OMC, Houseparty and starting Urban Pacifika Records. He knew all the musical talents in his neighborhood and helped musicians to come together, dream big and polish their songs for the international spotlight.
Thanks to the tenacity, innate talent and determination of these South Auckland artists and champions, musicians now have access to a much bigger stage to play on, and our latest exhibition Volume South touches on this story.
One story we’d like to delve a little deeper into is that of the emerging talent coming from this corner of the world, so we decided to profile three up–and-coming acts that hail from the Southside.