*All photos courtesy of and provided by Awa
If you already didn’t know, reggae is immensely popular in New Zealand. The genre was popularized as far back as the 1970s and 1980s by bands such as Herbs and Unity Pacific. In 1979, Bob Marley’s legendary concert, at the country’s Western Springs Stadium, had a tremendous influence on many artists to form their own bands; many believed it was the catalyst for the spread of the genre. Additionally, some of the island’s Maori people gravitated towards the Rastafarian religion that also contributed to the rise of reggae in New Zealand.
Today, one of the most prominent artists to hit the scene is Awa (a former member of the band Nesian Mystik). Now as a solo artist, his signature sound that blends romantic reggae and soulful R&B has captivated New Zealand’s listeners. His debut EP, Native Intel (2011), earned him three Maori Music Awards for Best Maori Songwriter, Best Song and Best Maori Male Artist. Two years later, Awa’s follow up album, Heartbeat (2013), broke the Top 10 New Zealand Album Chart for his hits “Home”, “Perfect Day” (featuring Hawaii’s Anuhea) and “Back In My Life” (featuring New Zealand’s House of Shem). Now in 2014, this double platinum artist continues to pen more hit songs, especially on collaborations with CRSB and Pieter T. Recently, we caught up with Awa to talk about his career, upcoming concert and latest single.
How did your reggae music become so popular in New Zealand?
I’ve only recently gone solo after being a member of the successful Polynesian group Nesian Mystik. Our group holds the record for most Top Ten singles in New Zealand history. So I was lucky to already have a good profile here in NZ. Musically, I think people resonate with the stories I write about, they feel the wairua (spirit) and aroha (love).
Tell us more about your latest single “No Better” with Pieter T (i.e. the story behind the lyrics, its sound etc.).
My latest single is called “No Better” features a good friend of mine Pieter T. The song is about a love that “can’t get no better”. A connection with someone deeper than the physical, it’s one of the soul. I’m a big fan of Lovers Rock Reggae, probably because I’m such a romantic. I also love the saxophone; I wish I had learned to play it when I was younger. So I asked the talented Nicky Manuputty to bless the track with his skills and he did a great job! It debuted on the iTunes Top Songs chart at 56! I’m so happy about that!
You have collaborated with many artists such as House of Shem, Anuhea, CRSB and Pieter T. Are there any other artists you would like to work with?
I really enjoy collaborations. I love sharing the energy of creating! The artists I’d most like to collaborate with in the near future include Eli Mac and Rebel Souljahz.
How did your music career begin?
Being Maori, we are brought up around music, singing and performing. It’s part of our culture and how we remember who we are and where we come from. I’m really thankful for this, as it laid the foundation for my music career.
Where do you draw inspiration from during your songwriting process?
I draw my inspiration from life. The challenge as an artist is being able to channel and interpret that inspiration into art. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to develop this, so that I can find inspiration in what may seem to be the most mundane.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
My biggest musical influences are Bob Marley, UB40, Michael Jackson, Babyface, D’Angelo, Musiq Soulchild and Boyz II Men.
What contemporary reggae artists are you listening to right now? Do you have a favorite song at the moment?
The contemporary reggae artists I dig at the moment are Rebel Souljahz, plus they are really nice guys. My favourite song of theirs would be “Play Me Like a Fool”.
You blend reggae with pop, R&B and other styles. Are there any other genres you’d like to fuse reggae with?
Yeah! My style is definitely a fusion of R&B and Reggae because those styles come very naturally to me. But I love all music! For those that are interested in hearing another side to my music, check out my songs “Viper Room” and “Ghost Mode”!
Where can your fans see you perform live? Will you be on tour anytime soon?
I’ll be performing in New Zealand over our summer and I’m also part of the One Love Concert. Then I’m looking to get back over to Hawaii and the U.S in the new year. I’ll also be releasing an exclusive album in Japan with major label JVC, so I’m busy finishing that as well!
Is there anything else you would like your fans to know?
Firstly, I’d just like to really thank everyone out there who has taken the time to buy one of my songs. It’s really challenging being a musician and running a music label, but with your support I can continue to do what I love. I want to thank everyone that has passed on my music to other people, or taken the effort to request my songs on radio. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share my art with the world.
If you’d like to follow me and stay up to date with what I’m doing, feel free to check out my social networks!
Official Site: www.awamusic.co.nz
Watch Awa’s most popular music videos. How do you like Awa’s music? Comment below!
“Back In My Life” featuring House of Shem
“Perfect Day” featuring Anuhea
“Baby It’s You” featuring CRSB
“No Better” featuring Pieter T