In a genre dominated by male artists, 18-year-old reggae-roots artist Majic Paora has been logging one success after the other, both here and overseas. Not only has she been able to work in NZ as an independent musician for two years, she has also played with many of the biggest names in reggae internationally. In 2012 she got to record a song at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. For her reggae is an entire way of life, one that deals with issues of inequality and disparity. Recently signed by German record label Oneness, her debut album is due out in November. Huia Hamon caught up with Majic at the Waiata Maori Music Awards in Hastings.
She’s a young wahine with a smokey sweet voice. Majic Paora may be a recent winner of the Audience.co.nz Wildcard, but her work as a singer began many years ago. With the support of her whānau and established fan base, the coming year sees this 18-year old reach some massive milestones, as well as bringing a new life into the world.
Wearing a comfy bright coral dress nestling her beautiful hapu belly, Majic has a serene and innocent vibe about her. Once we settle in and start to korero it’s clear she is a confident young woman with realistic yet humble goals.
Her song Mi Deh Yah won the $10,000 Wildcard grant, which for a small whānau run company is a huge resource and opportunity. Even with her many fans, Majic was still surprised by the Audience win.
“We hassled the hell out of everyone. I was saying, ‘If you’re getting sick of me [on Facebook] then un-friend me because this is my page. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look!’ We are so humbled by all the support.”
With the grant they plan a rootsy music video for Mi Deh Yah, which will be about giving back to all the people that have supported them over the years. Not only does she have authenticity as an artist and conscious lyrical content, it is also the endless touring and reaching out to rural Aotearoa which has solidified her fanbase.
In one year Majic and her team did over 80 gigs, travelling to small settlements that rarely get the chance to see any live music. Gifting maraes and local halls this experience means so much to these audiences and including them in her touring schedule is equally as important to Majic. She will be paying tribute to all her fans by weaving this story and the people into video for the Mi Deh Yah.
While they are looking to explore other styles in her next album (tentatively called ‘Oneness’) the core of Majic’s music is reggae.
“The style of the album will be more traditional reggae, what they play overseas more than our Kiwi style of reggae. Reggae music shares the same philosophy as we do. I listen to people singing to Bob Marley, ‘Oh what a rat race’ and I’m thinking… ‘He could be singing about you. Do you actually know what he’s saying?’ It sounds uplifting, but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s deep and political. I want to do this with my own music and reggae music shares our core beliefs.
It’s taken a couple of years to decide what musical direction to take. At one stage Majic thought she wanted to be like Mariah Carey or Beyonce.
“And my dad was like, ‘Nooo’, ha ha.”
They kept returning to the reggae vibe because it aligned with the their belief in Kotahi Aroha (One Love) and also the positivity in the messages of reggae music.
“Reggae is rebel music and reflects our work with indigenous rights,” Majic affirms .
These philosophies have been true since she started performing music at the age of 12 and uploaded her first acoustic songs to Youtube. This early fame and experience means that Majic is more like a veteran singer than a new artist, touring extensively through Aotearoa, Australia and recently visiting the States to perform at the massive Reggae On The River in Garberville, just out of San Francisco, which has an audience of over 30,000. That trip was another level in experience for her.
“Being part of Reggae On The River festival for me, just totally promoted what reggae is about, just what they were talking about on stage. It wasn’t like, ‘You small guys over here, us big guys over here, get out of the way’. It was just about connecting with everyone. From the hospitality to the way you were treated to the overall vibe.”
Majic’s original set was with The Devastators, a reggae roots band from San Diego, backing. Her travelling companion was Ara Tamatea and this was her first time handling the travelling and organising logistics which her dad usually does.
“It was a massive learning curve for me as I’m not the most street smart person,” she admits with a cheeky grin.
She met up with Noah Cronin when she performed at the Mayjah Rayjah festival, one of Hawaii’s largest festivals and now here in NZ. Cronin co-produced Likkleman, her latest single, and also showed her around Hawaii. This island nation is becoming a hotspot for our artists such as Pieter T, Awa, JGeeks and Katchafire, and Majic Paora is already making waves there.
Future projects include working with a German label, writing to some roots riddims and a gig coming up in Hastings (baby permitting!). She feels her whānau team are finally establishing themselves and all their hard work is coming to fruition. It is well deserved, as Majic is an important role model for many aspiring young singers and as her future as a young, hardworking mum.
“Always be appreciative of the support you do get. Here and there you will bump into people that do help you and you don’t realise at the time. You never get anywhere just by yourself. Just mahi hard and always be appreciate of the blessings, this is something I am maturing into.”