Rotorua singer-songwriter Hinerongonui Kingi professionally goes by the name Hi-Nes, the title coined by Smashproof’s Tyree Tautogia back in 2018. Her new single Are You Here? Are You There? has itself been through changes and been waiting a long time for release. NZ On Air Music featured it on their NewTracks compilation this April.
Kia ora! My full name is Brooke Hinerongonui Kingi, however, I am known as Hinerongonui. I was born and raised in the city of Rotorua alongside my six brothers and am of Ngati Pikiao, Tainui, Te Rarawa, Ngati Awa, Ngati Whakaue, Tuwharetoa descent.
My artist name is Hi-Nes pronounced how you would say highness – and it is a regal name given to me when I was creating my first music single in 2018 alongside NZ artists Pieter T and Tyree Tautogia from Smashproof. I grew up singing in a band with my father and brothers and over the years, played guitar, drums, bass, electric keyboards and, of course, the shakers, haha!
Absolutely. I believe all the performing arts I trained in and experienced contributed to my music and I’m glad to finally be at a point where I can put everything I’ve learnt together.
I was fortunate to do speech and drama (extra acting classes), Stage Challenge, music competitions and shows and kapa haka throughout the entirety of my high school years, which resulted in a young achiever award for music in my junior high school years and performing arts head prefect in my final year of high school.
In Year 9 my performing arts tutor encouraged me to audition for a television series where Māori youth from around NZ competed in a competition where you had to dance, sing, story-tell, haka, poi.
I was the youngest contestant at the time and that opportunity led to gaining lifelong friends in the haka and television world and also having my first experience in a recording studio. The family who ran the show invited me to Turangi following the show to record a track and that song came first in a songwriting competition.
My father was my ultimate hype man growing up encouraging me to gather and learn songs to practice and perform in bars and at functions and taking me along with him to the monthly local muso days.
I performed with my dad and in my band most weekends throughout high school. This included singing at boxing events, kapa haka competitions, weddings, and birthdays locally and around the North Island in particular.
In Year 10, I performed kapa haka concerts at Te Puia Māori Arts and Crafts Institute for the late Taini Morrison – female leader of the kapa haka group Te Mataarae I O Rehu and sister of Temuera Morrison. These experiences most definitely gave me a broad understanding of the value and healing qualities of performing arts, discipline and confidence to stand proud and represent my family, hapu and country with my head held high no matter where I am, and always give my all.
Ahh, yea maybe haha! I guess it just depends on where you are and what you’re into.
In the kapa haka world most people recognise me from performing in the group Te Mataare I Orehu who I competed with for 6 years. I was actually really fortunate to have experienced winning a National Matatini competition with this roopu in 2011 and got to travel to the Solomon Islands and represent NZ, so I met a lot of performing arts practitioners and good friends on that 3-week trip.
I was a lead actress in the Kairakau television series and featured on a Nova energy ad. I used to be on the front of the Air NZ magazine and that same photo made its way to some bus stations, brochures and articles in NZ and Australia. Plus I’ve modelled at various events such as the NZ wearable arts and featured in exhibitions at Te Papa Museum.
In 2016, I did my first bodybuilding competition which featured on the news and was also lead actress in Mau Theatre Company in the show Stones in her Mouth, and Korareka for Red Leap Theatre Company
I have performed alongside Whirimako Black at various events such as the Nga Herenga Waka Festival, and also travelled nationally and internationally as a dancer and singer with Mihirangi Fleeming to music festivals such as the Byron Bay Blues Festival in Australia and the World Indigenous Music Festival in Montreal, Canada.
I also perform bi-lingual children’s asthma shows in primary schools around NZ!
Hi-Nes is my stage name. I wasn’t intending to have a stage name, it kind of just happened that way! I have always been so proud to be Māori and my name was given to me by my grandmother when she was alive, it was her name.
The story goes that when my mother was pregnant she never knew the gender of the child until the day of birth. One early morning at around 3am apparently my grandma (my dad’s father’s sister) called my mum and said she had a dream. She said my mother would have a girl and her name was Hinerongonui. My mum said what does that mean and my Nan replied, “I don’t know but make sure everyone calls her Hinerongonui and not Hine.”
Growing up I was always making sure people said it correctly. It’s funny cause it was that very reason why I decided to have a stage name. Part of me still thinks it would be cool if people overseas could say Hinerongonui but after doing a bit of travel abroad I totally understand how difficult it can be to pronounce names in other languages.
I can honestly say I wouldn’t have accomplished half of what I have today without the love and support of my parents. They have always been very encouraging in my dreams and aspirations.
I was recording my first single Never Get Me Back ft Krisy Erin in the studio and Ty (from Smashproof) just goes, “Bro, what’s your stage name going to be?” and I was kind of like, “Ahh I dunno!”
He goes, “What about Hi-Nes?” And they’re vibing, and I’m just like, “Yeah okay! Haha!”
The life experiences I have had from when I first started writing has changed the delivery of my songwriting in the first instance.
When I first started writing songs there was an element of innocence in the delivery-being the world was just so beautiful. When I want to go back to that frequency I play and listen to those songs. All my songs then were more about emotions, feelings, overcoming things and quite broad in one instance. I speak metaphorically and was determined to spread positivity in music as most artists are.
My music songwriting now has evolved so much. I have a wide range of genres and topics I speak about, and after being around artists and producers at the top of their game I have learnt so much. I feel like I could write a song to nearly any tune and or beat now, and the inspiration to write comes at any time, e.g. while driving, walking, in the car.
If I have a guitar in my hand I’ll just start writing a song. I composed all my first songs using an acoustic guitar. As I grew up performing live music this was what was natural for me. I could connect with each chord, note and or frequency.
It took me a little while to discover how to write songs to a track, but once I got there I started writing all types of songs. My genres expanded. One of my songs I wrote was a poem and it was so easy and fun to write. I particularly like that it was different from all my other songs and doesn’t repeat itself or includes a hook.
I can be more open and honest now compared to when I first started writing and say things in my music I probably wouldn’t even say to my closest friends over coffee.
My first music single Never Get Me Back got number 1 on Google Play and iTunes when it was released, that was pretty cool. That first single I worked so hard behind the scenes (physically, spiritually, emotionally and of course on the track itself), and it created such a massive wave.
I got to perform with Mihirangi Fleming after Allen Stone in Australia, and my dressing rooms were next to Six60 which was cool!
One of my ultimate memorable performances was performing in Montreal at the World Indigenous Music Festival. There were around 4,500 acts and we were voted in the top 3 acts and got to perform in the VIP room and at the after function. It was such a beautiful experience and the audience was in tears lining up to give us a hongi and say thank you for coming, and you could feel they truly meant it. Those memories I’ll remember forever.
The whole story behind it and the journey of creating the story itself. I’m so grateful to NZ On Air for funding this single – it gave me the green light to go ahead.
It’s about a time in my life when I was healing. Literally shredding un-useful layers. With that came a whole reconstruction. Reconstructure meaning the process of building or creating something again that has been damaged or destroyed, to construct again, rebuild, make over:
Are you here? – in reference to my mental and spiritual well-being, in reference to being in the now, like the book The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Are you there? – meaning are you trapped in your mind, are you entwined in the matrix, in a spiritual world that isn’t here? A level not on this frequency.
That’s essentially what this song is about. Acknowledging that experience in order to progress forward.
My favourite moment of the single was the moments just after recording both the videos for the song – as I did two versions of the song.
I felt such a sense of achievement and gratitude for everything. My family, my experience, both good and bad, that led me to that point and I was just so happy I did it and with whom I was able to do it. It just felt so natural and easy. No dramas. Was so grateful.
I wrote it in 2019 and it was one of the first songs I wrote when learning how to write a track. It’s had a few versions and somewhere in the earlier stages was actually made into a reggae song! I wrote it in like 10 minutes and the style was heavily influenced by my youngest brother who I spent a lot of time around at that time.
My younger brother passed away unexpectedly the week before I started recording this song and I remember sitting in the studio feeling really raw when I first started recording.
I got the track remade and along the way got linked up to a bunch of awesome producers and video photographers. I had just met Jazzo, Jasmine Pene, who was my sound engineer when we recorded this and she is such a vibe to work with. She invited me to her friend’s home studio and we just went from there.
Some of my recordings got lost so I ended up in Auckland at her studio set up finishing the track and we actually had an amazing night finishing the recording with an unexpected seafood boil and creamed paua for dinner, haha! Edy put his mastering expertise on at the end and we were away.
That your experiences and background don’t define you. Your bad experiences add character and value to help others through. You are loved! To hear the song and for it to reach them on a frequency that talks directly to their soul. To give them a moment to go into those feelings they may try to avoid, sit in them and go, “Yea, I got this.”
You will see with my songs to come – there’s a difference between writing songs you know people will like and then putting yourself out there to go, “Hey you alone in your room, sad, I got you!” It’s quite obvious because of what it makes me feel like. If I can dance to it it’s a vibe, if I can’t, then I’m in my feelings.
I am an independent artist but have grown a pretty good network. I can see with the workload and volume of songs to come I’m going to need a bigger team though.
For now, I’m fortunate to have support from Norm Rahiri at the local iwi radio station who’s always playing my songs here in Rotorua and sending my tracks off to the iwi radio stations here in NZ, so really blessed to have that support in the first instance. DRM NZ distributes my music.
Shelz Media is an awesome one on the team as he does photography, video photography and sound recording. I’ve been working with him for a number of projects. My family – my brothers and parents – I can always call on to help out on set whether it’s in the shot or out of the shot.
Turanga Merito is amazing and a good source to call upon for contemporary dancers. I have two photographers who are always keen for a creative shoot and a makeup artist and hairstylist I can call upon at any hour which is super handy.
On another note, with my first three music singles I worked alongside a bunch of dancers who were all leaders and producers in their own right, and they were all such good energy to work with. The nature of the song and surrounding events led me in a different direction for this part of my journey regarding my team but I always remember those who have helped me along the way.
Yes. I have recorded three other singles while working on Are You Here? Are You There? and am in early stages of production for my first EP and full-length album. I have more singles and an album to come this year!
Yup! I applied with the same track in an earlier application and it got declined. I received another email saying NZOA only accepted studio recording demos of songs, not phone recordings and to please send the track through with a studio recording, which is what I ended up doing. This was gold advice because it actually pushed me to just get in the studio and start recording my songs to release.
My advice is to unapologetically be YOU! Focus on you. How you can share your gift, skills and talent, and ask for advice from those who may know if you’re unsure how to get ahead. There’s a lot that comes with being in the music industry but through it all hold onto your essence and remember You are the gift to the world. Keep shining!
I love meditating, walking at home videos and yoga if I need to retune on Youtube, and actually listening to audiobooks and preaching on podcasts when I’m out walking. That’s my go-to!
I have two music videos for the song Are You Here? Are You There? on Youtube – a live version and then the one recorded in studio. Both of the videos were filmed by Shelz Media.
Just thank you to everyone who has supported me. I am so thankful!