Staged mid-year, the Pacific Music Awards are something of a best-kept-secret in the context of our local music industry’s annual ceremonies, surpassing bigger and lesser events in terms of entertainment, integrity and artist valuation. The Pacific Music Awards 2016 were no exception.
Okay, so keeping schedule is not a consistent strength, but with the sparkling, fun-poking wit of MC Yolande Ah Chong, and the merit of many recipients’ thank you speeches, time overruns are easily forgiven by the live audience. Part of that response stems from the use of Manukau’s modestly-sized Vodafone Events Centre, where the finalists, players and crowd almost co-mingle, and most feel very much at home in their own community environs.
The 12th annual Pacific Music Awards, held on Thursday June 9, once again lived up to the event’s billing of ‘celebrating Pacific music’, this year with a focus on the people of Tonga, and a sense of expansion in the awards’ international intentions. The night’s theme stemmed from a Bob Marley quote, “Don’t forget your history, nor your destiny”, and the Onehunga Tongan Methodist Church Brass Band kicked proceedings off in some style.
The first gong up was the Phil Fuemana Award for Most Promising Artist, which went to Mikey Mayz, and his recent single Reload. The Tongan urban artist had a breakthrough year in 2015 with singlesSunshine and Thunder.
Mayz may well have the necessary qualities to replicate the success of Vince Harder, who was one of the night’s two big winners, taking home to Sydney the awards for Best Pacific Male Artist and Best Pacific Urban Artist, for his album ‘Rare Vision’.
That recognition of his talent as a recording and performing artist was complemented by his win in the newly-added Best Producer category, given both for his album and for single Start Again, a co-write with Stan Walker. Along with Troy Kingi, the pairing also currently hold APRA’s Maioha Award for their collab’ed te reo anthem Aotearoa.
The night’s other big winners were disappointingly absent, though for very good reason. Opetaia Foa’I, the founder, lead and songwriter of Te Vaka, is still busy in the States finishing off the soundtrack for Disney’s next anticipated blockbuster film, Moana.
Te Vaka have an extensive history of success at the PMA and perhaps because of that the response to their winning the Best Pacific Song award (for Papua I Sisifo) was unusually muted. Later on in the night however the band also claimed the Best Pacific Music Album award (Tui) for ‘Amataga’, its eighth collection of songs released in late 2015, and this time the audience response was much warmer.
Savage was given the Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement, and a moving musical tribute was made to much-loved, legendary Tongan musician Bill Sevesi (Wilfred Jeffs), who died in April aged 92.
Another highlight came with the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Christchurch’s Pacific Underground, which was formed in 1993, and the award was graciously accepted by Pos Mavaega and Tanya Muagututi’a.
The subsequent performance by various members of what is the country’s longest running Pacific arts organisation, notably including cousins Scribe and Ladi 6, alongside Anton Carter and Dallas Tamaira, crowned off another great Pacific Music Awards celebration night.