Speech at the Vodafone Pacific Music Awards

Vodafone Pacific Music Awards, 24 May 2018

Vodafone Events Centre, 770 Great South Rd, Manukau, Auckland 



E’etai ia le paia maualuga ua afifio ma papa aao nei, le paia le popo, ma le mamalu ua o’o, aua Samoa ma Tagata o le Pasefika ua aofaga potopoto.

I thank the Chair & Trustees of the Pacific Music Awards for all your work and for the invitation to speak tonight.

I acknowledge the presence of our beautiful and gifted artists & nominees.

I thank also my parliamentary colleagues, Hon. Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

I lau Afioga Faolotoi Reupena Pogi, Consul-General of Samoa, Mrs Rosie Blake, the Cook Islands Consul General.

Our church leaders, our traditional leaders, our chiefs and orators.

And to our generous sponsors whose loyalty and commitment has sustained these awards for so many years now. Ladies & gentlemen, families, friends and supporters. Warm Pacific Greetings.

My elders have often said, E le falala fua laau o le vao. The trees of the forest do not move without reason.

E mafua ona falala, ona ua agi le matagi. They move because the winds have begun to blow.

Tonight, I feel the winds of change in the air. We’re all here to celebrate and acknowledge your artistic successes, there is no doubt.

But it’s also a time to reflect on our past, and to gain inspiration from it, as we look to the future.


Pacific Music Awards

The Pacific Music Awards was set up to realise a vision for the celebration of Pacific music.  We’re realizing that vision here tonight.

It’s now an iconic event — a highlight of the New Zealand music industry calendar.  I never once doubted that it would be.  Our people are just naturally gifted when it comes to music and the arts. 

I recall back in 2005 when Rev Mua, Sina and Petrina came to seek help from the former Manukau City Council to sponsor and support a new initiative called the Pacific Music Awards. 

I didn’t need to be convinced about supporting it. We just had to work out how we could get the funding from Manukau City Council and to keep the Pacific Music Awards in the Southside.

Well we did it, and it’s probably one of the best investment the Manukau City Council ever made. The Awards moved here in 2006, and I’m so pleased that we continue to celebrate it in Southside Auckland.

There are so many people who shared our vision back then, and laid the foundations for this magnificent achievement.

They include the Trustees of the Pacific Music Awards, the many wonderful public, private & industry sponsors, and all of you, the musicians, your families and the wider Pacific community, here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and throughout the Pacific region.


PMA’s success

I knew then, the Pacific Music Awards would someday become a recognised iconic feature of the international music scene.

I believed it then, and I believe it now.

Every year since 2005, the line-up of fantastic Pasifika talent has continued to grow and grow.

Philip Feumana;  Kas Futialo The Feelstyle; Adeaze; Ardijah; Dei Hamo; Bill Sevesi; Savage; Aradhnah; Chong Nee; The Yandall Sisters; Te Vaka; Scribe; Three Houses Down; Ladie6; Devolo; Nesian Mystik; Tigilau Ness; Annie Crummer; Vaniah Toloa; Mavis Rivers; Sole Mio; King Kapisi; Che Fu; Herbs; Brooke Fraser; Annie Grace; Vince Harder; Pacific Underground; Opetaia Foai; Brother Love; Kings, Punialava’a and one of the youngest General Fiyah, and that’s only naming a few, as there are so many, many more, of our gifted artists that have been recognized over the years by the Pacific Music Awards.

Your successes as Pacific artists was not just based on your own genius but also on our recognition of the power and potential of our music, our languages, our customs, and your ancestral heritage.


So where to now?

Where do we need to go now?

Is this it? Is this all we’re capable of achieving?

I say, resoundingly, NO! We can and must achieve more.

The Pacific Music Awards is an asset — a Pacific and a national asset in the new Aotearoa-New Zealand that is now emerging around us.

What we need to do now, is to protect and develop that asset and increase its value and contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand.

I’d like to see the Pacific Music Awards Trust open up to the community and see how it can better capture and serve the talent we see here tonight.


And take it to the next level

Please don’t take that as a criticism, that’s not what I’m saying. Let me be clear. I’m saying we need to take things to the next level, a higher level.

I’d like to see the Pacific Music Award Trust operate as a body that not only celebrates Pacific talent but also protects, develops and grows our musical talent, our knowledge of the industry and our influence.

Why is it that we have so much talent, but still have so many of you who aren’t able to make a living from your music? Is that just the nature of the business, or is there another way?

Why is it that we have so much original content, and your music gets played on the airwaves but you’re not earning any royalties? How can we get APRA to help us in this space?

Surely, we have a unique point of difference based on our language, culture and Pacificness, or Nesian identity that we should be promoting and growing.

Surely, we can do more.

These are questions I’d like to see the Trust and our sponsors to take on board.


As we look to the future, let me say this;

A people is defined by its languages and culture. It’s what makes us who we are, our ways of perceiving the world and ourselves. Our culture is our identity.  If we lose those elements, we lose our uniqueness and become just like everybody else.  Why would we want to be like everybody else? 

Our ancestors navigated their way through the vast oceans in canoes made from natural materials.  They took with them their cultural traditions, their languages, their spirituality, and taro.

They were guided by reading the currents and swells of the ocean waters, the flight paths of birds, reading the stars, and knowing the exact spot where the sun would rise and set. They relied heavily on constant observation and memorization – constantly being aware of their surroundings.

They did not have watches, compasses, I-phone or speedometers, but they had their minds and the ability to memorize their surroundings, and with constant observation they reached their new destinations.

We must do the same with taking our Pacific Music into the future, to the next level, a higher level.

When the European explorers arrived years later to the Pacific region, they were surprised to see the Pacific islands were already populated.

Let us surprise the whole world again with our Pacific music – by being bold, innovative and being really successful at it.

We must continue to be brave and navigate our Pacific artists through the digital divide.  We must counter balance the contemporary artistry with our unique indigenous cultures. 

I’d like to see the Pacific Music Awards working across government and business to ensure that our talented young people get their just commercial reward.

That we as Pacific communities benefit from the surging talent that defines us.

I’d like to see the Pacific Music Awards Trust help ensure that our artists benefit from the businesses that their talent generates. That they receive their fair share of the profits. That those profits come home and don’t just evaporate overseas. That our communities benefit from the business investments our arts and music generate.

You’ve all heard of Sir Peter Jackson, you’ve all heard of Wellywood. Well, I’d like to see a commercial music hub just like that, develop right here for our Pacific musicians.

I believe we can do it. This is our asset. We can build a music industry that while global in its reach is firmly rooted in its Pacific home and identity. An industry that generates employment and wealth for our Pacific artists

I want to challenge the Pacific Music Awards Trust to do more, and as they do so, I can assure you, I will do all in my power to support and encourage them.

The future is what we make it and the prospects are golden, let’s make it happen.

Kia Kaha. Fa’afetai ma ia Soifua