21 Jun 2017

NZ Music Awards ditches 'urban' category

8:27 pm on 21 June 2017

Auckland singer Aaradhna says she's delighted the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards has ditched the 'urban' category that led to accusations of racism at last year's awards.

Aaradhna at Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards 2016.

Aaradhna performs at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards in 2016. Photo: Supplied.

Singer-songwriter Aaradhna won 2016 Best Urban/Hip Hop Album, but refused to accept the award, saying she felt lumped into what was being treated as a category for "brown artists".

This year there will be two new categories instead - one for soul/RnB and the other for hip hop.

The awards will also ditch the gender distinction for Best Solo Artist - there will no longer be separate awards for males and females in that category.

At the time, Aaradhna said her album, Brown Girl, was about her experiences with racism and being placed in a box.

"If I were to accept this as an artist, it wouldn't be fair because I am a singer, not a rapper.

"I feel like I've been placed in a category of brown artists," she said, before giving the award to fellow nominees SWIDT.

The singer said she was delighted by the change.

"I'm really happy to hear about it," she said.

"As well as support, I caught a bit of flak [last year] from some people who didn't understand ... where I was coming from."

Aaradhna said the extra categories meant more artists would now have the opportunity to showcase their music.

While it was hard to completely eradicate racism, she said steps like these showed improvements were possible.

Recorded Music NZ chief executive Damian Vaughan said the changes were made after consultation with labels and managers, including Aaradhna, and aimed to reflect New Zealand's "ever-changing and dynamic industry".

"Consultation with our own membership and the artist feedback and indeed last year in Aaradhna's speech, find that things change, genres change and ... music understanding changes over time so we're just reflecting those conversations with our artists," he said.

Hip hop group SWIDT, who received the award from Aaradhna after she refused to accept it last year, said it was exciting that hip hop and soul and RnB were finally being recognised as separate genres.

SWIDT band member Spycc said the decision meant hip hop and soul and RnB artists would no longer have to unfairly compete against each other.

"They both deserve their own platform, their own recognition, their own award," he said.

"It's kind of crazy that for this long they've been put under one umbrella, so it's [the change] definitely a good move."

The awards will be held in Auckland in November.