21 Jun 2017

The VNMZA’s ‘Urban’ Catagory is no more

12:33 pm on 21 June 2017

Thank you Aaradhna.



Soul singer Aaradhna performs at the NZ Music Awards 2016.

Soul singer Aaradhna performs at the NZ Music Awards 2016. Photo: Supplied

Nominations opened today for the 2017 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards and (surprise!) changes are afoot.

You may recall when, at last year's awards, Aaradhna declined the award for Best Urban/Hip Hop Album, giving it instead to hip hop collective SWIDT and expressing her discomfort with the way the category lumped together genres.

In her speech she was frank about her issues with the award, telling the crowd: "If I were to accept this as an artist, it wouldn't be fair because I am a singer, not a rapper.”

Winning for her song ‘Brown Girl’, Aaradhna, who is of Samoan and Indian descent, said to accept would undermine the song itself.

“It speaks on racism and being placed in a box. And for me, I feel like if I was to accept this, I feel like I’m not being truthful in my song. And I feel like if you’re putting a singer next to a hip-hop artist, it’s not fair.

"I feel like I've been placed in a category of brown people."

It seems she was heard.

Replacing the category, are two new awards – ‘Best Hip Hop Artist’ and ‘Best Soul/RnB Artist’, which seem a far better representation of music as we know it.

In a statement, Recorded Music NZ CEO Damian Vaughan described the changes as sign of the times.

“We represent the recorded music industry, from artists and record companies through to everyday listeners.

“It’s important to be responsive to feedback from all corners of New Zealand, listen to those who make and release music, to constantly evolve the Music Awards, and to embrace the way people are consuming music today.”

Subtle as it may seem, the change is significant. While certain media outlets at the time described Aaradhna’s speech as some kind of pointed accusation of racism directed at the VNZMAs, what she really highlighted was the insidious and rampant whitewashing of a music industry that, while priding itself on diversity, still feels compelled to to enforce almost unspoken racial boundaries.

In addition to this change, the gender neutral ‘Best Solo Artist’ will replace ‘Best Male Solo Artist’ and ‘Best Female Solo Artist’, while.

All genre album categories (Best Rock, Best Pop, Best Alternative, Best Roots, Best Electronic, Best Worship, Best Classical, Best Hip Hop, Best Soul/RnB) plus Best Māori Album will be renamed ‘Best Artist’.

With the awards set to take place in November we have another five months before we see these changes in action, but for now we can take comfort in the knowledge that the future is nigh.