Saturday, November 19, 2016

Aaradhna speaks out

Aaradhna's speech at the VNZMA's on Thursday night, where she gave away her award for Best Urban/Hiphop album (to fellow finalists, SWIDT), has been attracting a lot of comment.

In case you missed her speech, it's in full here at The Spinoff

Snip: "... this song is ‘Brown Girl’, and it speaks so many things. 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’m a singer, I’m not a rapper, I’m not a hip-hop artist. It feels like I’ve been placed in the category of brown people. That’s what it feels like."

Later in the evening Aaradhna performed the song Brown Girl, ending it with the words of the song onscreen, saying "I'm not just the colour of my skin". It may not have appeared on TV, but she got a standing ovation at the end of the song.

The resonance of her performing this song at this spot, that was inspired by a series of racist outbursts that happened at a previous music awards is stunning. Here's that backstory....

Aaradhna: "I won my first award [at the 2013 nz music awards], and one of the girls heard – when I went up to get my award – heard a guy a few rows down from her say yell “fuck off back to India”. None of my brothers and sisters heard it, I’m glad they didn’t. He was talking a lot of shit.

"Then I won the second award and he goes “F off! Boo, Boo!” and stuff like that. That second time, my girl goes “oh you’d better be quiet, this is her brothers and sisters here and he goes, “I don’t give a damn, I don’t give a fuck”. And then I won the third award, and he got up and walked out. The whole time I didn’t know anything, and at the end of it she tells me about it.

"It was a good moment to win all the awards but that moment really ruined it for me you know? That one little thing is actually not little, it’s big and that’s the moment that made me feel like writing about it...."

Some of the commentary around her win and rejection of the urban/hiphop award has been along the lines of if she didn't want to be in that category, then don't enter. It's incredibly hard to get any recognition here if you work in the arts (not if you play rugby tho). 

Event organisers Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ) said they would consider looking at adding a soul/RnB category next year. RMNZ boss Damian Vaughn told The Wireless he thought her speech was the highlight of the show, and that her manager had already raised this issue of needing a new category previously (Aaradhna has also spoekn on this, as have other artists in these two genres that are lumped together).

"The category that she entered, that her management entered her into is Urban/Hip hop, and I think she used the time to point out that she doesn’t consider herself a rapper, and that the category doesn’t necessarily reflect the music that she’s making. How we define that category is working primarily within the urban genres of R&B, hiphop, soul and funk, and she was put forward by her management for that category.

"But it's not like the awards don’t evolve, so in the last few years we’ve tweaked a few categories with consultation with the artists who've entered into those categories previously."

It's good to see Vaughn responding positively to this  - I remember when the hiphop category was finally introduced in 2002, over a decade after people started making hip hop records here. The hiphop community here spent years agitating for an award at the music awards, and the industry here largely ignored it, just like they ignored rap cos they genuinely thought it was a fad that would die out., And then it become the biggest selling genre on the planet.

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