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Rhythm Nation Winners Excel On Urban Music Release

Te 9 o nga ra o Hongongoi 2004 / 9 July 2004

Rhythm Nation Winners Excel On Urban Music Release

A unique urban music talent search is striking the right note with radio audiences jamming phone lines to vote for the winning tune every month.

The fifth round winner of Coke Rhythm Nation 2004 - a 25-year-old female rapper from Manurewa, MC Verasity - was announced tonight (9/7) on Auckland's number one music station, Mai FM 88.6, after hundreds of listeners voted for their top song during drive-time this week.

The year-long competition - with five rounds to go - fosters local talent by giving them the chance to professionally record one of their own, original compositions at Mai Studios.

Mai Music general manager Victor Stent says the ambitious talent quest continues to go from strength to strength since the debut Rhythm Nation release back in 2001.

This year, for the first time, singer-songwriters from Whangarei have won back-to-back rounds: Audio Ruffness, a four-strong crew of Ngapuhi men aged 19 to 25, with 'Summer Beats'; and Richard Randell, a 21-year-old Maori performing arts student who scored the most votes with a sweet soul song, 'Baby Gone Bye Bye'.

The other two winners are South Auckland rap trio Southern Dynasty from Papakura ('Back Again'); and Mes'n'Wylde, 20-year-olds James Maeva (Cook Island Maori) and Kris Lal (Fijian Indian) representing east and south Auckland with 'My Flavour'.

Round four title holder Richard Randell, whose interest in music began at church, says he's dedicating his track to his whanau. "This gives me my first step - I've been after this for a long time!"

Leading engineer and mixer Chris Macro - who produced Katchafire's double platinum hit 'Revival' - is again handling the tracking, mixing and mastering of the 10 singles as well as mentoring each act in the song writing and construction process.

The winning songs are pressed as CD singles and given away for free in exchange for a 600ml Coke label by Mai FM street teams in Auckland, Rotorua and Whangarei, and distributed to music media and iwi radio stations throughout the country.

Victor says a compilation CD of the top 10 for 2004 will be produced for radio, television and print to help the new artists gain more visibility at the end of this year's competition.

Tonight's fifth round winner, MC Verasity - or Donna Jean Tairi, will also have her catchy track re-mixed by an Australian-based R'n'B producer.

In 2003, three songs were successful enough to be chosen by Warners to appear on the top-selling compilation 'Rhythm Nation Volume 24' while two acts were selected to re-record their work with top UK R'n'B producer Colin Emmanuel at music seminar Resonate in March this year.

As part of the prize package, artists with the most popular tunes will be invited to perform at the second annual 'Rhythm Nation Summer Beats' on Auckland Anniversary Day 2005.

Last January's free outdoor concert at Okaahu Bay attracted more than 18,000 people as Rhythm Nation acts performed alongside their musical idols from the local hip hop and R'n'B scene, Victor says.

"All of our winning songs end up on radio which is more than many more established artists achieve on their first releases.

"We're astounded at the level of fresh, new talent that this competition continues to unearth and we're proud to give previously unrecorded acts a helping hand into the New Zealand music industry."

More details about Rhythm Nation - including the 2003 and 2004 winner biographies and photographs - can be viewed on the websites or

Mai FM - celebrating its 12th birthday this month (July) - was launched by Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua in 1992 and has established itself as the country's most successful commercial Maori radio broadcaster.

As well as the network of three youth music stations in Auckland, Rotorua and Whangarei, Mai Media Limited is also an umbrella company for record label Mai Music; songwriting copyright administrator Mai Publishing; recording facilities Mai Studios; public relations division Mai Communications; and Maori language radio programme producer Ruia Mai.


Coke Rhythm Nation originally started in 2001 as Mai FM 88.6 and Coke's contribution to New Zealand Music Month. It was created with the intention of promoting unsigned and unrecorded acts who were making 'urban' music styles, and who were not receiving much interest or investment from major record companies at that time.

About two months was spent recruiting the entries through the radio station promotion and there was a joint winner from more than 50 entries - PSYKO AKOUSTIKS (from Auckland's North Shore) and 4TH ELEMENT (from Ranui). Each act recorded a track at Mai Studios and a CD single with both tracks was pressed and distributed by the Mai FM street team at no charge.

The PSYKO AKOUSTIK track 'Raise The Level' went on to become one of the most-played songs on Mai FM that year. It was also picked up by a record company for their annual, TV-advertised Christmas R'n'B collection and featured on a New Zealand hip hop compilation called 'Raise The Level', released early 2002 to critical acclaim. In 2002, the promotion ran once again in New Zealand Music Month, this time attracting over 100 entries, all of a much higher standard than the year before. The winner, JO JO ELLIOT, recorded his single at Mai Studios and once again, audience response led to the track being played heavily for three months over the summer of 2003 on the Mai FM network of stations and on some iwi radio stations. The CD single was pressed and distributed once again (for free) by the Mai street teams in Auckland and Rotorua. As a result of increased participation and awareness, Coke and Mai FM agreed in 2003 to take the Rhythm Nation competition to a new level and record 10 previously unrecorded and unsigned acts over 12 months. This is what was done at Mai Studios with highly-respected mixer/engineer Chris Macro (Katchafire - 'Revival' and The Dubious Brothers - 'Trade Secrets') at the helm.

An original song was recorded every four to five weeks, with the tracks subsequently pressed and the CD singles distributed via the Mai FM street teams in Auckland, Rotorua and Whangarei - again for free, this time in exchange for a 600ml Coke label. The response was awesome, averaging 30 to 50 entries per round, most of them of a very good standard.

By year end, several acts had started to shine: QUE from Christchurch (who received a grant from the Christchurch City Council to fly to Auckland and record at Mai Studios); JAH REMNANT from West Auckland; and Tauranga's FLOW ON SHOW were all getting good listener responses, and Mai FM was playing the tracks more and more.

As a result, in November 2003, WEA in New Zealand selected these three acts to be included on their highly successful R'n'B compilation franchise, 'The Rhythm Vol 24', for release and television marketing at Christmas. These albums regularly sell 20,000 and more so it was a fantastic opportunity to advance their careers by being featured on an album alongside some of their musical heroes.

Coke Rhythm Nation was re-launched for 2004 on Auckland Anniversary Day, January 26, at a free outdoor concert staged by Mai FM for more than 18,000 people at Okaahu Bay. 'Rhythm Nation Summer Beats' featured New Zealand's best hip hop, R'n'B and reggae bands - Mareko, Deceptikonz, Adeaze and Katchafire - as well as the 2003 winners of Rhythm Nation - QUE from Christchurch, NIKI AHU from Greenlane, Auckland, KELLY-ANNE PEIHOPA from Thames, FLOW ON SHOW from Mount Maunganui and South Auckland's EERYT from Papatoetoe.

NIKI AHU ('Nobody Knows') and FLOW ON SHOW ('Innocent Love') were also selected to re-record their winning songs with top UK producer Colin Emmanuel as part of a music seminar organised by British Council New Zealand, Mai FM and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission. Colin - who has worked with the best in the world including Mary J Blige, Wyclef, KRS1 and En Vogue - delivered the results at Resonate in March.

Established in July 2001, Mai Music is building on Mai FM's reputation and success in pioneering the urban music genre in New Zealand, and is setting the standard for local hip hop and R'n'B production. Mai Music acts include reggae act Katchafire whose top-selling debut album 'Revival' has now reached double platinum status; and Tui Award-winning singer-songwriter Whirimako Black who released her third album of contemporary Maori music, 'Tangihaku', in May 2004.

Mai Publishing specialises in urban, hip hop and R'n'B as well as traditional and contemporary Maori music. Writers include New Zealand's leading jingle and commercial producer, Dave Bridgman, and Mai Music's artist roster.


© Scoop Media

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