Hard mahi pays off for Rei Music

By Jessica Tyson

After years of hard work in the New Zealand music industry, Rei Music has achieved a major goal of his becoming a finalist for the Māori Artist award and Best Soul/RnB Artist award at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. 

"I'm stoked aye. I've been working hard for a long time," says the Ngāti Huia descendant.

"I've been submitting myself for the awards for a number of years now so it was quite an emotional moment when I got the email saying that I was nominated or a finalist. I was just sitting [outside] there with my bro. May have teared up a little bit but that's alright."

Rei has been making waves in New Zealand’s music scene in recent years and writes his own beats, raps, sings, and blends te reo Māori and haka into his unique style of urban music.

He's also been a self-managed artist for most of his career. 

"I just haven't given up you know through all the releases that I've done they didn't pop off. I just went back to the studio and kept making more songs."

He released the EP Rangatira in 2018, which was acclaimed for the unique Kiwi take on traditional trap music while featuring lyrics entirely in te reo.

Earlier in 2019, he released his third album The Bridge, which debuted as the number one New Zealand album on iTunes and features his US Viral Chart number one hit Good Mood.

"Still a buzzy feeling whenever I'm in the car and my song comes on. Its always like a buzz, like I never take that for granted."

Rei is now working on a te reo Māori EP to be released in early 2020.

"I'm still on my own language journey, as so many of us are, so I like how me being that person and then still doing my te reo Māori music is a cool example of how other people are also at different stages of their reo journey."

His biggest goal is to have the first te reo Māori hip hop number one single in Aotearoa.

"That hasn't happened before," he says.

Rei is also a finalist for Best Soul/RnB Artist at the awards on Thursday night.

Recorded Music New Zealand CEO Damian Vaughan says the continued resurgence of te ao Māori in popular culture and music is inspiring, bringing a new cultural lens to Aotearoa society.

"Across a diverse range of genres, it's clear that Māori musicians are stepping into the spotlight and achieving the success they deserve," says Vaughan.

"The growing amount of unique Māori identities we're hearing on the radio and on streaming services is simply incredible. I look forward to seeing these three artists, and their Māori music contemporaries, push the envelope, and continue to embrace and explore te ao Māori in their art."