'My papa was a rolling stone' - KT Souljah shares musical whakapapa

By Candice Luke

Kayden Ngapera AKA KT Souljah hopes to inspire other rangatahi with his music. Photo / Māia Studio

South Auckland stories and a Southern American hip hop influence come together in Testimony on the debut track by KT Souljah.

Seventeen-year-old Kayden Ngapera (Ngāti Te Ata, Ngāpuhi, Rarotonga) - aka KT Souljah (Kura Town Souljah) - is a jack of all trades, having written, recorded and produced the track himself.

Music has always played an important role in the young artist’s life, connecting his family.

“My papa had his own band which was all my family members, uncles and aunties. They used to jam out every Sunday on the farm. All the family would come down and sit around the band to watch them play.”

This helped KT Souljah develop an ear for the guitar, the melodies of the piano and a love for music, which he has been producing since he was 12.

KT Souljah. Photo / Maia Studio

KT Souljah. Photo / Maia Studio

Influenced by blues, reggae, rock, and Southern American hip hop artists like Texan group UGK, his music expresses deep emotions and stories that he says are relatable to many urban Māori.

“I just want people to know our story. Not just me and my family but brown people growing up in the south side. It’s way harder than people expect.”

Coming from a difficult upbringing with gang affiliations and family trauma, KT wants to inspire other rangatahi to keep out of trouble and forge their own path in life.

“I’m trying to show them that there is more to life than just being a little gangster, stealing and selling drugs.

“Stay out of the streets and find a passion at least. We’re gonna get stuck in the same generational cycle. Find a passion so you’re not doing nothing with your life,” he says.

Statistically Māori males are twice more likely than non-Māori males to experience an anxiety or depressive disorder.

His passion for music helped him through his own struggles, especially after the passing of his dearly loved papa and the separation of his parents.

“Music kept me away from the bad side of life. It helped me out with mental issues. Before I did music we were going through heaps of unimaginable things but the music kept me hoping for better days.”

It is also opening doors and pathways as he gets out of his comfort zone, meeting new people from different walks of life.

“I’m getting to learn different perspectives. A lot of these people have been telling me there’s more to this than just music. I can bring other businesses into my music. Doing sales, making clothing brands. I’ve been learning real business talk.”

The artist and aspiring entrepreneur is hopeful for the future, not only for his career but to uplift his family and community.

“My dream is to get my family out of the situation we’re in. That was my main goal. Make sure our stories are heard. Be known, and become more than what we are.”

Testimony is available now on all streaming platforms.

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air