Undiscovered singing stars take a shot at fame in new talent show

By Jessica Tyson

New Zealand’s undiscovered singing stars are taking a shot at fame as they go head to head in Māori Television's new talent show 5 minutes of Fame.

Hosted by Turanga Merito with judges Pere Wihongi and Bella Kalolo, the series is unique as two vocalists compete against each other in one of four categories per episode - teen, female, male and group.

In the end, eight contestants will compete head-to-head in the final of 5 Minutes of Fame before the top four face off in a bid to win the overall title. The category winners and overall title winner will share a prize pool of $15,000.

"It's really, really tough having to choose only one of the two in each category," says singer-songwriter and vocal coach Bella Kalolo, of Ngāti Porou, Hāmoa and Tonga.

"The amount of talent out there is amazing so to have two contestants go up against each other - with us having to say who goes through on the spot - is nerve-racking, to say the least."

Award-winning musician Wihongi, of Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kuri, Ngāti Wai, says choosing between contestants is the hardest part of this job. 

“In fact, it's the worst part! But it's just as much about giving feedback and kōrero that will help them develop and perhaps come back for another go.”

Quickfire 'less painful'

He says he feels lucky to work alongside Kalolo who offers professionalism, advice and perspective.

“She's guided the talent in the rehearsals leading up to their performances so she has some idea of their abilities whereas I have no idea until I hear them that first time on stage."

Each act in the show receives one-on-one mentorship on stage with full production, lights, cameras and band before the heats are filmed.

"I'd like to think I bring some knowledge around singing, performance and delivery. So I help contestants bring out their best in terms of their stance, controlling their breathing, placement of notes and vowel shapes, Kalolo says.

"It's incredible to have someone go from singing in the backline of their school choir to being on stage with the full 'she-bang! But our quick-fire way of doing things is, I think, far less painful for the contestants and keeps the fun in the whole experience, albeit with a side of nerves."

5 Minutes of Fame airs every Thursday at 8.30pm on Māori Television and is available on demand.