Brown Noise

Ankita Singh and Naomi Simon-Kumar chat with South Asian and West Asian Kiwi musicians you should be listening to, about their craft, advice they have for other artists and what’s on their playlist.

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Asian diaspora creatives are on the rise: creating boundary-breaking, inspired and bold new art, fresh with variety and all the charge of a wave crashing to shore. It’s been a long time coming, and while there are still hurdles to recognition and representation in the mainstream, the zeitgeist has never been so prime for a cultural shakeup. There’s a global appetite for art that not only better reflects the world in which we live but draws on the creative inspiration a diverse new generation of artists has to offer.

There’s no better place to experience this diverse panorama than through our local musical talent. We bring you some of the freshest South Asian and West Asian voices on the scene who are exceptionally talented at their craft. These artists represent the many faces of the Asian creative diaspora here in Aotearoa, many of whom pay homage to their heritage and identities through their music and art. 

The diverse cultural tapestry of our rōpū pays creative dividends: exploring various themes around third-culture identity, empowerment, homeland and belonging; the fragility of love, experiences of loss, spirituality, legacies of trauma. These artists step outside the confines of genre and language, and breathe new life into familiar feelings, blending traditional soundscapes and modern percussion into the folds of their music.

From intimate ballads to punchy electro-pop riffs, take a glimpse at the vibrant music scene in Aotearoa through these musicians who are paving the way for a more inclusive creative industry.

Tl;dr? Check our public Spotify playlist, featuring some of the best from the mentioned artists and more.

Kishan the Jinn. Photo: Samiira Wali

"Shan Vincent de Paul's journey has truly impacted me in a meaningful way"

Kishan Deepak Thanawala, otherwise known as Kishan the Jinn, is a Pōneke-based multi-instrumentalist producer and vocalist. Kishan brings an unmistakable desi flair to his music by incorporating keyboard, synth, guitar and percussion. He emphasises that calling himself a South Asian producer has become less about putting himself in a box and instead about owning his roots. Kishan is as inventive a songwriter as he is a master of his craft. He cites musical artists A R Rahman, Shan Vincent de Paul, Common and Burna Boy as inspiration.

His debut album Suno captures a repertoire of original R&B and hip-hop influenced sounds, articulating a range of deeply intimate experiences through the prism of culture and identity. It’s a solid rumination on diaspora identity, faith, homeland politics, culture and class. The album deftly pulls together South Asian and African sounds, with a standout feature from Zambian-Kiwi artist Mukukā on the track ‘Kaala Patthar. From the sultry bedroom tones of ‘Chama re Chama(Waist on me we can nach all day / Grind on me meri jaan then we lay), to the reaffirmation of resilience and ancestral strength in ‘Reminiscing’ (I look on my inner wisdom / I see them in my reflection / Family / And I know I'll never stand alone), Kishan the Jinn is solidifying his unique signature in New Zealand music. 

Naomi Simon-Kumar: Why did you start creating music? 

Kiishan Deepak Thanawala: I discovered my love for making music when I was ten years old. My inspiration came from everyday experiences and my personal journey to learn about my roots and culture. The passion's been there from the day I got my hands on an instrument. 

NSK: What advice do you have for young musicians today? 

KDT: Advice is always hard to give, especially from someone who's only getting started. I've always believed that the pursuit of your passions should be for yourself and those you love. Success can only be measured by how much you value the journey to get to where you want to be. 

NSK: What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life? 

KDT: The biggest (and longest) lesson I've learned in life and in my career is patience. I know what it's like to run before I can walk. Having the ability to take a breather without constantly thinking about my next move is an important work in progress, and it's only getting harder to do so in this day and age. Artists and musicians often struggle to get the resources they need to represent themselves independently in what has for a long time been a saturated industry. I keep reminding myself not to rush, be generous with my time and enjoy the process every step of the way.

NSK: What’s an album or artist everyone needs to listen to right now?

KDT: I love Shan Vincent de Paul's latest album, Made in Jaffna. He's one of the best rappers I've ever heard from the South Asian diaspora. His journey has truly impacted me in a meaningful way.

Miss Leading

Miss Leading blends song and spoken word into a colourful synthesis of dance, chill hop, hip hop, and art-pop

Miss Leading is Nadia Freeman, an electronic music producer, vocalist and spoken-word poet. She’s performed at festivals across Aotearoa, and is the founder of Eastern Sound Collective, a network of Pōneke-based musicians who support and advocate for Asian representation in the music sector. 

Her music is intriguing and atmospheric, blending song and spoken word into a colourful synthesis of dance, chill-hop, hip-hop, and art-pop. It’s the kind of rare energy that’s bound to get you up and swaying as if you’ve been transported right down a rabbit hole to the den of an underground 80s electronic music club. 

Miss Leading’s unique artistry draws heavily on electronic and synth arrangements, reminiscent of cult favourites Little Dragon and Bat for Lashes in dimensional ambience. It’s a beautifully reverberant, self-conscious exploration of feminism, race, sexuality, society and the environment, with all the punch and quick-wittedness of performance poetry. 

The glistening synth-pop wonderland Miss Leading creates in her new album Minor Thing is very much the lucid dream you don’t want to end. Featuring evocative tracks ‘Satsuma’ (I bet her skin is soft / She smells like satsumas and sun), and contemplations on womanhood in ‘Blonde’ and ‘The Girl is Gone’ (Laugh lines, crow’s feet / You're not young, see your face).

Naomi Simon-Kumar: What inspired you to start creating music? 

Nadia Freeman: I'm mad about music. Before I began to make it, I was attending three live gigs a week on average. I always wanted to be a part of the community but never had the luxury of learning music, growing up. I feel this is common in many migrant families, where the arts are not prioritised – academics or skills that aid job security hold higher priorities. So I thought I'd missed the boat when it came to being able to become a musician. That all changed with the discovery of electronic music and a specific synthesiser called the Deluge Synthstrom (a Pōneke-developed synthesiser, sequencer, sampler and midi-in-one). Its design format made sense to me and I was able to make music. I can't explain how fulfilling it was. I have been a spoken-word poet for years, but it was incredible to have a whole new level of self-expression.

NSK: What advice do you have for young musicians today?

NF: I'm still learning about how to be a musician myself. I think it is easy to overlook the learning process with a lot of do-it-yourself music out there. Before song writing, I decided to take jazz vocal training. I feel this was a game changer for me to present my songs with a voice that I had confidence in. That realisation that you can learn to do anything if you are willing to take expertise from others and commit the time into training and practising. 

Building a supportive community around you is important. Making friends with other people in all aspects of arts and music to share ideas, tips and just enjoy being creatives together. This, for me, has come from starting the Eastern Sound Collective in Pōneke, a network for musicians of Asian ethnic heritage. As a South Asian woman in music, I wanted to have a supportive network of those who share a similar experience of not always quite fitting in here in Aotearoa, but also being misfits in our own Asian communities as the weirdo artists.

NSK: What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life? 

NF: When you start making art of any form, you can get disappointed that it isn't as good as you want it to be. It took me a long time to release my first song because it just wasn't quite good enough. Then I realised that I'm just not as skilled as I want to be yet, and no matter how long I spend on this song, it won't be as good as I want because I myself am not there yet. So I just put it out there, because you have to make and let things go and move on and make the next thing. This is how you get better.

NSK: Who's on your playlist at the moment that everyone needs to listen to?

NF: Dua Saleh. They are a non-binary, Sudan-born American artist who started as a spoken-word poet, much like myself, and moved into music. What they are doing is fresh and quite different.

Arjun Bhat

"Give a damn about the community that builds you up"

Arjun Bhat, also known as theajsound is a singer, songwriter, producer and professional coach. He uses his #beYOU podcast and music to uplift his community and audience to be their authentic selves. His angelic voice and irresistible EDM beats will have you dancing around your living room and maybe even give you the will to live during the second lockdown.

The first track from his new album, ‘#drifting’, drops this Thursday, 25 November. Until then, we recommend checking out ‘Please’, for some bitter-sweet introspective musings. The mellow tunes of ‘Sorrow’ will be perfect for those upcoming chill summer nights. If you’re after just a straight-up banger, ‘Lemonade’ was created in collaboration with Tom Enzy.

Ankita Singh: What inspired you to start creating music?

Arjun Bhat: My dad always played the guitar. In India, when I was around seven years old my parents encouraged me to enrol in Hindustani Classical classes with the harmonium. I would hide under the bed and avoid these classes at all costs! 

These attempts to get me into music at an early age failed. I began my musical journey in New Zealand fifteen years later when my girlfriend (a Grade 8 pianist) would host these wonderful family gatherings where everyone was musically inclined and would jam and sing their favourite songs. After this experience, I taught myself how to play the guitar with YouTube videos from JustinGuitar and Marty Music.

One day I mustered the courage to sing my first song for her family, a cover of ‘The Man Who Can't Be Moved’ by the Script. I was scared beyond belief, but the feeling after the performance was exhilarating and addictive. This is what got me into my next phase of making Youtube covers.

Ed Sheeran is an inspiration for me, as around the same time as this he broke the mainstream with the hit ‘The A Team’. Seeing one man with a little Martin LX1E guitar rap, sing and rock an entire stadium encouraged and inspired me.

AS: What advice do you have for young musicians starting out today?

AB: Two pieces of advice: 

  1. #beYOU (be yourself) and start now. Don't say no to opportunities, be a maybe/yes person – and never stop till you are damn proud of yourself!

  2. Give a damn about the community that builds you up and provide value back to that community. Don't neglect them for the chase (learn from my mistakes… building community > everything as an artist or influencer).

AS: What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life?

AB: Embracing myself for who I truly am and actually caring about my community. I am in the unique position of being a life coach during the day and a singer, songwriter and producer by night. It took me two years in the music industry to embrace my whole self. Now I feel free, at peace with myself and ready to tackle any upcoming challenges. I’ve also realised that I should be doing all I can to add value to the people that built me up. I do this through my coaching, including the #beYOU initiative and podcast, and sharing my own stories through music.

AS: What’s an album or artist everyone needs to listen to right now?

AB: Definitely Taylor Swift's own version of ‘Wildest Dreams’ and Ed's tracks ‘Leave Your Life’ and ’Overpass Graffiti’. I also love Tom Enzy – all of his tracks could rock the dance stage, and I was lucky to collaborate with him on ‘Lemonade’.

Swap Gomez

"I was playing a gig once and couldn’t hear anything out of my monitor. I looked over at the guitarist, who was also a mentor. He said, 'Use the force bro'"

Swap is a musician, drummer, video director, producer, editor and one part of local favourite four-piece band Yoko-Zuna. They are known for electronic and progressive hip-hop music. Swap toured and recorded with artists Alvin Risk, The Veronicas, Vernon Reid (Living Color), SWIDT, Tom Scott, MELODOWNZ, Noah Slee, Bailey Wiley, Randa, Laughton Kora, P-Diggs (Shapeshifter) and Sachi.

Swap is also an accomplished filmmaker. He has directed music videos for Villainy, Jess B, P-Money, Mazbou Q and Isla Noon. He is currently also a screen production lecturer at SAE Institute in Auckland. He is heavily involved in mentoring new creative talent and does all this while running his film production company The Umbrella Creative

Ankita Singh: What inspired you to start creating music?

Swap Gomez: My family for sure. I come from a family of musicians, so it was somewhat inevitable I ended up in music. Dad is a singer and plays a lot of gigs back home. My first-ever show was with him at 12 years old, right here in Auckland.

AS: What advice do you have for young musicians starting out today?

SG: Practice your craft and research, research, research! It may mean sacrificing time for other things and locking yourself away. I see many people reaching a certain plateau and staying there. You want to keep evolving as a creative and honing your skills, which means putting in the time for development.

AS: What is the lesson which took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life?

SG: Use the force! I was playing a gig once and couldn’t hear anything out of my monitor. I looked over at the guitarist, who was also a mentor. He nonchalantly said, “Use the force bro”, which means trust your gut and stop complaining. This changed my approach to so many things. Use what you have. Instead of focusing on the problem itself, focus on how you can navigate it. 

AS: Who's on your playlist at the moment?

SG: I dig so many genres, but the Hiatus Kaiyote album Mood Valiant is amazing. The band Porcupine Tree also just got back together after 12 years and released ‘Harridan'. Also, the new Silk Sonic (Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars collaboration) and Dream Theater album.

Karnan Saba

"I had no idea what mixing and editing was. I burned it onto a CD and played it that night in my friend's car"

Karnan Saba (K-Saba or K-SAAB) is a producer and musician of Sri Lankan Tamil descent based in Pōneke. He is an active member of the city’s theatre and music scene. He has been involved in the arts since 2001, composing music for notable theatre works by Ahi Karunaharan, Miria George, Hone Kouka and Sarita So. 

Karnan produces cinematic, ambient-inspired beats and pieces with a deft proficiency across a range of instruments and genres. His range is impressive and well exemplified in the scoring of Portraits, an ongoing micro-documentary series showcasing twelve Pan-Asian creatives based in Tāmaki Makaurau. He contributed to Tom Scott's Aotearoa Music Awards 2019 Album of the Year Avantdale Bowling Club. He released his first full-length album Birds of Paradise with lyricist Hone Be Good.

He is also a member of the Eastern Sound Collective, a network for Asian musicians in Wellington. 

Ankita Singh: What inspired you to start creating music?

Karnan Saba: I had a jazz music obsession as a teen. I started with playing the saxophone, which sparked an interest in the building blocks of music and how they worked together. Then I discovered audio recording software, and with an old keyboard, I made my first tune, overdubbing myself. I had no idea what mixing and editing was, so I burned it onto a CD and played it that night in my friend Jivan’s car. I woke up a different kid the next day, having experienced this first cycle of creation.  

AS: What advice do you have for young musicians?

KS: Learn at your own pace and enjoy the process as much as your results. Think about your craft and think long term. Give it the respect and space in your life to grow as a practice. There are some beautiful, life-affirming lessons about self-worth and your ego in the process of trying to create art and express ourselves in the times we live in. 

AS: What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life?

KS: It’s liberating to not have the answer, to not have it all together. Start with a blank canvas and explore shapes and colours without any expectation of an end result. A conscious surrender to this process will spring ideas and emotions that feel like new worlds and new experiences. I trust this process to bring me an outcome, it may take ten minutes or ten days, but it will show up in its own way. Trust yourself as the vessel to bring this through. There’s been a lot of transferable insight here to other things. How we envision life unfolding doesn’t have to be limited by what we’ve experienced up to this current moment. 

AS: Who's on your playlist at the moment that everyone needs to listen to? 

KS: Mara TK’s Bad Meditation is my album of the year. Cleo Sol’s ‘Mother’ is heartfelt and beautifully recorded. NahBo’s Ruptured is straight lo-fi-culture stream of consciousness, and Tonkyn Pearson’s ‘December’ is an 18-minute texture-rich grand ambient drama. 


"We shed our tears / Vigils and mourning / But if you don't see me as equal / Then who are we fooling?”

Iraqi-New Zealand singer–songwriter Yasamin has established herself as an earnest, emotive performer in the local music scene since the release of her first album L.O.N.D.O.N in 2017. Her pop repertoire is pleasant listening: infused with light ballads and orchestral melodies, and a strong indie folk influence. 

But this doesn’t detract from the strength and substance of her work. Her recent music takes an explicitly charged and introspective trajectory in exploring political terrain: matters of homeland politics, racism, social division and Arab cultural identity, written in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings and resistance movements in Iraq. With her sophomore release Songs Over Baghdad, Yasamin charts a dulcet soundscape that connects politics transpiring abroad to events here at home in New Zealand.

In ‘October’, she recalls the violence between anti-government protesters and security forces in Iraq alongside the events of Christchurch. “We shed our tears / Vigils and mourning / But if you don't see me as equal / Then who are we fooling?” But she is ever hopeful “Peace will always win, if not now then in the end”. She's an authentic voice paving new ground in an era of activist pop. She’s defiant and critical in her message to outside audiences, but touches on the very real experiences of love, loss, pain and community hardship we can all readily feel.

Naomi Simon-Kumar: What inspired you to start creating music? 

Y: Lyrics and how they fit to melody. It’s magic.

NSK: What advice do you have for young musicians today? 

Y: You have to find joy in creation and living the life of an artist rather than how popular your art will be. I’ve found that having a career as a scientist and dipping in and out of the music industry gives me financial security as a woman, rather than being at the mercy of the music industry. My music is not mainstream, and I would hate to feel that I have to write certain songs just to make money. So my advice is to have a backup plan, especially as a woman, to look after yourself financially. You can do both. You are so capable. There are no rules.

NSK: Who's on your playlist at the moment that everyone needs to listen to? 

Y: Adonis [an indie band from Lebanon] and Kacey Musgraves’ new album star crossed


"When I was 17, Shantini and I started making music together. Soon after, we began learning the Indian sitar and tabla"

Tāl is Tāmaki Makaurau-based twin-sister duo Shalina and Shantini Sandran. Of Malaysian-Indian and Pākehā heritage, Tāl create music reflecting the space between the two-world landscape they navigate. The multi-instrumentalists combine the Indian sitar and tabla with ambient beats and stirring vocals, evoking an intimate sound that is soulfully honest and dreamy. 

TĀL EP is the first body of work that the duo has released. The five-track extended play (EP) was written, recorded and produced by the sisters at their home. It was further refined in Lisbon, London and Berlin, where the two spent five months in 2017. It includes their debut single ‘What You Are’, which recently received praise on Rolling Stone India and Radio New Zealand Music. Tāl have been featured on the official Spotify playlists ‘No Borders’ and ‘Dinner & Chill’.

The duo is set to drop new tracks before the end of 2021, so make sure to follow their socials. 

Ankita Singh: What inspired you to start creating music?

Shalina Sandran: I grew up listening to music across a multitude of genres and found myself becoming interested in the interplay between lyric and melody. At the age of 13, I started writing songs out of curiosity at the possibility of creating my own. When I was 17, Shantini and I started making music together. Soon after, we began learning the Indian sitar and tabla.

AS: What advice do you have for young musicians starting out today?

Shalina: Trust the process.

AS: What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life?

Shantini Sandran: I’m not sure if it’s taken me a long time to learn, or rather that I’ve always known, but these last few years have allowed me to put this knowing boundlessly into practice – good things take time. Sometimes taking time apart from what you’re working on is the best thing you can do for yourself and your work. 

AS: Who's on your playlist at the moment that everyone needs to listen to?

Shantini: A constant that has been on my playlist for a while now is Mustafa the Poet. His EP ‘When Smoke Rises’ is perhaps my favourite release of 2021. His work is painfully beautiful, his words intimate and unshielded. The kind that reaches toward you and touches your heart. 


"Yo, honestly, I’ve been listening to a lot of Arabic electro-type music. My favourite right now has to be the basbousa song"

MEER has been a formidable force in the local hip-hop scene for quite some years now, slick and confident in her cultural artistry and vision as a Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi rapper. Her music is unrelenting and politically hard-hitting. It’s responsive to ideas of vulnerability and power, Arab identity, Queerness and mental health. She’s on a mission to create space for the Arab experience in modern rap, a bold and introspective sensibility that cuts across her charged vocals and gritty beats. 

Her recent track ‘Whoa’ pulls to this core theme of conscious empowerment, All you don’t rule nothing around me / I came up from the streets / Made it like I grew up in the scene / So what you want from a queen like me?” MEER has the rare quality of producing timeless music that feels both old school and new era. Her debut EP Kushari is a perfect example of versatility and finesse.

Naomi Simon-Kumar: What inspired you to start creating music? 

MEER: I was always really into rap music and poetry as a kid, I used to write a lot and it helped me express myself in a way I couldn’t normally. When I met Liam (we were a rap duo before MEER started) we started making music together. All our friends made music, were in bands, and I thought I wanted to try it out. The rest is history 

NSK: What advice do you have for young musicians today? 

M: Don’t hold back. Create what you want to hear, not what others want. Have fun with it!

NSK: What lesson took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life? 

M: I learn so many lessons all the time, I’m always finding out things and growing along the way. I guess the one that took me the longest to learn in life is to not let things linger. To act on things that don’t feel right from the beginning instead of procrastinating.

NSK: Who's on your playlist at the moment that everyone needs to listen to?

M: Yo, honestly, I’ve been listening to a lot of Arabic electro-type music. My favourite right now has to be the basbousa song.


"Weezy had a rap bar saying “hustle like the rent was due yesterday”, a simple and effective mantra"

ABRZY is Abid Rahman, a young Bangladeshi Muslim rapper from Pōneke. His sound is wickedly energising and the perfect summer accompaniment – weaving South Asian beats and Bengali verse with other sounds and stories of the Indian subcontinent. Rahman’s debut album 80 Different Ways is a personal tribute to the diasporic experience, in all its joys and hardships, with the project representing his Bangladeshi heritage and roots in Dhaka. He's been making music since he was 17, and sees it as a powerful way to share the stories of diverse communities with a global audience.

Rahman takes a no-holds-barred and unapologetic approach to music, navigating the tensions of homeland politics and manhood, alongside third-world immigrant identity (“Never say sorry no / Never no apology / No priority, For minority”). There’s poetry there too, in his gritty, but true-to-life picture of survival and loss in the community, never shying away from the stark reality (“My brothers at war, can’t lie / All the things I’ve seen they trapped by / A lot of friends that stab in the backside / Bullet shells in the air like hang time / It’s a different feeling when grown men cry”). With an original voice and creative power, ABRZY is one to look out for.

Naomi Simon-Kumar: What inspired you to start creating music?

Abid Rahman: I've faced a fair few adversities in my life and music has always aided me in getting through them. I think the struggle, the ambition, the grind, the hustle, embedded within the genre [rap] is something that always really resonated with me and I could relate to. Growing up, you long to find that thing that gives you a sense of purpose. Creating music is that thing for me. 

NSK: What advice do you have for young musicians today?

AR: I’m really passionate about helping musicians who are just starting out because I truly know how difficult and unforgiving this industry can be.

  1. Treat everything like sand in an hourglass. If you have the mindset that you only have a limited time on Earth (because the future isn’t promised to anyone), you will go so much further in your career. Rap and work on your craft every second you have available. You will be grateful in the future for the time you put in now. Weezy had a rap bar saying “hustle like the rent was due yesterday”, a simple and effective mantra.

  2. Have the right people around you. When you are starting out, there will be people who don’t believe in you. But there will also be those who believe in you just as much as you do. Find those people, keep them close, and treat them well: they’ll get you through the inevitable dark days that lie ahead.

  3. Set goals that strike a balance between lofty and realistic, and with a time frame. Even if you don’t accomplish them, the progress will be beneficial to your career. 

  4. Try to always remain level headed. Don’t get overly excited about the wins and don’t get too caught up in the losses. Keep creating and whether something works out or it doesn’t, just keep it moving.

NSK: What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life?

AR: This too shall pass. I used to get very tense about trivial things, but I now know everything can be handled. Even if there is a problem that can’t be fixed right now, trust that time will work it out.

NSK: Who's on your playlist that everyone needs to listen to right now?

AR: Meek Mill is in my top five. ‘Sharing Locations’ is soooo dope. That Bulgarian choir sample really be hitting different. 

Reshma Martin

Whanganui-based singer Reshma Martin made a splash in Aotearoa when she appeared on the reality television show Popstars.

Already a pop sensation in Malaysia, Reshma (also known as Kareshma) is enjoying exploring a new identity now she’s back in Aotearoa. Her debut English-language single, 'Loneliest Girl', shows off her impressive vocal range. We’re also digging her range of covers – both in English and Bahasa Malaysia on her YouTube channel.

Reshma strives to bring her unique pop flavour to our shores, paving the way for more South East Asian representation in the local music industry.

Ankita Singh: What inspired you to start creating music?

Reshma Martin: I've always been drawn to the stage. Growing up in Taranaki, I was a bit of an outcast, so I would spend most of my lunch breaks at school sitting in the music room, writing songs and singing covers. From then on, I started putting myself out there into singing competitions, and using the feedback I received from those: I found my voice as a songwriter. All the things I couldn't say, I could pen down, and it was exhilarating how I could relate to a mass group of people I didn’t know through my music. In short, my passion for music and empathising with people inspired me to create music.

AS: What advice do you have for young musicians starting out today?

RM: It's. Not. Easy.

It may seem like it’s an incredibly convenient career at first glance, but being a musician in our day and age means you have to be an entrepreneur. The work doesn’t end when the song is completed and is awaiting release; it probably starts there. So, learn what you can from the people around you, not just your fellow musicians, but those who work behind the scenes as well: e.g. publishing and marketing. 

As well as this, watch out for the world of social media algorithms and fatigue! Good content doesn’t always pay off in high plays and listens. If that happens, trust in the process and continue to have fun whilst posting consistently. Don’t let it get to you x 

AS: What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, either in your career or life?

RM: When I signed my first record deal at eighteen, I learnt that the music industry is far from sunshine and rainbows. Navigating the industry, both in Malaysia and Aotearoa, has been a challenge thus far. However, I am an avid believer that the music community should be a kinder one, with every member looking out for one another. We should strive to promote new talent as equally as we prioritise the legends that man our industries. A good attitude can get you far, and remember to always be your authentic self!

AS: Who's on your playlist at the moment that everyone needs to listen to?

RM: A personal favourite of mine is ‘Give and Take’, by Peter Dew. It’s been stuck in my head for ages, with its hauntingly catchy hook. Besides that, I’ve been binging on Marina and the Diamonds (we love a bomb comeback) and Florence and the Machine, especially the track ‘Girl with one Eye’.

Another artist on our radar

An article about South Asian and West Asian Kiwi artists wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to CHAII.


Genre-bending Persian-New Zealand rapper CHAII is making waves at home and overseas. Despite her sudden arrival, CHAII’s music has already been featured in adverts and promotion for Italian fashion brand Fendi, mixed martial arts organisation the UFC and Charlize Theron’s new film The Old Guard, streaming now on Netflix. 

We love this music video featuring the title track from her new EP Pineapple Pizza. We’ve never seen the iconic Hamilton Gardens in Kirikiriroa look this cool. 

These are just some of the Asian musicians adding their unique threads to the tapestry of our music scene. Did we miss your fave? Add them to Ankita Singh and Naomi Simon-Kumar's public Spotify playlist here.

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