30 Sep 2016

Wellington musician claims top song gong

12:29 am on 30 September 2016

Wellington musician Thomas Oliver has won New Zealand's most prestigious songwriting award, in a night in which Māori stories and music featured strongly.

The 51st APRA Silver Scroll Awards were held on Thursday night in Auckland's Vector Arena, hosted by RNZ's John Campbell.

The annual event recognises excellence in songwriting and composition across genres.

Loud cheers and applause rang out as the winners of each of the five award categories made their way through the crowd to the stage.

Oliver - a first-time finalist - won the coveted top award for his song If I Move to Mars, joining a list of previous winners including Lorde, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Tami Neilsen.

The runners-up this year were Neilson for The First Man, The Phoenix Foundation for Give Up Your Dreams, Lydia Cole for Dream and Street Chant for Pedestrian Support League.

Earlier, Rob Ruha won the Maioha Award for composition using Te Reo with Kariri. The song, which features Tiki Taane, is a retelling of the story of the 1864 Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina).

The runners-up for that award were IHI with Mana Whenua, co-written by Thomas Rawiri and Mokoia Huata, and Kirsten Te Rito, James Illingworth and Joseph Te Rito for Tamaiti Ngaro.

Indigenous Australian activist and academic Lou Bennett, who presented the award, said those making music in their own language sent a powerful message of love, song and family.

Mr Ruha said Moana Maniapoto, who was inducted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the start of the evening, had been a great influence on him.

Karl Steven, who made his name in the 1990s as a lead singer of Supergroove, was awarded best original music in a series for the soundtrack of New Zealand-Australian drama 800 Words.

The equivalent award for a feature film went to Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper and Tama Waipara for their work on Lee Tamahori's Mahana, based on Witi Ihimaera's novel Bulibasha.

The film was the director's first to be made on local soil since 1994's Once Were Warriors, and featured a lush orchestral soundtrack with a recognisably New Zealand flavour.

The runners-up included Samuel Scott, Lukasz Buda and Conrad Wedde, who worked on international hit film Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

The contemporary classical music award was won by a young Wellington-based composer, Salina Fisher.

Her work, Rainphase, originally performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's youth orchestra, was played during the event by Napier post-rock band Jakob.

Moana Maniapoto honoured

Singer-songwriter Moana Maniapoto was formally welcomed to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in an emotional ceremony.

Measuring herself against others who have had the same honour was difficult, she said.

But she said she accepted the award on behalf of Te Reo, and had tremendous pride that her work had contributed to continuing Māori language and stories.

Music had also given her a platform to highlight racism in the music industry, Maniapoto said.

She said she could track the last 30 years of history via her body of music.

She wanted to see a quota for Māori music on radio and television, because the songs were beautiful and because it was an obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi, she said.

Maniapoto, who has toured extensively internationally, said music had the power to cross borders.

She urged everyone in the audience to consider what they stood for, and received a second standing ovation as she left the stage.

Her speech was followed by a haka and waiata from audience members.

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