22 May 2023

NZ Hip Hop Stand Up | Season 3 | Episode 4: Nesian Mystik 'It's On'

From NZ Hip Hop Stand Up, 6:00 am on 22 May 2023

In 2002, the family-friendly hip-hop track 'It's On' by Nesian Mystik ushered in 'The Golden Age of New Zealand Hip Hop'.

The DIY attitude and Polynesian values of Nesian Mystik - a multi-cultural group from Central Auckland - represented a major moment for the NZ hip-hop community.

This episode covers the group's journey of Nesian Mystik, from their early beginnings in the music room at Western Springs College. It also explores the impact they had on the NZ hip-hop scene, not only with their music but in representing Pasifika and Māori communities.

Formed in the music room at Auckland School Western Springs College in 1999, Nesian Mystik consisted of Te Awanui Reeder, Donald McNulty, Junior Rikiau, David Atai, Heath Manukau and Feleti Strickson-Pua.

David Atai describes the group's members meeting at such a young age as like "stars aligning".

Before graduating from high school, Nesian Mystik had already gained widespread attention while showcasing their impressive musical abilities.

David made fast progress in teaching himself how to play the guitar and quickly learning how to produce music.

'It's On' was one of the group's earliest tracks, the fourth or fifth song they created together, David says.

It was the result of an impromptu jam session in which he started playing chords and Te Awanui hummed the melody that eventually became the song's chorus.

It was a "blessing" that Nesian Mystik was one of the first Aotearoa hip-hop groups to gain commercial success, says Scribe, as they paved the way for the community.

SWIDT member SPYCC remembers the value of seeing Pasifika and Māori people represented authentically and confidently in the music industry, promoting their communities in a positive light.

For Feleti Strickson-Pua, while the enduring success of 'It's On' is fulfilling, but even more so is knowing Nesian Mystik inspired New Zealand's Pasifika and Māori community.

About the artists

Nesian Mystik

Nesian Mystik is a New Zealand hip hop/R&B group that formed in 1999 at Western Springs College. The group's members come from diverse Polynesian ancestry, and they are well-known for mixing hip-hop beats with Polynesian-style guitar and ukulele. They hold the record for the most Top 10 singles by a New Zealand artist (with 11).

David Atai

David Atai, a member of the New Zealand hip-hop group Nesian Mystik, is a self-taught musician who taught himself how to play the guitar. Atai's impressive musical abilities were on full display in the group's early hit 'It's On'. After Nesian Mystik disbanded, Atai continued to work as a producer and collaborated with other New Zealand artists.

Donald McNulty

Donald McNulty is a member of Nesian Mystik. He also collaborated with David Atai to provide music for the hit animated show bro'Town, showcasing his versatile musical talents.

Feleti Strickson-Pua

Feleti Strickson-Pua is a member of the New Zealand hip-hop group Nesian Mystik. He learned to rap from his cousin, Malo Luafutu, better known as Scribe. He honed his skills alongside Donald McNulty, and the two performed their songs at his father's poetry nights. As one of the group's lead rappers, his original lyrics and talent helped the group gain success.

Junior Rikiau

Junior Rikiau is a New Zealand singer and rapper, best known as a member of the hip-hop group Nesian Mystik. Rikiau brought a unique style to the group with his ability to switch between singing and rapping.

Te Awanui "Awa" Reeder

Te Awanui Reeder, also known as Awa is a member of the New Zealand hip-hop group Nesian Mystik. As the band's main songwriter, alongside co-producer David Atai, Awa helped shape the group's unique sound and style. After the group disbanded in 2011, Awa emerged as a solo artist, putting a strong focus on incorporating te reo Māori into his lyrics.

Heath Manukau

Heath Manukau is a talented turntablist and a member of the New Zealand hip-hop group Nesian Mystik. He contributed to the group's debut album Polysaturated but remained largely behind the scenes before returning as a full-fledged group member with 2006's Freshmen.

 Made with the support of NZ On Air Photo: NZ On Air