Singer refuses win, claims racism at NZ music awards

A New Zealand Music Award winner and popular R&B singer has hit out at the ceremony, refusing to accept an award and accusing organisers of racism.

Aaradhna refused to accept her Tui award at last night's star-studded ceremony after being placed in what she called a category for "brown" artists.

The 32-year-old Porirua singer had already won the award for best female solo artist when she was announced as the winner of the best urban/hip-hop artist category.

But during her hard-hitting acceptance speech, she said she felt she couldn't be compared to the other finalists, Onehunga rap crew SWIDT and veteran PNC, because she was a singer.

"This song is Brown Girl, it speaks so many things, it speaks racism, and being placed in a box.

For me, I feel like if I was to accept this, I'm not being truthful (to my) song," she said.

"I feel like if you're putting a singer next to a hip-hop artist, it's not fair. I'm a singer, I'm not a rapper. I'm not a hip-hop artist.

"It feels like I've been placed in a category for brown people, that's what it feels like."

Instead, she chose to give the Tui award to SWIDT, a decision greeted by applause from the crowd.

"I believe you guys are the future of hip-hop," she said, as the six-strong crew bounded onstage.

Aaradhna called for the awards to add a new category for soul and R&B singers.

It is believed to be the first time an artist has declined to accept a Tui at the NZ Music Awards.

After the ceremony she told The Spinoff putting R&B artists up against rappers was "unfair".

"I'm grateful to be given an award - I'm always grateful - but it's unfair to be put against a genre that's got nothing to do with your genre," she said.

"I'm not angry, I just feel like it's unfair to be in a category that's not related to what I do. To me, it just seems like it's the brown people category, or the coloured people or whatever. That's the category for the 'urban folks'."

Organisers haven't yet commented on Aaradhna's claims, but her comments were celebrated on social media.

The star later performed her song Brown Girl next to the words, "I'm more than the colour of my skin" splashed across the stage. She received a standing ovation.


It's not the first time Aaradhna has spoken out about racism.

In a letter posted to fans on Twitter in July, the 32-year-old says her song Brown Girl deals with the labels she was given "growing up as an Indian and Samoan New Zealander".

"I've seen and witnessed others including myself being automatically labelled for what we look like, what we wore, the way we spoke, where we resided," she wrote.

"I've been called a curry muncher, a dumb coconut, all kinds of names in the book while growing up and I've always felt like I was looked down on.

For the second year in a row Broods dominated the awards.

It was a clean sweep for the brother and sister duo of Caleb and Georgia Nott as they took out five of the night's biggest prizes, including the coveted and hotly contested People's Choice Award.

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