The Pacific Music Awards celebrated its 15th year in May with Avondale’s Melodownz winning the Phillip Fuemana Award for “Most Promising Pacific Artist.” During the three and a half hour televised awards showcase, Melodownz performed with fellow Avondale icon, Poetik, who won the same award last year. He used his acceptance speech as a platform to give focus to the issue of youth suicide.
“Back at high school we had a tight knit circle of friends. One of my good friends, Tyrone (he went by the name, Jedi), had just made the Warriors squad when two weeks later he killed himself. No-one knew what the reason behind it; it was shocking for us. And then, it happened to two more friends. It was a dark time.”
“That's when I stopped caring about school; I just wanted to get drunk every day. I didn't really give a shit about education because, far out, my friend had just died and we wondered who would be next.”
“I didn't plan to talk about it at the awards but I'm happy I did. Everything I was supposed to say went out the window. It was cool to be able to speak on that topic because in the entertainment industry, especially the Pacific entertainment industry, it's not really spoken about. And Pua [Magasiva] had just passed away as well, and that had been a shock.”
“In Pacific communities, it's almost taboo to talk about these sorts of things. I could be wrong, but I don’t hear people having open discussions about it. Young Polynesian and Maori men have the highest rate of suicide in the world, so it’s something that should happen.”
Q: DO YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS WITH YOUR MATES?
I’m quite secretive about my feelings, but if I'm down, they all know it and they check on me all the time. I had some health issues at the start of the year which got me into a bad mental space. I talked about it with my girlfriend and other people. It's good to let young people know that there are support systems out there.
Q: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE SEPARATE AWARDS THAT RECOGNISE PACIFIC ARTISTS?
It's the equivalent of the Black Entertainment Awards in America; New Zealand is a melting pot of Niueans, Samoans, Tongans … it's a chance to recognise and acknowledge our Pacific people. I think it’s cool.
I was surprised by the awareness of the Phillip Fuemana award. Over the weekend people were coming up to me in the street and congratulating me. I feel privileged to have won it.
Q: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO PLAY LIVE?
A lot of artists don't like to perform live but for me, it's like, you've put so much work into this music and to play it live is the reward for you and the people that listen to it. The energy the crowd gives me, I give back, so it's like this infinite source that's created at that special moment and that moment will never happen again, so for me ... it's important.
Q: WORDS OF WISDOM FOR UPCOMING YOUNG CREATIVES?
Surround yourself with like-minded people and people who have good intentions. I know that in high school there can be a lot of jealousy and gossip and things that break your ego down, so you need to stay grounded and work with people who believe in you.
When I was younger, I hung out with … I want to say “bad people,” but we just didn't know what we were up to. When I broke out of that cycle and started hanging around with people that were more musical, it inspired me to do my own thing. Then, it was almost like nothing could stop me.
It took a long time for me to be able to do this full-time so, stay focused and surround yourself with the right people.
Q: FINAL WORDS?
Keep the community beautiful - Avondale for life!
I can live anywhere in the world and I’ll still represent Avondale. That's how much this place means to me, and that’s how much this place has had an affect on me growing up. It’s the core of where my creativity comes from.
I don’t think I’d be making music or be where I am or even have the content to make the music that I make, if I hadn’t grown up in Avondale.