New Zealand R&B singer Aaradhna has raised plenty of eyebrows at the annual New Zealand Music Awards after rejecting her win in the Best Urban/Hip Hop Album category.
The Porirua vocalist bagged the gong for her 2016 album Brown Girl, after pocketing the Best Female Artist award, but the principled 32-year-old refused to accept the second accolade.
Instead, she took to the podium to slam the Urban/Hip Hop category itself as the “category of brown people”.
“I feel like if you’re putting a singer next to a hip hop artist, it’s not fair,” Aaradhna told the crowd.
“I’m a singer, I’m not a rapper, I’m not a hip hop artist. It feels like I’ve been placed in the category of brown people. That’s what it feels like. I feel like we need a soul/RnB category.”
She also expanded more on her reasons for rejecting the award in a post-ceremony interview with The Spinoff, describing ‘urban’ as a muddy catch-all category that “boxes in” coloured artists of different genres.
“Is that the brown people award? To me, it felt like that… I just feel like, I don’t want it. 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. I’m not angry, I just feel like it’s unfair to be in a category that’s not related to what I do.”
The Indian-Samoan crooner also spoke about her heritage and the significance of her album title and its titular single, Brown Girl, during her NZMA award rejection speech.
“[The song] speaks on many things, it speaks on racism and being placed in a box and for me, I feel like if I was to accept this, I would feel like I’m not being truthful in my song,” she said.
Aaradhna went on to dedicate her award to Kiwi hip-hop newcomers Swidt, whom she called “the future of hip-hop”.
Watch footage of her speech — and listen to her award-winning single Brown Girl — below.
Watch: Aaradhna 2016 NZMA’s Speech
Listen: Aaradhna – ‘Brown Girl’