Not the Brown Girl

I went to the New Zealand music awards a couple of weeks ago. There were some surprising performances from Shapeshifter and Tami Neilson who were both stunning but not exactly popular music I would have thought.

Most of the music was from mainstream popular “not that there is anything wrong with that.”

However since the music being celebrated it was across the wide range and breadth of popular New Zealand music it was more like an anthropologists evening at the zoo. And that was just the audience.

The event itself was being televised so the organisers hired the worlds oldest 11 year olds – Jono and some other guy to pitch some of the lamest jokes in the world. All very predictable – really and then this beautiful moment happened.

Aaradhna flipped the switch on the award organisers and declined to accept an award that went against her conscience. A song that is in part about her experience of racism which actually has the lyrics.

“I’m not just the brown girl, in the ring
I’m a girl, that likes to sing
I’m not just the brown girl, in the ring
I’m a girl that likes to sing
 
I’m more than what they think of me
More than the colour tones that they see
More than urban and r&b, more than the slang that I speak”

 
This was a great moment at the awards and I wondered how spontaneous the whole thing was. As far as I can tell nominees knew before hand which categories they had been entered into.

I’d guess that discussions about the categories beforehand would have taken place but much better to make a public teachable moment. In a podcast Recorded Music NZ CEO Damien Vaughan seems to be saying that the category names were all setup so that there would be more than 4 entries for each one. Some categories were scrambling to find entries.

Whatever the situation it was a great moment for Aaradhna to shine. And best of all a great song.

I wondered about the Brown girl in the ring reference since I was around in the ’70’s. It turns out that “Brown Girl in the Ring” is a traditional children’s song in the West Indies” …The girl or boy is then asked, “Show me your motion.”

At this point the child in the center does his or her favorite dance. And of course was a high profile popular song appropriated by Boney M in the late ’70’s.

I rather liked the idea ( intentional or not) that Aaradhna was NOT waiting for her turn in the ring – she has something to say now and thanks to the music awards got a chance to celebrate the meaning of her song in a very public way.

When opportunity knocks may we all be so gracious and clued up.