Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s plenty to celebrate in New Zealand’s Pacific music scene.The finalists for the 2020 Pacific Music Awards were announced yesterday after a record number of entries, resulting in 24 finalists across 13 categories.Pacific Music Awards Trust spokesperson Rev. Mua Strickson-Pua said that despite the challenging situation we find ourselves in, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the successes of our artists.“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt, even by our humble 2020 Pacific Music Awards, requiring us to navigate through these times of uncertainty and great sadness. We acknowledge our traditional role and contribution to uplift the spirit and well-being of our people.“We also take on the challenge of navigating the new economic reality and technology opportunities for our awards. Today we’re immensely proud to recognise this year’s finalists, who are exciting new and seasoned Pacific artists, that are making waves and taking Pacific music to new heights and realities. ”

Leading the finalists are hip hop duo Church & AP who are the fresh faces behind the next wave of New Zealand and Pacific hip hop. After being nominated for Best Hip Hop Artist at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards in 2019, they released their debut album Teeth the following day on 15 November.Since then, they’ve been nominated for four Pacific Music Awards including Flava Best Pacific Group, Base FM NZ & Island Base Samoa Best Pacific Hip Hop Artist, Best Producer and Recorded Music NZ Best Pacific Music Album.Hip hop artist commonly referred to as ‘Poly Pac’ (in reference to West Cost hip hop legend Tupac Shakur), Poetik achieved huge success with his album HAMOFIED 2 EP last year and has been nominated for three awards at the 2020 Pacific Music Awards – NZ Music Commission Best Pacific Male Artist, Base FM NZ & Island Base Samoa Best Pacific Hip Hop Artist and Recorded Music NZ Best Pacific Music Album.

In a Pacific Music Awards first, Shepherds Reign are the first Polynesian heavy metal group to be nominated as finalists.They’re up for Flava Best Pacific Group, SunPix Best Pacific Language and APRA Best Pacific Song for their single ‘Le Manu’. The song is inspired by the legend of an ancient Samoan warrior and is quite possibly the first heavy metal song sung in the Samoan language.Both Noah Slee and Lepani are nominated for Best Pacific Soul/R&B Artist, as well as NZ Music Commission Best Pacific Male Artist, while rapper Melodownz is nominated for Base FM NZ & Island Base Samoa Best Pacific Hip Hop Artist for his song ‘No Mercy’ featuring American rapper Denzel Curry.

Other finalists include Jordan Gavet (Best Pacific Soul/R&B Artist), Mikey Mayz (Best Producer), HP Boyz (PMN Best International Pacific Artist), and of course Onehunga stalwarts SWIDT (NZ On Air Best Pacific Music Video) for their video ‘Bunga‘.There will be six other awards announced for the 2020 Pacific Music Awards: Phillip Fuemana Most Promising Pacific Artist, NZ On Air Radio Airplay Award, NZ On Air Streaming Award, SunPix People’s Choice Award – Best Pacific Artist, Special Recognition Award and the Manukau Institute of Technology Lifetime Achievement Award.The winner of the Recorded Music NZ Best Pacific Music Album category is presented with an official Tui and recognised at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards later this year.Head to the Pacific Music Awards Facebook page to keep up with the latest.