Silver Scrolls 2016 Review

The Silver Scroll Awards focus on the best of New Zealand songwriting. The most enjoyable part of the evening is seeing artists from vastly different genres rubbing shoulders and often covering each other's songs. A prime example last night was the cover of 'Rainphase' by Salina Fisher (winner of the Sounz Contemporary Award) which was done by Jeffrey Boyle from Jakob, Julia Deans (shown above) and Chris O'Conner. This modern orchestral piece was turned into an ambient, free-form jam.

Though possibly the best cover of the night was Jocee's Tuck's version of 'The First Man' which took the sparse, folky original track by Tami Neilson and turned it into a full scale production with horns and two large scale xylophones...

The strongest categories this year seemed to be that involved writing soundtracks for television and film. It's a sign of the times that so many of our greatest songwriters are putting their hand to this work to make a living (certainly more profitable than trying to sell their own songs in the age of downloading). In fact, two of the artists nominated for the main award were also featured in this catergory - Samuel Scott, Lukasz Buda, and Conrad Wedde (from the Phoenix Foundation) were in the Feature Film category for their amazing, synth-heavy backing music for Hunt for the Wilderpeople; and Tamie Neilson and Jay Neilson were in the Best Original Music In A Series category for their work on The Brokenwood Mysteries. Talented Wellington songwriter, Age Pryor, was also in that later category, but in the end it was won by Karl Steven (Supergroove, Drab Doo Riffs, Queen Neptune) - do read our interview with him about his process for writing film scores.

The fact that Mahuia Bridgeman Cooper and Tama Waipara won the Film category seemed fitting too, since Cooper has done some great work in the background over the years (for example, the great string parts on the last two Lawrence Arabia albums), while Waipara is a great advocate for music in te reo. Given that Moana Maniapoto was being inducted in the Hall of Fame, it was a great night for Māori music. The winning song in Maioha category was also very song - a great pounding number by Rob Ruha (which also features the skills of Tiki Taane).

Karl Steven and Rob Ruha

It did seem like the big award of the night might go to the Phoenix Foundation, since they have been nominated on four previous occasions without ever winning. Their song, 'Give Up Your Dreams,' has a very kiwi, down-to-earth sense of humour about it, but is not less honest and direct in its message. Street Chant's song, 'Pedestrian Support League,' has a similar local feel to its wry description of flat life in Auckland. Lydia Cole's song, 'Dream,' is more earnest than either of these, though the cover by Nadia Reid was rather exquisite in austerity:

Nadia Reid

The final winner on the night was 'If I Move To Mars' by Thomas Oliver. It's more of a basic love-song, so it's hard to tell why it gained the final nod from the judges and there has been some controversy. It seems that if you want to win a serious songwriting award then earnestness trumps humour (or maybe just having a lot of other friends who are APRA members, since possibly there was a bit of a split vote between the indie fans who like Phoenix Foundation and those who like Street Chant).

In any case, the most stirring win of the night was definitely Moana Maniapoto's induction in the Hall of Fame, with a strong haka performed by her friends and family as she returned to her table with the award, which was then answered by a similarly passionate waiata from those up in the tiered seating above. She's been pushing Maori representation in music for over twenty years now, so let's finish by winding the clock back and checking out her top ten single from 1994. He manawa tītī!

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