Months of practice and creative effort has paid off for the top eight Smokefreerockquest bands and solo-duos who have made it through to the 2016 national final in Auckland - including Tauranga's AhJeez.

The 700 entries in this year's youth music event competed live during May and June in centres from Dunedin to Whangarei. The regional finalists sent in their video footage, and after the announcement of the top 30 last week, the final judging was done today.

The judges were Chris Mac from Six60, 1998 Smokefreerockquest national winner Anna Coddington and Kimbra's musical director Timon Martin.

Timon Martin said the overall standard made the task a challenge, with the judges opting for originality and character, rather than just technical perfection.


"The top acts all had an originality of vision," he said.

"For New Zealand music to make an impact both at home and overseas, we need to cultivate a unique identity, and the artists we picked really showed a strong sense of that, no matter the genre. For us, they represented a bright future for creativity in New Zealand music."

The top eight is made up of five bands and three solo-duos.

The top 5 bands are:

Alien Weaponry, Northland

This 3-piece metal band with kapa haka influences is from Bream Bay College and Otamatea High School. The members are brothers Lewis de Jong (guitar/vocals) and Henry de Jong (drums), and Ethan Trembath (bass).

O-Boy! North Shore
The female alternative rock-punk duo is made up of Bianca Bailey (drums) and Bryony Roberts (bass) from Kaipara College. They placed second in the North Shore regional final, competing in the band category as their line up includes a drum kit.

Daffodils, Auckland
The indie pop 4-piece from Western Springs College and Kristin School placed first in the Auckland Central Smokefreerockquest final. The members are Theo Salmon (lead guitar and vocals), Isaac Keating (drums), Jade Bryham (synthesizer and keyboard) and Louis Graham (bass).

Half Eaten Pie, Waikato
This three-piece fast-rock indie band got their name from a comment a teacher made about their 'half pie efforts' at finding a name. The band is Lachlan Oosterman (lead guitar and vocals) Hayden Mcfie (bass) and Matthew Church (drums)

AhJeez, Bay of Plenty
Funk-blues 4-piece AhJeez came second in the Bay of Plenty final and features last year's national solo-duo winner Ben Mollison on lead guitar, along with Elijah Taula (lead vocals), Mitchell Nemeth (bass), and Brodie McDowell (drums). The members attend Bethlehem College & Tauranga Boys College.

Highly commended were: Suburban Goons, New Plymouth Boys' High School, Taranaki and Hymns and Her, Dannevirke High School, Manawatu

The top 3 solo/duos are:

Iris G, Auckland

Singer songwriter Iris Guevarra plays electric guitar and attends Avondale College. She says growing up in Auckland's Filipino community Karaoke was a big part of her childhood and led to her ambition to make music her career.

Sonatane Kaufusi, Manukau
Sonatane Kaufusi attends Manurewa High School, plays keyboards and describes his music as a fusion of RnB, country and soul. He is inspired by his family and religion.

Cam Dawson, Nelson
Blenheim teenager Cam Dawson plays keyboard and is boarding at Nelson's Garin College this year to focus on his music. He placed second in the solo duo section of the Smokefreerockquest 2014 national final and describes his music as varied in style.

Highly commended were: Aimee Way, Kaipara College, North Shore; and Kieran O'Connor, Garin College, Nelson.

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