A New Zealand Music Award winner and popular R&B singer has hit out at the ceremony, refusing to accept an award and accusing organisers of racism.

Aaradhna refused to accept her Tui award at last night's star-studded ceremony after being placed in what she called a category for "brown" artists.

The 32-year-old Porirua singer had already won the award for best female solo artist when she was announced as the winner of the best urban/hip-hop artist category.

Source: TV3 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards

But during her hard-hitting acceptance speech, she said she felt she couldn't be compared to the other finalists, Onehunga rap crew SWIDT and veteran PNC, because she was a singer.


"This song is Brown Girl, it speaks so many things, it speaks racism, and being placed in a box. For me, I feel like if I was to accept this, I'm not being truthful (to my) song," she said.

"I feel like if you're putting a singer next to a hip-hop artist, it's not fair. I'm a singer, I'm not a rapper. I'm not a hip-hop artist.

"It feels like I've been placed in a category for brown people, that's what it feels like."

Instead, she chose to give the Tui award to SWIDT, a decision greeted by applause from the crowd.

SWIDT thanks Aaradhna (left) after she re-awards her urban/hip hop Tui to them instead. Photo / Supplied
SWIDT thanks Aaradhna (left) after she re-awards her urban/hip hop Tui to them instead. Photo / Supplied

"I believe you guys are the future of hip-hop," she said, as the six-strong crew bounded onstage.

Aaradhna called for the awards to add a new category for soul and R&B singers.

It is believed to be the first time an artist has declined to accept a Tui at the NZ Music Awards.

After the ceremony she told The Spinoff putting R&B artists up against rappers was "unfair".


"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," she said.

"I'm not angry, I just feel like it's unfair to be in a category that's not related to what I do. To me, it just seems like it's the brown people category, or the coloured people or whatever. That's the category for the 'urban folks'."

Organisers haven't yet commented on Aaradhna's claims, but her comments were celebrated on social media.

The star later performed her song Brown Girl next to the words, "I'm more than the colour of my skin" splashed across the stage. She received a standing ovation.

It's not the first time Aaradhna has spoken out about racism.

In a letter posted to fans on Twitter in July, the 32-year-old says her song Brown Girl deals with the labels she was given "growing up as an Indian and Samoan New Zealander".

"I've seen and witnessed others including myself being automatically labelled for what we look like, what we wore, the way we spoke, where we resided," she wrote.

"I've been called a curry muncher, a dumb coconut, all kinds of names in the book while growing up and I've always felt like I was looked down on.

For the second year in a row Broods dominated the awards.

It was a clean sweep for the brother and sister duo of Caleb and Georgia Nott as they took out five of the night's biggest prizes, including the coveted and hotly contested People's Choice Award.

The full list of winners:

Source: TV3 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.

VNZMA 2016 Winners (by category)

1. Godfrey Hirst Album of the Year


Broods - 'Conscious'

Aaradhna - 'Brown Girl'

Fat Freddy's Drop - 'BAYS'

Hollie Smith - 'Water Or Gold'

Tami Neilson - 'Don't Be Afraid'

The Phoenix Foundation - 'Give Up Your Dreams'

2. Vodafone Single of the Year
Winner: Broods - 'Free'
Aaradhna - 'Brown Girl'
KINGS - 'Don't Worry Bout' It'
MAALA - 'Kind of Love'
The Naked And Famous - 'Higher'
Shapeshifter - 'Stars'

3. Best Group
Winner: Broods - 'Conscious'
Fat Freddy's Drop - 'BAYS'
The Phoenix Foundation - 'Give Up Your Dreams'
Sol3 Mio - 'On Another Note'

4. Best Male Solo Artist
Winner: MAALA - 'Composure'
Avalanche City - 'We Are For The Wild Places'
Dave Dobbyn - 'Harmony House'
Lawrence Arabia - 'Absolute Truth'

5. Fiji Airways Best Female Solo Artist
Winner: Aaradhna - 'Brown Girl'
Hollie Smith - 'Water Or Gold'
Ladyhawke - 'Wild Things'
Tami Neilson - 'Don't Be Afraid'

6. Breakthrough Artist of the Year
Winner: KINGS - 'Don't Worry Bout' It'
LEISURE - All Over You'
nomad - 'Oh My My'
SACHI - 'Lunch with Bianca'

7. Best Rock Album
Winner: Villainy - 'Dead Sight'
Beastwars - 'The Death Of All Things'
Jordan Luck Band - 'Not Only... But Also'

8. The Edge Best Pop Album
Winner: Broods - 'Conscious'
Avalanche City - 'We Are For The Wild Places'
MAALA - 'Composure'

9. Best Alternative Album
Winner: Lawrence Arabia - 'Absolute Truth'
The Phoenix Foundation - 'Give Up Your Dreams'
Silicon - 'Personal Computer'

10. Best Urban/Hip Hop Album
Winner: Aaradhna - 'Brown Girl' (declined to accept)
PNC - 'The Luke Vailima EP'
SWIDT - 'SmokeyGotBeatz Presents SWIDT vs EVERYBODY'

11. Best Roots Album
Winner: Unity Pacific - 'Blackbirder Dread'
Fat Freddy's Drop - 'BAYS'
Rob Ruha - 'Pūmau'

12. Best Electronic Album
Winner: Pacific Heights - 'The Stillness
Electric Wire Hustle - 'Aeons'
Opiuo - 'Omniversal'

13. Te Mangai Paho Best Maori Album
Winner: Rob Ruha - 'Pūmau'
Dennis Marsh - 'Maori Songbook 2'
Kirsten Te Rito - 'Āiotanga'

14. Best Worship Album
Winner:Edge Kingsland - 'Edge Vol. 3: The Common Good'
Grace Vineyard Music - 'Seek You'
LIFE Worship - 'By My Spirit'

15. Best Classical Album
Winner: Anthony Ritchie and Ross Harris - 'Fjarran'
Kenneth Young - 'Shadows and Light'
Zephyr - 'Zephyr'

16. Vodafone People's Choice Award
Winner: Broods
Fat Freddy's Drop

17. NZ Herald Legacy Award
Bic Runga

18. Vodafone Highest Selling Single
Six60 - 'White Lines'

19. Three Highest Selling Album
Sol3Mio - 'On Another Note'

20. NZ On Air Radio Airplay Record of the Year
Six60 - 'White Lines'

21. International Achievement
Fat Freddy's Drop