Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
A small Wellington music collective is striving to elevate Asian artists in the Aotearoa music scene.
Eastern Sound Collective, founded by electronic alt-pop artist Nadia Freeman, aka Miss Leading, is a space for Wellington-based pan-Asian musicians and artists to connect.
"Asian representation in festival lineups is not representative of Asians in the population."
Freeman created ESC having been part of a similar network in the UK.
"Coming back to New Zealand, I knew I was going to miss that support network. I want to meet other artists who are like me."
As well as being a creative space for diverse artists, ESC is working on projects to promote New Zealand music and artists.
"ESC will be doing a podcast this year where we will be interviewing New Zealand musicians of Asian ethnic heritage. On the third Friday of every month at Meow, we'll be hosting events showcasing local Asian musicians."
Building its reputation among artists has let ESC diversify in its sound and membership.
"Our members are Korean, Malaysian. Some peripheral members who aren't part of the committee but are involved in our events, are Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino."
Freeman is a poet and alternative-pop artist of Asian descent, inspired by poets/artists including Dua Saleh, Jill Scott, and Tank and the Bangas. Her 2021 album Minor Thing was marketed using her connections with other Asian artists and received critical acclaim internationally.
"I did a small tour at the end of last year and I now have a music video coming out for release on May the 25th called Woke. So, it's been a fun, exciting year."
Woke's composition and accompanying video dig into the hypocrisy Freeman says is evident in anti-racism campaigns.
"The music industry in New Zealand is very bound to the circles that it moves in, so if you've got a board of middle-aged white men, they'd tend to select people like that too. It works in all industries for employment and the music industry is no different in that respect."
Freeman says ESC aims to consistently improve to be an inclusive, diverse, creative space.
"That's a huge goal for us, just to make sure that it's visible that we're open to all Asian musicians in Wellington."
She says she's excited by a "rising tide of Asian artists who are starting to get noticed and starting to push to claim space".
Artists like ASHY and Reshma Martin are on the rise in Aotearoa thanks to our changing artistic landscape, she says.
"And suddenly New Zealand starts to have a different sound which is really exciting."