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Leading hip-hop figures, family and friends came together yesterday in an emotional farewell to "the Godfather of South Auckland".

Phil Fuemana, one of the pioneers of the New Zealand hip-hop movement, died of a heart attack at his home on Monday. He was 41.

Among the mourners were showbiz and music industry friends including hip-hop star Dei Hamo, Dawn Raid Entertainment head Brotha D, veteran soul-funk band Ardijah, Maori singer Whirimako Black, performance artist Mika and television presenter Oscar Kightley.

Music producer Matty J Ruys said he had known Fuemana for almost 20 years and the pair had become like brothers. "Phil became affectionately known as 'the Godfather of South Auckland'. He was a mentor to us and had a huge vision about seeing the music prosper and travel.

"For Phil it was all about the music and that vision lives on."

About 400 people gathered at Te Tira Hou Marae in Panmure for a mixed Pacific Island and Maori ceremony to celebrate the life of the man who paved the way for today's rash of hip-hop stars.

Phil Fuemana was the founder of Urban Pasifika Records, an Otara company which launched young hip-hop, soul and reggae groups - including his younger brother Pauly Fuemana's Otara Millionaires' Club, which made No 1 in eight countries with the hit How Bizarre.

At the funeral Pauly Fuemana told how his brother had picked him up when he was down. "It took a punch in the head, but it was [Phil] that made me sort my life out."

As well as OMC, Phil Fuemana also had successes with the 1994 Proud compilation and a New Zealand tour of Otara artists. He recently released the second Gifted and Maori album, a compilation of unknown Maori artists.

But as well as being an important figure in the music world, he was a brother, a partner, an uncle, a cousin and a friend, said sister Christina.

She spoke tearfully of the brother she knew away from the industry - a big-hearted, caring man with a love of all people.

Brother Tony said Phil Fuemana would never settle for mediocre music. He always pushed people to aim high and be the best they could.

"He was a dreamer, but also a guy who achieved a lot," Tony said.

"I'll miss the times we stayed up for hours talking and dreaming; I'll miss the times he called me up and we went out for a drive; I'll miss the times we played Counter Strike on the computer; I'll miss the hours we spent just being brothers."