He's already been recognised as a respected leader and gifted sportsman but now Shaquille Graham can add Rotorua's Got Talent winner to his string of accolades.

The 2012 Rotorua Boys' High School head boy has been announced as the winner of the Mudtopia Festival – Rotorua's Got Talent competition. His prize includes a 30-minute slot on the Mud Stage at Mudtopia on December 1-3 and a 30-minute slot on the Garden Stage at Rhythm & Vines later that month.

Graham has featured in the Rotorua Daily Post several times, as a rising star and a leader. He said his life took a different path a few years back after the loss of his brother.

"I was in a pretty dark place and music became my outlet, a place where I could vent, a place I could express myself, and it became part of who I am as a person. A fire was lit in my belly."


He was studying at Otago but earlier this year he started a one-year music diploma at Sound Audio Engineering (SAE) in Auckland. He performs under the name S.G and describes himself as an independent rap and hip hop artist from Rotorua.

"Words are my thing. Music is the vessel I use to give them a platform."

Graham said he heard about the Rotorua's Got Talent auditions from friends.

"A few of them messaged and suggested I give it a go but I was initially a bit hesitant. It took a fairly decent push from my girlfriend before I decided to enter."

He said the audition was "very organic" with a microphone and two judges in a closed room.

"But I really enjoyed it. I released my debut single on Spotify not so long ago and have been hard out practising so the audition was almost like another step in the process."

He said the two stage slots were timely following the release of his single.

"I couldn't have asked for more really. It's also pretty cool that I get to perform on stage in Rotorua in front of family and friends. Rotorua is my home and I wear the city on my sleeve.

"My ultimate music goal is to be able to encapsulate a voice of my people and a voice of truth through rhythm and poetry that will positively affect them and raise my city."

Judges of Rotorua's Got Talent had earlier selected four finalists from the auditions. They were Graham, Nunilon lll, Feels Souls Good and the band Hailstones.

Judge Sarah Lewis said even though Graham was a clear winner, it has also been decided to give Feels Souls Good a spot on the Mud Stage.