Eccles Entertainment and Live Nation led representatives from each aspect of the music industry in New Zealand last Saturday to stand up against racism and celebrate diversity with an all-ages sold-out audience at the Spark Arena in Auckland. Proceeds from ticket sales were donated to the Our People, Our City fund which was set up by the Christchurch Foundation helping those affected by the Christchurch terror attacks.
After four weeks, the devastating effects of the senseless gun-related violence in Christchurch can still be felt by everyone in New Zealand. Slowly, grief and hopelessness have been replaced by hope and solidarity as more and more people reflect on their own prejudices while appreciating the Muslim community.
New Zealander of the Year Mike King did an amazing job to host the concert packed with amazing performances by some of New Zealand's best music artists. He applauded the huge number of young adults and children who made up the 11,000 strong crowd at the arena.
Sharon Hawke, Board Member of Ngā Aho Whakaari - Māori in Screen Production accompanied King to officially open the ceremony with a singing of the hymn Whakaria Mai or How Great Thou Art.
Right after, NZ's 'rock royalty' Dave Dobbyn and his band started off the historical concert with his well-known hit, Welcome Home.
A video message by PM Jacinda Ardern thanked everyone for being part of the charity concert and to keep uniting the country through love.
Rising princess of pop, Bene got the crowd moving with her brand of indie pop followed by Persian rapper CHAII and her recent viral hit, Digebasse (Enough) which is a perfect modern anthem for empowerment and freedom.
NZ prince of Pop and RnB, Stan Walker came next with a stirring performance of Amazing Grace followed by an English and Mäori cover of Don't Dream It's Over by Crowded House.
One after the other, each artist sustained the level of excitement and joy at the concert. It was the song We Are One by the Dilworth Choir, accompanied by School Director of Choral Music, Claire Caldwell that opened the floodgates of emotion for this writer. Seeing the choir made up of youth from different ethnic backgrounds glowing in harmony with each other filled one with hope for a better future. This was perpetuated further by Jason Kerrison from band OpShops who led the choir with a rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. This was one of the night's most memorable moments.
Hailing from Palestine and producer of High Beams, Illbaz's wardrobe choice for the show easily became the NZ fashion statement of the year with his white coloured 'Fuck Racists' hoodie. His 'collective' of artists literally showed the vibrant energy of the present-day hip hop scene in Aotearoa. Bailey Wiley shared her latest single, Sugar followed by a song each from JessB and Diggy Dupe.
The style and tempo of the music changed yet again with NZ singer-songwriter Mitch James belting out his songs including 21 and a cover of Robbie Williams' Angels where the whole arena joined in to sing at the top of their voices with lights raised up high.
Multi-award winning Onehunga hip hop collective, SWIDT were up next with their usual 'electrifying' performance.
It was during this part of the show where everyone got to meet the cutest co-host ever... Mike King's daughter Charlie who easily melted hearts with her cute and beaming smile.
Legendary Kiwi Drum n Bass band Shapeshifter turned the volume and energy up once more with vocalist Paora 'P Digsss' Apera adding just the right amount of soul into each song.
Jason Kerrison returned to stage with Love Will Always Win to resonate PM Jacinda Arden's bold message to the world.
Anika Moa and Hollie Smith continued the epic lineup of artists with the powerful song Running Through The Fire from Moa's 2010 LP, Love In Motion. Don McGlashan and the Dilworth Choir joined the two iconic performers for Bathe In The River.
Hollie Smith invited TEEKS up on stage before introducing How Great Thou Art with tears welling up in her eyes. The following gospel-style rendition of the song with voices of the youth choir was easily another stunning highlight of the show.
NZ's popular crooner from Lyttelton, Marlon Williams was accompanied on stage by long-time collaborator Dave Kahn for an extremely moving version of Make Way For Love.
Six60 took to the stage next followed by a heartfelt address from Iklaq Kashari, president of New Zealand’s Muslim Association.
We came full circle as Dave Dobbyn closed out the concert with a duet with Bic Runga and many of the earlier acts joining in for a Slice Of Heaven.
The You Are Us / Aroha Nui concert in Auckland was truly a historical one that reflected the Kiwi spirit of tolerance and inclusiveness but also a stark reminder that everyone bears a responsibility to fuck racism in all forms.