Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

#PMAS2021: Tongan songstress Emily Muli up for Best Pacific Soul/R&B Artist

As the Pacific Music Awards 2021 ceremony looms closer, we catch up with some of this year’s nominees. Emily Muli is a first-time PMA nominee, up for Best Pacific Soul/R&B Artist. The Tongan songstress has opened shows for Aaradhna and headlined for Auckland Arts Festival, Music in Parks and more. She is currently working on a new project set to drop soon.

Emily Muli. Photo: Pacific Music Awards 2021
Emily Muli. Photo: Pacific Music Awards 2021
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Ann-Tauilo Motuga | Reporter/Videographer

Hailing from the Tongan villages of Fua’amotu and Kanokupolu, Emily Muli is heiress to a generational legacy of storytellers stemming from her late grandfather Henele Vaka Muli.

Last year’s lockdown saw the emerging talent arrange, record and release her soulful single Self-Care. This year Self-Care has landed Muli her first PMA nomination — for Best Pacific Soul/R&B Artist alongside finalists Lepani and Lou’ana.

“I feel super honoured! I’ve been privileged enough to work with Lou’ana on Tommy Nee’s EP a few years back as backing vocalists. She’s a beautiful soul, and I love how grounded she is in her sound,” Muli says.

“I’ve also been on the same bill as Lepani [for] Music in Parks right before lockdown, and he has such a fresh sound. They’re both incredible, and I’m just honoured to be nominated in the same category as them.”

Muli has garnered a name for herself in the music realm by fusing elements of neo-soul, R&B, jazz and her Pacific roots. She says she’s “immensely humbled” by the nomination.

“Funnily enough I had no idea I was nominated for that award. I was away at a week-long camp with no device, so I had no way of receiving or sending communications,” she says.

“[The nomination] means a lot, especially as an independent artist who just gathered amazing friends together to release a song with a message of wellbeing. We had no budget, no time in the studio, no real plan. It just felt like the right time to release the song because of the times we were living in.”

The first-time nominee is excited to celebrate Pacific music and artists who have made the industry what it is today.

“When I was in high school, I remember sitting in the bleachers in awe of all the greats who I grew up listening to. In university, I played foyer entertainment before heading in to celebrate my muso brother Tommy Nee, who had been awarded Most Promising Artist that year. Now, it feels surreal that I’m attending as a nominee — a full-circle moment and one that I’ll always be grateful for,” Muli says.

Emily Muli. Photo: Coconet TV
Emily Muli. Photo: Coconet TV

Besides music, Muli is a social justice advocate and a public servant. At aged 16, she travelled to Tanzania on a mission trip, where her love for music and serving selflessly grew. At 19, she became a World Vision Youth Ambassador and travelled to Malawi. Recently, Muli travelled to the Solomon Islands, where she learned about the effects climate change has on our Pasifika region.

“With the help of my sisters and Manawa Ahi family, we put on events for our Pacific communities to educate them on climate change through creative arts and talanoa,” Muli told Coconet TV.

Muli hopes her music “inspires our young artists to keep going, keep learning, keep asking questions and keep exploring. Music is a gift, and it’s up to us and how we use that gift to bless others”.

The 2021 Pacific Music Awards will broadcast live here on TP+, Saturday 11 December at 7pm.

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