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Live music in the time of Covid: Soul Lounge ‘a blessing’ for local artists

Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

As backing vocalists for vocal powerhouse Stan Walker, singing trio The Standard are far more used to arranging and organising their melodious harmonies. But for this years’ Soul Lounge, the group tried their hand at organising the prestigious musical event.

“It puts it into perspective as to what actually goes on and what needs to happen because when you’re just an act, you don’t have to worry about any of that,” says The Standard singer Ani Nuku.

“But it totally changes the whole game if you’re actually trying to organise everything and have to just think about all the different aspects that you didn’t normally have to.”

Held at Māngere Arts Centre, Soul Lounge brought together seasoned performers and rising stars for an amazing live session of Soul and R&B music.

Working together with the Māngere-Otāhuhu Local Board, The Standard member Lilo Asiata says the board’s involvement is “a blessing” for local artists.

“It’s important to have a body, a government body that’s willing to also see the same vision,” says The Standard member Lilo Asiata.

“And so, when they gave us the chance to do this, we only pulled from our local community Māngere, South Auckland in general and… we feel buzzy playing alongside on the same bill with them.

“And they’ll gain more experience, they’ll start younger and they’re gonna get better – they’ll be better than us.”

Some of the artists selected for the bill have gotten their start in churches and inter-school competitions. Excel School of Performing Arts student PJ Tele’a was in awe of the talent he had seen at past events, and sees Soul Lounge as a step up in his burgeoning career.

“When I get these opportunities it’s a chance for exposure, I feel like this is a step,” says Tele’a.

“It’s just a dream to be at these events to be performing alongside other different, gifted artists.

“At the end of the day this is humble beginnings, so the humble beginnings is starting right now. And when I reach my goals, ah, over the moon.”

Singing trio The Standard were handed the reins for this years' event, working together with the Māngere-Otāhuhu Local Board to support South Auckland talent.
Singing trio The Standard were handed the reins for this years’ Soul Lounge, working together with the Māngere-Otāhuhu Local Board to support South Auckland talent.

Auckland University music student Silika Isaia is also at the beginning of her musical journey. With appearances at Pasifika Festival and Pacific Gospel show Soul Sessions, in March Isaia graced her greatest stage yet.

“I think the biggest so far has been opening up for L.A.B.’s last summer show at Mt Smart. I reckon that would be the biggest performance by far,” smiles Isaia.

“Soul Lounge is an opportunity for me to give back to my community, they’ve helped build me, they’ve helped define the character that I am today.

“[It’s] the least I can do to give back to [them] and to tell them that ‘hey guys I’m here, you made this person, this is just my little gift for you.’”

With the Pandemic continuing its grip around the world, many local artists have lost out on gigs. Events like Soul Lounge provide creative outlets of community outreach for these artists and much more.

Which is why Nathan Peseta, another Standard member, says gigs like Soul Lounge become all the more important.

“I know all three of us individually, like we’ve had gigs overseas [in] Australia. Covid did a big number on that, especially with finances as well.

“So, we’re really grateful that we still can do gigs here in New Zealand, especially big shows and that. We still can – we all can eat.”

“That’s it aye, we can all eat and a lot of different people have made it possible for us to eat even in the hardest of times,” addds Asiata.

“We’re really grateful for events like this that manage to push forward and offer us a chance to work so it’s very important to us.”

Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.


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