This year Smokefreerockquest marks its 30th anniversary as the platform that launched many of New Zealand’s biggest musical success stories, including Kimbra, Aaradhna, OpShop, Joel Little, Nadia Reid, Broods, Marlon Williams and Anika Moa.
Around 700 entrants are expected to perform in the 2018 round of over 40 heats and finals staged throughout New Zealand. Events were launched in Parliament by Prime Minister Jacinda Adern at a function in the Grand Hall on May 7.
Adern said she was thrilled to be hosting an event that demonstrated the importance of the arts in education, and also contributed significantly to what is now a major New Zealand industry.
“You only have to look at what past entrants have gone on to achieve to recognise the event’s status as a fantastic training ground for young performers,” she said. “It has nurtured a wealth of talent – right from the beginning with the 1989 and 1990 winners who went on to form OpShop, through to Aldous Harding who was an Otago regional finalist and just last month took out the Taite Music Prize.”
Smokefreerockquest Founder and Director Pete Rainey says after 30 years of working with young people and schools, he and his partner Glenn Common are more than ever convinced of the role the arts and creativity play in education.
“We’re thrilled to have created a history right across New Zealand with events that let kids show off their love of music – writing original songs and performing them in a band or as solo-duos extends their skills and boosts their confidence,” he said.
“For some it has lead to national and international success, hundreds more have gone on to teach music, to work in the recording industry, in the media and in many other performance-related careers. Whatever they do, most of our alumni will tell you playing in Smokefreerockquest remains the standout moment of their high school years.”
Rainey says there are changes this year to ensure Smokefreerockquest keeps pace with the times and is responsive to student needs and to NZQA assessment requirements.
“We’ve launched DisCovered – a video submission competition for cover songs where students showcase their arranging talents on cover songs; we are encouraging senior students to use the heats as a platform to film their performance for NCEA, and we’re allowing more pre-recorded electronic elements in the solo-duo section,” he says.
“We’ve also rebranded our 20-year-old sister Smokefree Pacifica Beats – this competition fosters Maori and Pacifica culture in a contemporary music and now has the more inclusive title Smokefree Tangata Beats.”
The live events run from May 5 until July 6, and most regions will also be filmed for the hugely popular SFRQ webisodes (link), fronted this year by NZ’s ‘First Bloke’ Clarke Gayford.
The top regional bands and solo/duos submit footage for selection as finalists to play at the Smokefree Tangata Beats national final on Friday September 21 at the Dorothy Winstone Centre in Auckland, followed by the Smokefreerockquest national final on Saturday September 22.
Smokefreerockquest, powered by Rockshop, has national winners’ prize packages for bands and solo/duo winners that includes $22,000 in Rockshop vouchers, $16,000 NZ On Air recording, video and promo package, a photo shoot and branding package from Imaginary Friends. There is also the Musicianship Award, the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) Lyric Award, Best Song Award, Smokefree Vocals Award, Fatboy Style Award, and the People’s Choice.
Musical successes from Smokefreerockquest over its 30-year history include Broods, Leroy Clampitt, Kimbra, Aaradhna, Opshop, Evermore, Ladyhawke, Kids of 88, Die!Die!Die!, Joel Little, Tiny Ruins, Marlon Williams, Brooke Fraser, Anika Moa, Chelsea Jade, Nadia Reid, Aldous Harding, Steriogram, Phoenix Foundation, Devilskin, The Black Seeds, Bic Runga, and The Naked and Famous. Smokefree Tangata Beats standout successes include Alien Weaponry, Strangely Arousing Nesian Mystik, the only New Zealand band to ever have 10 singles all certified gold or platinum.