Promising Pacific musician feeling the love following Pacific Music Awards

15 June 2017

Kumi mo e logona e fakalofa
Find and feel the love

Finding an identity as a songwriter and performer has reaped rewards for Popular Music graduate Tommy Ikitogia. Half-Niuean, half-Kiwi, Tommy is deeply proud of his roots. "Throughout my life, I've struggled to find a sense of identity due to being multicultural," he tells. "Returning to Niue was the most grounding experience I've ever had, so paying tribute to it within my songs is very important to me."

Performing as Tommy Nee, he has had a breakthrough 18 months since graduating in 2016, capped off by winning the Phillip Fuemana Award for Most Promising Artist at the recent Vodafone Pacific Music Awards. In accepting the award, Tommy paid tribute to his family, friends, collaborators and Niue. "As the most promising artist, I promise to deliver you the goods!" he told the gathered crowd at the Vodafone Events Centre on 1 June.

"I think his achievements are down to his capacity to successfully build his profile and identity as an artist," says Stephen Matthews, Popular Music programme leader. "He’s worked tirelessly to promote his musical work since graduating." Tommy is honest when speaking of his efforts to gain recognition for his music. "The most difficult part is the quantity of work that is needed," he says. "Talent will only get you so far. If you really want to make something of yourself, it’s the hard yards behind the scenes that make you stick out." 

Tommy Nee performing Feel at the 2017 Vodafone Pacific Music Awards. 

Although the reality can at times be overwhelming, Tommy said the recognition of the Most Promising Artist award makes it worthwhile. "It was a complete honour," he says. "I work hard at my craft, and to be recognised like this really confirms to me that this is what I should be doing." However, he's most interested in the day-to-day impact of his music, rather than formal awards. "I’d like to think my music is for the people, always. If I can help at least one person through their day, then my job is done."

His latest release, Feel, may have the biggest impact of any of his work to date. "It's my favourite song on Colorblind (his debut EP)," Tommy tells. "It comes from a place of pure vulnerability, talking about my experience with that nasty silent assassin we know as depression." Tapping into his Niuean roots, his lyrics refer to allowing love in to help overcome. "It could be any kind of love – God, family, friends, anything which helps you get through." On the biggest stage of his career thus far, Tommy shared this deeply personal song at the Pacific Music Awards, giving exposure to his Niuean heritage as well his positive, supporting message.

Testament to his promising talent, Tommy was also nominated for the Best Pacific Male Artist award, alongside industry heavyweights Savage and Kings. "To be up against such well-regarded names is huge for me, it was a complete honour," he says. Godfrey de Grut, who taught Tommy during his time at the School of Music, is not surprised by Tommy’s success. "The perseverance and motivation to create that Tommy exhibited during his time at the University has given him the skillset to record and independently release his debut EP," Godfrey says. "His well-crafted and approachable musical stylings fit well within a broad spectrum of music tastes. I have no doubt he promises to provide uniquely New Zealand music for years to come."

With momentum behind him, Tommy plans to make the most of 2017. "There will be a full length album coming very soon. The end of the year is looking very nice to me!"

You can keep up to date with Tommy and his music via the following channels: