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The New Locals: Pania

One of Melbourne's iciest newcomers speaks on her inspiration, process, and staying connected to her Polynesian roots.

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Pania has been on the bubble for a moment now, initially releasing her first track ‘Lotus’ back in 2018 and switching gears in 2019 with a follow-up track called ‘Carlo’. The West-Melbourne singer grew up in a Polynesian household where music and culture were often intertwined closely, and the hereditary importance of the music within her was evident in her from a young age. With a range of powerhouse influences from Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse, to Rihanna and SZA, it’s easy to tell that Pania is channelling some of that potency on her latest track ‘Icyy’, a silky-smooth ballad produced by Melbourne’s Hamley. We caught up with Pania to talk music, the local scene and the importance of connecting with her roots.

Hey Pania! How did you first get into making music?
I first started making music after high school, I had just discovered Erykah Badu and neo-soul, and that kind of changed the way I felt music. I’d never been exposed to it beforehand and it inspired me like crazy, I picked up an electric guitar shortly after and started making demos. I was always super shy about sharing anything for a long time though.

Growing up, what type of music did you listen to? Do you remember the first album you bought?
Around the house, it was always Polynesian-reggae or hip-hop and RnB music, and this was when RnB was thriving. I was watching artists like Usher, Missy Elliot and Ne-Yo! The first album I bought was a JB album, haha I was a funny kid. But my favourite hard copy album was Rihanna’s Loud, I’d play it every day after school and just tune out! I’ve always been a huge Rihanna fan

Tell us about the music you have released so far! What have you got out there right now?
‘Lotus’ is the first track I ever properly recorded, it was about a breakup—proper sad girl vibes too [laughs]. ‘Carlo’ was something to make the people groove more at my live shows, it’s something I made for the ladies, in particular, to feel themselves to whilst getting ready to go out!

Let’s talk about your newest track ‘ICYY’ can you talk us through the meaning and the process of putting it together?
‘Icyy’ is about feeling cold-hearted as a result of being hurt in the past and reflecting that pain onto potential love, keeping a guard up rather than being vulnerable again.

I made ‘Icyy’ after listening to the JACKBOYS album, I only just recently got into Travis Scott and Don Toliver funnily enough, and was mad inspired by melodic rap and trap melodies. So me and Hamley (producer) put on the live tune and I started free-styling, as soon as I sang “icyyy” we knew that hook was something special. It was addictive. Slowly the demo started circulating and it was the song that everyone wanted to hear. It’s honestly nothing I ever saw myself making or dropping but it came together so fast and organically, it felt right.

What do you think about the current climate of music in Aus/NZ? (What’s exciting to you? What would you like to see more/less of?)
I think it’s super exciting times, the scene right now in my opinion is world-class, we are really entering a golden era. I think once the gates open, Aus/Nz artists will be recognised as top tier. I’d love to see more of the local scene pushed through because it’s so untouched and diverse, having a real representation is what we need in Australia.

What is something significant you’ve learned this year?
Definitely the importance of knowing your roots and identity and being proud of that, embracing it through whatever you chose to do in life. It’s easy to forget whilst growing up in Australia. I realised the importance of the path that I’m creating for kids that can identify with someone like myself.

Who is on your wishlist of artists to collaborate with?
I’d love to work with Pharell, SZA, Wizkid and Headie One.

What’s it like coming up as an artist in Melbourne? What makes it different?
Growing up in West Melbourne, which is very industrial and working-class, it’s not really expected of us to be creative or make music that flourishes, which is sad but that’s why we do what we do, to change that perspective.

Right now though, it’s super inspiring seeing the raw talent across all [of Melbourne’s] suburbs, everyone’s hungry too. What makes us different is the array of ethnicities we have here. The artists coming up right now are mostly first and second-generation Australians, so the influence in our music is authentic and differs with each artist, we’re all finally reclaiming and repping our culture proudly, whilst also drawing upon influence from music sounds all around the world and adding our own flavour to it.

Who are some of your favourite local artists right now?
There’s way too many to name, but some of my favourite hidden gems are Craigie Wave, Gabriel LCR and Sire!

What can we expect next from you?
I have the shortest attention span, so my sound changes every time I’m in the studio. I’m experimenting a lot at the moment with different genres, RnB roots will always be prevalent but I wanna take it to another level and carve my own sound, out of the many sounds I love. I’m big on my melodies, you can always expect something different with that.

Check out ‘Icyy’ below and follow Pania here for more.