10 of the best: New Zealand bands and musicians

While many people immediately associate New Zealand with the All Blacks and Lord of the Rings, the country's contribution to popular music is often overlooked. As part of this month's series of blogs about NZ, and given that May is also NZ Music Month 2014, we've compiled a list of 10 of the most successful recording artists hailing from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Hayley Westenra

Hayley Westenra began performing when she was just 6 years old and made her first recording in a professional studio aged 12. She was still only 16 when she released her debut album, Pure, in 2003. It rapidly became the fastest-selling debut album from a classical artist, and reached the Top 10 of the charts in 11 countries. Her albums have sold more than four million copies worldwide to date.

Anika Moa 

At the tender age of 21, Auckland-born Anika Moa was the first unknown New Zealand artist to ever be signed to a major label. She burst onto the New Zealand music scene in 2001 with the double-platinum selling Thinking Room, and was initially signed to Warner Music in New Zealand and Atlantic Records in New York. She has toured twice with Tim Finn (of Crowded House) and has performed at the personal request of such artists as David Bowie and Dido.


Alternative rockers Shihad were formed in 1988 by high school chums Tom Larkin and Jon Toogood, and are one of the most respected rock bands in New Zealand. Highlights over the past decade include their 1998 self-titled album and 1999’s General Electric. At the release time of their seventh studio album Beautiful Machine, Shihad were ranked as first equal for the most singles charting in the Top 40 for a New Zealand artist.

Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the Conchords is a New Zealand-based comedy duo composed of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, both originally from Wellington. The duo's comedy and music became the basis of a BBC radio series and then an American television series, which premiered in 2007 on HBO. They refer to themselves as "New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo".

They were named Best Alternative Comedy Act at the 2005 US Comedy Arts Festival and Best Newcomer at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and they received a nomination for the Perrier Comedy Award at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival Fringe for their show The Caves. The duo's live performances have gained them a worldwide cult following.

Fat Freddy's Drop 

Wellington seven-piece Fat Freddy's Drop made their big splash in 2005 with their future-funk studio album Based on a True Story, which dominated the Tuis (NZ music awards) that year and bagged awards for Best Group, Best Album, Best New Zealand Roots Group and the People's Choice Award. A super group of NZ musical talent, the bands laid-back, improvisational approach to music has earned them acclaim both in NZ and overseas.

The Mint Chicks 

Formed in 2001, The Mint Chicks were a New Zealand experimental rock/pop group originally from Auckland, who relocated to the US in 2007. They are known for mixing pop riffs and hooks with elements of noise rock and experimental music and also for their exciting live performances. Band members Kody and Ruban Nielson have been known to climb P.A. stacks, hang from lighting rigs, destroy guitars and even attack the stage with a chainsaw!

Brooke Fraser

Brooke Fraser is a singer-songwriter and musician best known for her single Something in the Water, which reached number one on the New Zealand singles chart in 2010, and performed well around the world. Fraser is the eldest of three children born to former All Black Bernie Fraser, and grew up just outside Wellington. Her debut album, What to Do with Daylight, stormed in at number one in the NZ charts in 2003, and eventually achieved seven times platinum status.

The Black Seeds

Formed in 1998, the Black Seeds are a musical group from Wellington, New Zealand. Their music is a fusion of dub, funk, afrobeat and soul, They perform with eight members with vocals, guitar, saxophone, trumpet, bass, drums, bongos and keyboard. They have two double-platinum selling albums in New Zealand alongside successful European album releases through the German-based Sonar Kollektiv label. Their song One by One was used in AMC's Breaking Bad season two episode 4 Days Out, and also appears on the series' official soundtrack.

Split Enz 

Split Enz were one of the most successful New Zealand musical acts of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Formed in 1972 and featuring Phil Judd, Tim Finn and Neil Finn, the band would go on to achieve chart success in New Zealand, Australia and Canada and build a cult following around the world. Split Enz established a reputation for a distinctive visual style thanks to their colourful, offbeat costumes and hairstyles. Since the band's breakup in 1984, the group has reunited several times, and former members have gone on to create varied musical groups with one another, most notably Neil Finn's Crowded House.


Phillipa Margaret "Pip" Brown, better known by her stage name Ladyhawke (taken from the 1985 film of the same name), is a New Zealand singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her self-titled debut album was released on 22 September 2008 and topped the RIANZ Albums Chart. The singles Paris Is Burning and My Delirium became her best known songs. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2009, Ladyhawke won Breakthrough Artist in both album and single categories. Her second album Anxiety was released in May 2012.

Latest Job Alerts

Get all the latest job alerts straight to your inbox

Cookies on this website
We will ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you wish, you can restrict or block cookies by changing your browser settings. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on this website.