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Look In The Mirror: My Musical History


Written by Amani Sadique (she/her) | @amani.sadique | Contributing Writer

Illustrated by Ann Mariya (she/her) | @yourloveannnn | Contributing Artist

I started giving the local famous rock bands a listen at fourteen: Joy Division, The Smiths, Oasis, and Arctic Monkeys. "Fourteen is a sort of magic age for the development of musical tastes", says McGill University's professor of psychology Daniel Levitin. Wanting to connect more with Manchester's culture, I spent my weekends catching the tram into the city centre as a young teen. I would stroll around the Northern Quarter, known for its diverse culture and authentic atmosphere. Street art, music, fashion, and unique cafes define the area. I would be eager to find some new funky street art in the alleyways whilst on my way to Afflecks Palace, an indoor market filled with independent traders selling art, jewellery, vintage clothes and more.

A year later, on a nondescript Wednesday in January, my mum told me we were moving to Aotearoa on Sunday. I replied, "Where's that?" "It's a country near Australia,” she said. Within four days, we packed away the whole house and said our goodbyes. I felt indifferent, not feeling sadness or excitement. It was such life-altering news that some people thought I was lying.

After experiencing a slight culture shock to Aotearoa, the feeling of wanting to connect with my kāinga became stronger. I started immersing myself in the British TV series "Skins" and added waiata by Slowthai and Bugzy Malone to my Spotify playlist. They reminded me of home. My first large purchase here was an Arctic Monkeys concert ticket. Despite just attending their Manchester show, where I was also lucky enough to meet them, and having no one to go to the Tāmaki Makaurau show with, I was determined to go again as they reminded me of home. Seeing one of your favourite bands perform live in two cities might seem like the perfect start to moving countries, but not everything was sunshine and rainbows.

When I arrived in Aotearoa, it was Year 11. It was a rough time to join a new school. Everyone already had their friend groups established, and it felt like there were no vacancies. When I was shown around the school on my first day, a teacher told me that the silk rainbow scrunchie that tied my hair back was "too bright". It was purchased from Afflecks Palace, a reminder of home.

Confusion and panic settled over me during my first break time. I realised that I had no friends to hang out with. I sat at an empty bench and contemplated this thought for a minute. I had a lot of friends back in Manchester. Here in Aotearoa, I had none. Tears soon began streaming down my face.

This cloud of discontent was there to stay. I wasn't enjoying home life, and my music taste slowly shifted to reflect this. I started listening to Lil Peep, XXXTentacion, My Chemical Romance and The Cure as a coping mechanism. My fashion also changed to mirror this… # emo phase. The school was also not fond of my self-expression through ear piercings and purple-dyed hair. I'll always remember the Lil Peep lyric: "I don't wanna go to school, I don't like that."

This cloud began to dissipate the longer I lived in Tāmaki Makaurau. I finally felt settled and found a solid group of friends. I started to expand my taste in music. In my mid-teens, I had an indie and hip-hop phase, reflecting my newfound optimism for life. Waiata by Tame Impala, Declan Mckenna, Wallows, and Brockhampton were added to my playlist.

I struggled to figure out my next steps once I graduated high school. I considered moving back to the UK because I couldn't afford to study as an international student in Aotearoa. I felt lost. Everyone around me had a secure plan for their future, but I didn't. "Oblivion" by Grimes was my most-played waiata on Spotify that year. Her music was another form of self-expression. I was attracted to how she layered her voice alongside electronic instruments. I was also enamoured with the gothic-themed album cover of "Visions". Grimes said that she created the album when she lacked stability in her life and that this project is a "good representation of the beginning of the future." 

After I graduated high school, it was the "beginning of the future." I escaped the suburbs and moved to a central Auckland apartment. But, six weeks before the lease ended, my relationship with the person I was living with ended. I would have to enter the world of flatting alone and unprepared.

My love for electropop doesn't stop at Grimes. "Let It Happen" by Tame Impala is rated my most-played track on Spotify. The theme of this waiata relates to this period of my life. Writer Saniyah Ayala describes "Let It Happen" as a track about "embracing change, accepting the chaos of life, and letting go of the need to control everything." Tame Impala's "Lonerism" album is also relatable. "It's about the persona of someone who is really isolated – but not necessarily deliberately", says Kevin Parker, the genius behind Tame Impala.

Tupac and Nicki Minaj are two of my top artists on Spotify right now. In the car as a child, my dad would play “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” and my mum would play waiata from the “Beam Me Up Scotty” mixtape. Now, as an adult I stroll down Queen Street, listening to these artists. I better understand my parents as people through the music they love.

Informed by our life experiences we are constantly entering and exiting different music phases. Our musical assemblages are a roadmap of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’ll go. Life without curated background music would be dull. So, which songs and artists mirror your journey through life?


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