Meet the Korean Artists Who Are Redefining New Zealand's Music Scene

by Vivienne Tam

With the growing diversification of our entertainment and arts scene, we are seeing artists of many different backgrounds gathering the attention of Kiwi music enthusiasts. From record stores beginning to sell K-Pop albums, to the increasing number of touring musicians visiting New Zealand, it is apparent that Korean artists are also among the few in the spotlight. But even though we love seeing our favourite international acts, there is something special about supporting Aotearoa’s own, self-made music community.

@kroadnz | Instagram

Luckily, with just a bit of digging, you’ll find that New Zealand’s music scene is much more vibrant than what meets the eye. ABG, an abbreviation of ‘Always Be Grateful’, is a collective of young Korean creatives whose endeavours involve uplifting and centring Kiwi-Asian creatives. Founded in 2022 by New Zealand rapper Hans., the faces of ABG are three young Korean artists, Hans., Hanbee and Taebz. The artists’ creative spirits are supplemented by ABG’s wider team: designers, DJs, producers, photographers, who all play a role in bringing each artists’ creative visions to life.

Although ABG operates with a cooperative spirit, each artist has been on the music scene long before its formation, and have their own steady solo careers.

@michaelmingyu | Instagram

Founder and de facto manager of ABG Hans. made his musical debut in 2017, a lofi indiepop single which now has over 15 million streams. Throughout his career, Hans. has supported several top industry acts such as Billie Eilish and Rejjie Snow in New Zealand, and toured with pH-1 in Australia. Currently based in Korea, Hans. has also shared the stage with some notable names in Korean hip-hop, including Holland and Ugly Duck. His most recent EP 'Porcelain' opens with a rap intro brimming with confidence, before melting into hazy, brooding alt R&B, as the artist shows off his versatility. Listen to Hans.' 'Porcelain' here.

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Recently nominated for Rolling Stone Aotearoa’s Best New Artist 2023, Hanbee is a valued addition to ABG’s artist lineup. Her songs are characterised by her soft vocals and dreamy, nostalgic instrumentals. Although her musical career started in South Korea, Hanbee has been met with much enthusiasm in Western music communities. She has supported several touring artists to New Zealand including Men I Trust and Faderdaze, and is set to grace the Laneway 2024 stage with household names such as Dominic Fike and Steve Lacy. Hanbee's latest EP 'odd one out' employs jazzy keyboard samples, as Hanbee sings softly over playful tempos that slow down over the course of the tracklist. Listen to Hanbee’s 'odd one out' here.
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The final artist making up ABG is Taebz (derived from his Korean name Taebin (태빈). Taebz made his musical debut in 2021, but has made a mark in his short career, and was recently recognised by The Urban List in collaboration with Samsung as a Kiwi artist to watch out for in 2023. Taebz and his alternative R&B inspired sound has grown an organic following in both South Korea and New Zealand, and he has performed alongside reputable artists such as Genesis Owusu here in New Zealand, and Bryn in South Korea. Inspired by his recent trip back to Seoul, Taebz newest EP 'Serum' infuses the artist's raw emotions into soothing, alt R&B tracks. Listen to Taebz’ 'Serum' here.

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With a strong foundation of these three artists, ABG has been a significant driver of putting Korean and Asian artists in the public eye by hosting events that support and uplift other Asian artists, such as gigs and music camps. A year after ABG’s founding in 2023, NZ On Air announced their launch of the New Music Pan-Asian Fund, demonstrating the group as a real catalyst in evolving Asian representation in New Zealand’s music scene.

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