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The spotlight is on Bachelor of Adult Education graduate and Te Waka Hiringa Master’s tauira Latoia Sasa-Tepania, who is a finalist for this year’s Waiata Māori Music Awards. 

The singer-songwriter recording artist – who goes by the stage-name La Coco - has been nominated for two awards; Best Māori pop artist and Best Māori urban album, for her debut solo EP Love and Other Things Pt1 and Pt2.

Latoia - who also works as a secondary school teacher – is up against former award recipients Rob Ruha and Troy Kingi and she couldn’t be happier to be in such esteemed company.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be recognised for your hard work, recognised for your talent, and especially recognised by your community,” the Māngere resident says.

She first heard about the Hasting-based Waiata Māori Music Awards two years ago and made it a goal to one day enter. She has also entered the Auckland-based Pacific Music Awards and was nominated in three categories the first time she entered. This year she performed at the awards and was nominated for Best Female Artist, missing out to Ladi 6.

Her five-track EP, Love and Other Things, is about relationships and draws on her gospel vocals with reflections of jazz and hip hop thanks to producer Dee Letoa.

“I feel blessed to have been brought up with the best of both worlds as a Samoan Māori woman,” she says.

“Wherever I go I represent two cultures, but I have always wanted to find a special platform to represent my whānau, hapū and tribe.”

Latoia initially enrolled in the Certificate of Māori Performing Arts music programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa when she was 22 and says it was a great move.

“My experience was an awesome, amazing experience and I say that because of the whānau atmosphere of learning, where you come into the space and you know everyone. They helped me understand what it is I can do, to push boundaries and change up the traditional.”

Given her background, it’s no surprise that her Masters in Applied Indigenous Knowledge rangahau will also involve music and young people. But while she is busy working and studying, she is also recording.

Her upcoming sophomore EP Out of Time, has a new sound and she plans to enter her new music into the Tui Music Awards as well as the industry’s premier song writing award, the Silver Scrolls, by 2021.

“That’s a goal definitely. That’s my graduation year and so I’d like it to be bigger than big, you know. One celebration after another.”

Love and Other Things is available on Spotify and can be downloaded from iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/nz/artist/la-coco/947494927

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