Home Music Music Lists

The 20 Most Iconic Aotearoa Music Moments Of All Time

Aotearoa Music

What are the most iconic Aotearoa music moments of all time?

Like a scene from your favourite film, a single song can soundtrack the best (and worst) moments in our lives. It’s these tunes that transport us back in time, often without warning as they appear on playlists or in the background of a TV ad, triggering locked-away memories from years gone by. 

Music also soundtracks some of the greatest, and most iconic, moments in popular culture. As do the remarkable Aotearoa music artists behind the music, who themselves are responsible for many decade-defining moments that appear throughout this Rolling Stone list.

Think about the rise and rise of homegrown stars like Lorde, the cultural impact of upstart record labels like Flying Nun, and the infiltration of music television into popular culture and public consciousness. Iconic music moments are everywhere.

A moment in time married with music can break down barriers, ignite movements, start trends, launch industries, give birth to icons, and change the course of history — for good. Some of the trailblazing people that appear on the Rolling Stone List — including Pixie Williams — have achieved all of the above. It’s the stuff of legend, and the making of legends.

David Roper


All About That Bass

In 2022, drum and bass remains one of the key sounds of New Zealand. Big songs enter the Top Forty, fans pack arenas and festivals to see their favourite DJs and producers from overseas, and we’re sitting on several generations of globally respected local talent. The fire really started burning in the late Nineties when promoter groups like Subtronix, Bass Frontiers and Scientific built the scene a rock-solid foundation. There can’t be many places in the world with a drum and bass scene quite like New Zealand.


Small Screen, Big Sound

Launched in the late Seventies, TV2’s Ready To Roll pop music chart TV show introduced generations of New Zealanders to several waves of music: late Seventies pop rock and disco funk, the Dunedin sound, synth-pop, electro, early hip hop and beyond. As local as it was international, Ready To Roll provided priceless memories to many.


The Independent Ones

In the late Noughties, a new generation of NZ indie rock and synth-pop bands bubbled up from the underground and made their way into the heart of the mainstream, before striking out overseas. Some of the biggest successes included The Mint Chicks (whose second album Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! went Gold in New Zealand), The Naked & Famous, and Ladyhawke, all of whom went on to have substantial international successes.

Fat Freddy's Drop

Daniel Boud


Fat Freddy’s Phenomenon

When Wellington supergroup Fat Freddy’s Drop released their debut album Based on a True Story in 2005, it represented the culmination of an intersection of live soul, dub, house, techno, and DJ culture that had been bubbling up in the capital for close to a decade. BOATS went Gold on its day of release and was eventually certified nine times Platinum in New Zealand. It marked a seachange within the local musical landscape, and Freddy’s went on to become slow-burning international stars.



Not Just for Laughs

Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Brett McKenzie began performing live musical comedy in the late Nineties, going on to produce a radio series for the BBC, and in 2007, an HBO TV show. It was the launching pad for their respective careers in acting and music, and a somewhat unlikely insertion of the Kiwi sense of humour into the global consciousness

Monica Parsotam


Mud, Music & Memories

NZ has seen its fair share of music festivals, but you could argue The Gathering was the most important. Running from 1996 to 2022 (reaching a high point at the turn of the century when fifteen thousand attendees were treated to three days of rain and mud), the alcohol-free event took place outside Nelson in the South Island, and saw fans of electronic music attend from around the country, lighting creative fires in each that would nurture multiple scenes and subgenres in the years to come.


A British Invasion

In the early Nineties, the late British music producer and DJ Andrew Weatherall visited New Zealand for a series of shows that helped kickstart New Zealand’s Nineties rave and warehouse party scene. Over the years that followed, the local audience for house, techno, jungle drum & bass grew into a phenomenon.


A Night for the History Books

In 2018, the New Zealand band Six60 made national history by selling out Auckland’s Western Springs Stadium, previously only filled in the past by international stars such as Eminem, The Rolling Stones, and Fleetwood Mac. The following year, they repeated the same feat.