Bella Kalolo

I was born and raised in Christchurch. There was music around me all the time growing up – I couldn’t get away from it. My parents were both musical and it was natural for us to sing along with them.

After school I got a scholarship to study in Paraguay, Central South America. I ended up getting into the Paraguayan girls choir, and I was asked to stay back after my scholarship had ended so that I could compete with the choir in the 4th world choir comps in Rome. After that, I came back home and studied at the Christchurch Polytechnic for a year while working part-time at the Body Shop. Soon after that, I was asked to be a part of Mark Hadlows production of The Little Shop of Horrors at the Regent in Dunedin, and went on to do a second season with him in Auckland at Sky City Theatre.

From that point on it really just helped my career develop. I was in a performance group called Jireh which toured and performed all over NZ and shortly after our tour, I had secured a role in Disney’s The Lion King. Now I’m based in Auckland.

Amongst all of that, I definitely have a couple of favorite moments in my musical journey! Performing at Glastonbury with my band, singing with Chaka Khan at her concert, singing with John Mayer as part of a tribute for the Christchurch Shooting, and acting in the film Sione’s Wedding are just a few of the highlights. I also loved co-mentoring Ka Hao (an amazing group of young Maori singers), being a part of a live worship album called Mõhau, and mentoring in schools as part of the NZ Music Commission.

What do you write your songs about?

It depends. I either start with a poem, or a melody takes over, and then words develop as the melody comes through.

I end up knowing which songs to release straight off the bat. I’ll usually sit and try to develop a song and if it feels too forced, then I usually leave it.

What are two things you have learnt along the journey, that you would tell your younger self if you could?

I’d say, say what you mean to say and not what you think they want to hear. Also, don’t stop going to guitar lessons!!!

What are you waiting for?

You've got to be in it to win it!