Cross-genre artists appointed as Composers-in-Residence

A songwriter and electronic music/film composer, and a prolific jazz bassist and composer have been appointed to the two Composer-in-Residence roles at the New Zealand School of Music—Te Kōkī for 2023.

Umar Zakaria and Briar Prastiti
Umar Zakaria and Briar Prastiti

Briar Prastiti has been appointed as the 2023 Creative New Zealand/New Zealand School of Music Composer-in-Residence. Briar is a freelance composer, producer, and vocalist with a passion for songwriting, producing electronic and contemporary music, and composing for film. She has explored music from many cultures, from Balkan folk to flamenco, as well as engaging with her own heritage through traditional Greek music. Her music often touches on folkloric themes and is primarily driven by rhythm and harmony.

“We are excited to have Briar as our 2023 Composer-in-Residence,” says Associate Professor Michael Norris from the New Zealand School of Music—Te Kōkī.

“She was chosen for the diversity of her musical practice, and she continues to demonstrate excellence across all areas in which she works. She is well-positioned to make the most of the residency, with strong ties to a number of musical communities and organisations.

“In particular, her Greek musical heritage and her work in popular music production and songwriting will bring new dimensions to the residency.”

Umar Zakaria has been appointed as the 2023 Creative New Zealand/New Zealand School of Music Jazz Composer-in-Residence, a position specifically for composers working in jazz styles.

Umar is a New Zealand bassist and composer whose music brings together a number of diverse musical traditions. His compositions have been performed and recorded throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, from Radio New Zealand to the Christchurch Town Hall, as well as at the Wellington Jazz Festival and with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 2018 he was named Best Jazz Artist by Recorded Music New Zealand.

“The appointment panel was impressed with the depth and quality of Umar's proposal, as well as with the maturity of his compositional concepts,” says Associate Professor Norris.

Umar’s proposed project will involve collaborations with performers of taonga pūoro.

“He is very sensitive to issues in intercultural musicality, and this project will both challenge his own creativity while also helping to take his career as an artist in Aotearoa to the next level.”

Both residencies run from 1 July 2023 until just before Christmas 2023. During the residencies, both artists will receive a full salary funded by Creative New Zealand and the NZSM Composer-in-Residence Endowment Fund.

Briar Prastiti will also live at the Lilburn Residence in Thorndon, the former home of one of New Zealand’s most pre-eminent composers, Douglas Lilburn, maintained and operated as a composer residency by the Lilburn Residence Trust.

These two roles have been created to foster and champion New Zealand musical composition by providing the appointees with the opportunity to compose full-time. They are particularly notable for the number of expatriate New Zealand composers who are ‘lured back’ to New Zealand for the opportunity of working full-time on their professional development. To date, well over 50 new works have been created as a result of these residencies.