Kaiit looks out a car window

The Re-emergence of Kaiit

Four years after ditching conventional record labels to build something independent, Kaiit returns with new music and a new perspective.

Depending on your perspective, red, yellow and green can indicate many things. It’s the colours of a traffic light; it’s reflective of emotion. Red: passion and anger. Yellow: happiness and hope. Green: abundance and new beginnings. For Papua New Guinea and Gunditjimara artist Kaiit, these colours hold great meaning,  especially considering the past few years. And today, in the cosy corner booth of Prahan’s Rossia pizza on standby and a plate of oysters on hand – her lashes are painted a bright, fluorescent green. 


A dreaded Melbourne cold-front has rolled in and Kaiit has ordered a glass of Hennesy, “to stay warm,” she says, followed by an effortless and infectious laugh. On first impressions, she seems nervous, but this makes sense. Interviews aren’t always indicative of natural conversation, and certainly for a topic so big: her reintroduction into music after what can only be described as a tumultuous few years.

Kaiit poses for a photo

Jade D'Amico

Half a decade ago the tides of Australian music began to change.

In came a tight crew of bright-eyed up-and-comers with stories often not told or heard in the mainstream. Instead of painting-by-numbers in order to assimilate into the white-washed fronts of popular Australian music, POC artists began painting outside of the lines. Along came Sampa the Great, Genesis Owusu and Tkay Maidza. And then there was Melbourne’s Kaiit. 

I feel like my thought process for the last couple of years has been, ‘Am I gonna get out of this?’ I just need to hold through until I get out of this.

At just 21-years-old in 2019, Kaiit was the first to be awarded an ARIA for the inaugural Best Soul/ R&B Release for her track “Ms. Shiny”. The year before she won The Archie Roach Award for Emerging Talent at the Music Victoria Awards. On YouTube, her music began snowballing in viewership with videos sitting comfortably in the multi-millions. On Spotify her songs did much the same. Soon, international acts, struck by her high-octane voice and obvious star quality, began taking notice: Jill Scott posted her video for “OG Luv Kush pt.2” on her personal instagram, captioning it, “About that time me and @erykahbadu were in Australia and made a baby. @kaiit_isshe. Music is happening. Look for it.” SZA, The Internet and Chaka Khan then employed her for the support slots at their Australian shows. She seemed to be on the precipice of something bigger than the borders of Australia could provide.


And then, four years ago, Kaiit posted a video to her social media.

“I need to raise funds in order for me to be able to recover my independence as an artist,” she said in an honest and open plea to camera, “for me to share this music with all of you, and to let go – to release. I don’t want to carry this shit anymore, I just want it up and out.”

What transpired was an overwhelming response from Australia’s music community. Thousands of dollars raised over the span of the campaign meant, for Kaiit, the colours began to change: red, amber and then green. 

But Kaiit and I are not talking about the particulars of her record deal gone wrong. And this is under strict instruction: to do so would be to open up old wounds already healed. But it doesn’t stop the young artist from sharing some choice, albeit somewhat vague, words about the industry.

“I just think that the way this industry is run… it’s part of the problem,” she says.

“I think the main thing is what are you willing to compromise or hand over for what’s to come in return? And some people just aren’t willing to do that and it doesn’t align with them and there are things they aren’t willing to give up. And that’s awesome. It’s a lot harder. But it’s fucking rewarding.”

Kaiit is now independent and has started her own label, Big Sis Energy. She hopes it can be a cutting knife in a male-dominated industry.


With all the vitriol for labels recently, artists like Kaiit are securing independence, not only to benefit their physical and mental health but also their music. And it’s not hard to see why that’s needed. In a social media economy, artists are fleeced and fooled and pushed into spawn-like uniformity. 

“It was by force,” she jokes on why she started the label, “No, it was definitely something that had to be done for myself because there are a lot of things I’m not willing to give up or compromise. I wanted to create this space. For me, it’s holding my music, first of all. But just having that safe space for that to be released through which I think is super powerful.”

While she hasn’t signed any artists yet, more than anything it’s about, “writing my own rules, which is a big theme in my life.”

“I would never want to do to any artist what’s been done to me,” she says, “it’s more than just music, you’re dealing with humans, you’re dealing with artists…”

“And people forget that…” I add.

“Oh my gosh, and then everything else that comes with a human being.”

If you were looking for further explanation it’s all there in her latest single, “Space”. 

“So why ‘Space’ for the first release?” I ask.

“It was actually not going to be ‘Space’ first,” she replies, “‘Space’ was one of the later ones to be written. It was the thing of me continuing to listen to it to heal and get the reminders from it. And I feel like what was pushing me [was], ‘other people need to hear this one…now,’ so that's why I chose to have this one go first.”


In her video for the track, Kaiit sits in the backseat of a vintage car, doors closed and a place of refuge, singing through her signature scatting and deep-soul voice,.

“Give the best hugs and you tend to be an empath / too fast and you thinking it’s all buddy, buddy but it’s just business / lil mama smell the citrus, don’t wanna add my sweetness to this sour after taste / but I think I need some, think I need some space.”

The clip ends with Kaiit’s ancestors approaching, dressed in Papua New Guinean ceremonial garb, omitting green light and coaxing her from the car’s closed doors. 

Kaitt looks at the camera

Jade D'Amico

The distance that separates Kaiit and my background is 1800 kilometres – our island nations are neighbours in the Pacific. Her: Papua New Guinea. Me: The Solomon Islands. Instant connection and understanding always manifests from similar locations. It’s an understanding that family and community are an innate aspect of Islander character and an underlying truth to life’s happiness. It’s a secret power in a music industry so individualised. 

In the music that came before Kaiit’s hiatus her adopted family in Australia also made appearances. Artists like CD, Agung Mango, Khya and filmmaker Tig Terera, as well as other familiar faces (“and friends that aren’t alive anymore,” she says) surround Kaiit in videos like “Miss Shiney” and “OG Luv Kush Pt. 2”.

But there’s also hidden iconography and influence in Kaiit’s latest release – a taste of what’s to come in her upcoming album – of which she’s cheekily coy about. What she will say is that there’s a bisection to her and the main character of the story of the album: Lil Mama, a tap dancer, was dreamt up over COVID with trips to the lunar drive-ins in Dandy. The chequered floors, big screen, the smell of popcorn, the glow of the moon had her mind whirring.


“There was something so beautiful and comforting about it…it was very inspiring,” she says. “I started thinking, ‘how can I add this to the world’?”

Reaching back to childhood memories in PNG, where she would watch movies like Bugsy Malone, Lil Mama acts as an alias, and perhaps a reprieve, to the realities of Kaiit. “Lil Mama and her story has really helped me with writing things,” she says, “that’s been really fun bringing that all together.” 

And for Kaiit in this next stage, it’s all about fun. It’s the role of Lil Mama, and a mechanism to not get lost in the speed of it all.

“The fun element, the play element. That's what makes things stressful when those are being pushed to the sideline,” she explains, “and I think only beautiful things can come out of having fun and being playful, being yourself and not worrying too much about what else is to come because that's definitely something that I stress about a lot is…”

“The longevity of it all?” I ask

“Yeah and I don't think like that. Again, it all comes down to the pace…I’m open to whatever. It’s a lot less stressful that way and a lot less hurt feelings.”

As for shows, Kaiit’s first introduction of Lil Mama and her 20s inspired direction will be during this years Vivid, as for now her hopes for this re-emergence and new era are quite simple.

“It means everything to me,” she says. “I feel like my thought process for the last couple of years has been, ‘Am I gonna get out of this?’ I just need to hold through until I get out of this. I haven’t thought that far past being independent and being able to release music.”

“One step at a time,” I say.

“Yes, one step at a time,” she says.