Bic Runga


NameBic Runga (she/her)
Also known asBriolette Kah Bic Runga
Country of BirthAotearoa
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
EthnicitiesMāori (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine), Malaysian Chinese
Decades Active1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Bic Runga is a multi-award-winning songwriter, instrumentalist and producer known for her ethereal vocals, delicate lyricism and sparse musical arrangements. Emerging in the late '90s, Runga is one of the highest-selling musical artists in the history of Aotearoa.

Born and raised in Ōtautahi, Runga’s parents first met in Malaysia, where her mother was a lounge singer. “Dad fought in the Vietnam War for the New Zealand Army. He was in Borneo and Vietnam for a few years. But between campaigns, they would rest and recuperate in Ipoh, Malaysia. Dad used to go to the hotel where Mum worked as a singer — and that’s how they met.” They married in Malaysia and moved to Ōtautahi shortly after.

As a child, Runga was surrounded by music, and she started writing songs with her older sisters, Boh and Pearl, when she was four years old. As she grew older, she learned how to play the drums, guitar, and keyboard. In high school, Runga and guitarist Kelly Horgan entered and won third place at the 1993 National Smokefree Rockquest with their band Love Soup. Pagan Records’ Trevor Reekie approached her — “She was remarkable. She was just so fearless” — and, with the help of a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand arts grant, Runga recorded her first EP, Drive (1995).

In 1994, she moved to Tāmaki Makaurau, moving her double bed into the dining room of her sister Boh’s flat. She successfully auditioned to host a new TV show, Music Nation (which she did with Hugh Sundae), and started sending her demo around, leading to a bidding war — “it just blew up around her very, very quickly” — with Sony Music signing her in 1995. She was 19 years old when she began writing, performing and producing her first album, also called Drive (1997). “That production credit was no token platitude,” says drummer Wayne Bell, who flatted with Bic and Boh at the time. “She truly produced, steered, and drove that record.”

The yearning, minimalist heartbreak album was an immediate commercial and artistic success in Aotearoa. It made her the highest-selling local artist ever at the time, with the album going seven-times platinum and receiving Album of the Year, Single of the Year and Best Female Vocalist at the New Zealand Music Awards. Her self-described “pillowy and warm and analogue” single ‘Sway’ (named after a piece of graffiti on the Wellesley Street bridge at the time) was used in both American Pie and Cruel Intentions in 1999, and Runga collaborated with Semisonic’s Dan Wilson to record ‘Good Morning Baby’, an additional song for the American Pie soundtrack.

In 2002, Runga released her second solo album, the self-produced “melodic and conversationalBeautiful Collision which out-performed her debut album, spending 101 non-consecutive weeks on the New Zealand Albums Chart and going 11-times platinum. “This is an album about coming of age; about love and moving away from home. Gravity probably sums it up the best, and it might be the song from the album that I love the most of all.” Runga received a number of awards for this album at The New Zealand Music Awards, including Best Female Vocalist, Best Solo Artist, Highest Selling New Zealand Album and Producer of the Year — making her the first solo female to have ever received this award.

After this, Runga moved to London and Paris, where she wrote her next album, Birds (2005), in the wake of her father’s death. “It's so vacant now without someone who was such a big part of your life,” she said in an interview with The Guardian at the time. “The grief is so physical. The heart doesn't have any nerves of its own, so you feel it as emptiness.”

Runga has spoken about how “by the third album, I’d achieved much of what I wanted to achieve.” She felt it was the right time to “step away and have my children”. After a while, however, she began ruminating on how “it’s a shame we’re missing all the songs that mothers could write. There’s a lot that needs to be said in songs about the circumstances of mothers. I don’t hear much of that in modern pop.” In 2009, she began work on her fourth album, Belle (2011), an “unexpectedly hands-off album”, produced by Kody Nielson and co-written with him, James Milne (Lawrence Arabia), Dan Hume (Evermore), and Ruban Nielson (Unknown Mortal Orchestra).

‘Sway’ was featured on Waiata / Anthems (2019) as ‘Haere Mai Rā’, and Runga has shared that the process of recording the song in te reo Māori was both rewarding and challenging. As a non-fluent speaker, this was the first time she had performed in Māori:

It takes a long time to relearn the shapes that your face has to make in order to produce the right consonant sounds… It took a long time to record ‘Sway’ in Māori because we needed at least 60 takes. I was crying through some of them because I found it so difficult and confronting. And, even now, the finished recording still isn’t as good as it should be.

Runga has been involved in a number of collaborations in addition to her solo career. In 2012, she joined Neilson in psych-pop band Opossom and in 2020, she started King Sweeties with Tiny Ruins’ Cass Basil.

Runga has received the most New Zealand Music Awards of any individual in Aotearoa. In 2016, she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music and, in 2018 she became the youngest artist to be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.


Key works / presentations


1995 — Drive

Studio albums:

2016 — Close Your Eyes
2011 — Belle
2005 — Birds
2002 — Beautiful Collision
1997 — Drive

Compilation albums:

2017 — The Very Best of Bic Runga
2012 — Anthology
2008 — Try to Remember Everything

Live albums:

2003 — Live in Concert with the Christchurch Symphony (with The Christchurch Symphony)
2000 — Together in Concert: Live (with Tim Finn and Dave Dobbyn)


2019 — ‘Haere Mai Rā / Sway’ on Waiata / Anthems
2010 — A Change of Heart’ and ‘Back Silk Ribbon’ on 7 Worlds Collide: The Sun Came Out

Key awards

2016 — New Zealand Music Hall of Fame
2006 — Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music
2006 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Album of the Year (Birds)
2006 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Producer (Birds)
2006 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Female Solo Artist
2003 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Producer of the Year (Beautiful Collision)
2003 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Highest Selling New Zealand Album (Beautiful Collision)
2003 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Solo Artist
2003 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Female Vocalist
2000 — The New Zealand Music Awards: International Achievement
1999 — The New Zealand Music Awards: International Achievement
1998 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Album of the Year (Drive)
1998 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Single of the Year ('Sway')
1998 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Songwriter
1997 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Female Vocalist
1996 — APRA Silver Scroll ('Drive')
1996 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Most Promising Female Vocalist

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Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit


A woman with short black hair, a scarf and a red dress holding an award with a woman in a bleached shaggy bob and a leather jacket, also holding an award

Bic and Boh Runga at the 2000 New Zealand Music Awards, with the International Achievement award (Bic) and Best Female vocalist (Boh), 2000

Photo from RIANZ/Recorded Music NZ

A woman with a high black bun sitting cross legged wearing a fuzzy white jacket and jeans

Cover of Rip It Up, July 1997