Boh Runga


NameBoh Runga
Country of BirthAotearoa
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
EthnicitiesMāori (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine), Malaysian Chinese
Decades Active1990s, 2000s


Boh Runga is a jewellery designer and musician who rose to national prominence as lead singer and guitarist in 2000s pop-rock electronica band stellar*.

Born and raised in Ōtautahi, Runga’s parents met in Malaysia during the Vietnam War. Her father was serving in the New Zealand Army and met her mother in a hotel where she was a lounge singer. They were raised to be creative. “Dad wanted us girls to either be artists or musicians. He thought anything else was a waste of time.” As a teenager, she would sing in cover bands in pubs. “She had this hair that was like this high and it didn’t fit in the car,” sister Bic recalls. “I just wanted to be like her.”

In 1992, Boh moved to Tāmaki Makaurau with drummer Andrew Maclaren, where they formed stellar* in 1995 with bassist Kurt Shanks and guitarist Simon McCormack (who later left and was ultimately replaced by engineer Chris Van de Geer). The name was taken from the dictionary. “It sounded bigger than ourselves and otherworldly so it was perfect,” Runga has said. They were signed by Sony in 1998 and released their first single, ‘Bastard (What You Do)’, that year.

Their debut album, Mix was released in 1999, featuring last-minute changes to their cover art due to cost restraints. Rather than holographic foil, a collaged photo approach was taken. “We didn't have a clue about styling or fashion,” Boh remembers, “but I definitely wanted something to stand out. I went into Stephen Marr in Ponsonby and asked Lucy Vincent if she could match the colour from a red ‘fragile’ label. She was, "Sure thing, fun! " And hours later I had a red do that truck drivers always tooted at.”

The “sweetly soft-centred” album went platinum on debut, becoming the second-highest-selling New Zealand album ever at the time, with the NZ Herald describing it as taking “not only a startling debut but also a great pop record”. At the New Zealand Music Awards, it received Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Best Group, Best Songwriter and Best Female Vocalist.

The band went on to release two more albums, Magic Line (2001) and Something like Strangers (2006), and Runga released a solo album, Right Here, in 2009, “a collection of pop-rock tunes of grand design.”

In 2007, Runga also launched her own eponymous jewellery brand with the collection Birdland, inspired by the native birds of Aotearoa. This has since expanded into a lifestyle brand that includes wine, chocolate, baby clothes (in collaboration with friend Anika Moa) and a children’s book, The Lotus and the Snowbird (2023), an earlier version of which accompanied her 2009 jewellery range.


Key works / presentations

As stellar*:

2006 — Mix
2001 — Magic Line
1999 — Something like Strangers

As a solo artist:

2009 — Right Here
2013 — Peace of Mind
(with Anika Moa and Hollie Smith)

Key awards

2000 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Group

2000 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Female Vocalist

2000 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Single of the Year (‘Violent’)

2000 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Best Songwriter (‘Violent’)

2000 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Album of the Year (Mix)

1999 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Most Promising Group

1999 — The New Zealand Music Awards: Most Promising Female Vocalist

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Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit


A collage of four people against a blue background. The lead singer has bright red hair

stellar* album cover for Mix, 1999

A woman with a red bob and a sheer silver tank top holds an award

Boh Runga at The New Zealand Music Awards with her award for Most Promising Female Vocalist, 1999

A sepia image of a laughing child in a garden, one foot on a rock in front of her

Boh Runga as a child, first published in Stuff: "When Boh Runga was born, she didn't have a name for a little while. Her mum would call her ‘bo bo’ or ‘bao bao’ (宝 寶), which means precious or bubba. Her dad spelled it 'Boh Boh'."

Close up of the pass with a passport-style photo with a woman in red pigtails and a yellow shirt

Boh Runga, Big Day Out backstage pass, 1999