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Troy Kingi (Photo: FIRST)
Troy Kingi (Photo: FIRST)

Pop CultureJune 16, 2021

Troy Kingi’s brush with death

Troy Kingi (Photo: FIRST)
Troy Kingi (Photo: FIRST)

The musician, actor and Masked Singer tells us about a terrifying underwater experience in this week’s episode of FIRST.

The Black Rocks, found nine kilometres north of Paihia in the Bay of Islands, were formed over a million years ago by volcanic eruptions. Below the water, the rocks’ network of caves, tunnels and ledges make them an ideal habitat for the New Zealand rock lobster, or crayfish.

Crayfish are nocturnal creatures, so if you want to catch a few then night dives can be the way to go. By his own admission, Troy Kingi is more of “a kina man at heart”, rating crays as his fifth favourite seafood. But there are few things he loves more than hunting crayfish at night.

Twenty metres below the water at the Black Rocks, Kingi swam under a ledge with just his torch for light. “I turned around and I saw some feelers and I was like, ah, chur,” he remembers. He grabbed the cray and turned to his mates, but they weren’t there.

What followed was the longest minute of his life. “I turned to go, and it was just straight wall, And I was like, oh shit. Turn that way, another wall, another wall. Then I started panicking.”

Kingi started feeling his way along the walls in what he hoped was the direction he came in, and not another cave system. “I honestly thought I was going to die in this cave the week before my wedding,” he remembers.

Suddenly, the walls gave way. Kingi remembers looking up and seeing the full moon, and the feeling of relief. The title of his new album, Black Sea Golden Ladder, could be a reference to that moment.

Released on the 18th of June, Black Sea Golden Ladder is the fifth instalment of Kingi’s ‘10 10 10’ project – 10 albums in 10 years in 10 different genres. After last year’s funk inspired The Ghost of Freddie Cesar and 2019’s Taite Prize-winning roots reggae album Holy Colony Burning Acres, this one, recorded with Delaney Davidson, sees Aotearoa’s most versatile musician on a folk buzz.

Troy Kingi is touring New Zealand in August 2021. For dates and tickets visit

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This episode of FIRST was made with the support of NZ On Air.

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