Jon Toogood

Jon Toogood

Jon Toogood, musician. Image supplied.

As Shihad’s high profile founding frontman and leader of The Adults rock supergroup, Jon Toogood has spent 30 years at the forefront of Aotearoa’s music scene, writing, singing, performing, mentoring, managing, directing, producing, DJ-ing, programming and promoting — all with enormous energy and humanity.

To cap this off, in 2018 Jon completed his Masters in Fine Arts with Massey University, studying by distance from Melbourne, with his major project being the production of his most recent album ’Haja’.

Jon’s conversion to Islam in recent years came partly as a result of meeting his wife Dana, a Sudanese Muslim, but also because he has always felt deeply about our human connections, and believed there is more to life than things. Jon would say he has always sought the spiritual in his life, and this was, in the first instance, through his music.

Born to English immigrant parents, Yvonne and Mike, Jon was raised to believe in the value of hard work, empathy and generosity, and the principle of reciprocity – favours given become favours returned.

At Wellington High School he felt at home amongst the diversity, and was allowed to focus on his two main passions, painting and music. It was also where he found his kindred spirits – Tom Larkin, Phil Knight and Hamish Laing and together they formed Shihad in 1988. Not long after, Kapiti College fan Karl Kippenberger replaced Hamish and the rest is history. They worked hard, played hard and supported each other, weathering fame, fortune and drama to become one of the most respected rock groups in the Southern Hemisphere, and New Zealand’s most successful heavy rock export.

Since 1988 Jon has performed at more than 1500 live shows and sold over 250,000 albums world-wide, with two albums certified double platinum and five albums certified gold in New Zealand and Australia. Shihad was admitted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2010, and the following year won Best Rock Album at the 2011 Vodafone Music Awards for Ignite; and Best Rock Album in 2015 for Five Eyes.

Jon holds the record in New Zealand for the most number one albums by a New Zealand artist (5) and the most singles in the New Zealand charts (25). He has also written more radio hits than any other artist in New Zealand music history. He has played a key role behind, and in front of the scenes at the New Zealand Music Award shows, last year as one of the hosts of the VMAs.

Since 2010 Jon has been a founder member and manager for internationally successful artist collaborative, The Adults. It was during an Adults collaboration, alongside ex Shapeshifter musician, Pacific Heights producer and then Massey lecturer Devin Abrams, that Jon decided to undertake his Master in Fine Arts degree in Music at Massey. After many years as a successful musician and several life altering events, it seemed like the perfect time to take stock, and from a pragmatic point of view this American accredited degree would also help him to be able to work in the Middle East, closer to his wife Dana’s family.

Under the supervision of Dr Oli Wilson, head of Massey’s music programme and also keyboard player for the Chills, Jon’s research explored the cultural significance of Northern Sudanese female music through production of the album Haja, which was produced by Devin Abrams with The Adults and featured New Zealand artists of African descent; Estere, Jess B and Raiza Biza as well as Chelsea Jade, Aaradhna, Miloux and Kings.

This was an extraordinary undertaking given that few western men had accessed this type of music before, and also because Jon had never studied at university. By his own admission he had been a less-than diligent student at Wellington High School. Unsure at first if he could produce the 15000 word written thesis as well as an album, he overcame his fear, and the process enabled him to develop a whole new appreciation of his music making, its purpose and meaning, and opened a new career as a music academic.

Jon continues to tour and to champion social justice and egalitarianism through his music but instead of shouting loudly at the establishment, his music now invites and celebrates connectedness and diversity, invoking a more tolerant world. With boundless energy, Jon is a parent to two young children, is teaching at two Melbourne universities and is currently working on the next Shihad album. He also takes every opportunity when he returns to New Zealand to head into schools up and down the country, offering mentorship, inspiration, enthusiasm and his wealth of knowledge to the next generation of New Zealand music makers and creatives.

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Design by Ngataiharuru Taepa, Kaihautu Toi Māori—Director of Māori Arts

Toi Rauwhārangi
College of Creative Arts
Wellington, Aotearoa