Musician Grant Fell's widow responds to his ashes being sprinkled at Taite Music Prize

An incident where a musician's ashes were sprinkled onstage at a Kiwi music event has caused controversy.

When Grant Fell's bandmates got on stage to accept their award, they wanted him there too.

Fell lost his three-year battle with cancer in January, just before the Headless Chickens learned they'd win a Taite Award for Best Classic Record.

He was the bassist for the band which was big in the 1980s and 1990s.

As they accepted the award, guitarist and vocalist Chris Matthews produced a small vial containing some of Fell's ashes and sprinkled them on the stage.

His widow says the spontaneous call was to acknowledge him along with the rest of the band, but the act left many Māori musicians upset.

The unscripted tribute came as a surprise to the award organisers, and it's not in line with Māori tikanga according to AUT senior lecturer Ella Henry.

"The body, whether it's in physical form or spiritual form or ash form, is still a manifestation of a human being," she told Newshub.

Rachael Churchward, Fell's widow, has responded to the criticism by saying Grant was proud of his Ngāpuhi heritage.

"We were not setting out to shock or offend anyone, but Grant wanted his ashes scattered in places he loved - and he loved being on stage playing music," she says.

"I understand it's not in line with tikanga, but we all come from different places and we don't adhere to every tradition. Music is a big part of our identity too."

She says it's "extremely upsetting" to be the subject of criticism less than three months after her husband's death.

Independent Music New Zealand and Auckland Live say tangata whenua have been consulted, and a blessing will be performed.