BRISBANE-based Fijian rapper Sam Ratumaitavuki — better known in the music business as Fortafy — is scheduled to hit our shores with his unique brand of hip-hop next month.
And while the Moturiki, Lomaiviti lad hopes to connect with the local audience, his first ever Fiji tour will not all be about the music.
Fortafy's live debut performances in Fiji will highlight a charity that the lyrical twister is passionate about.
"I'm involved in a charity called Pacific Smiles where we fund-raise for books, bags, shoes and school utensils in Australia and deliver them to orphanages in Fiji and I thought while I'm here I should try and get a couple of gigs and see how things go," he told this newspaper.
"Giving back is our duty as humans, especially when you have a more powerful voice that people will listen to, so I feel it is my duty as a person to give back when and where I can and especially because I'm half Fijian, I have a very close connection with the people and want to let disadvantaged kids know that anything is possible if you really focus your mind to it," he added.
Fortafy broke onto the New Zealand music scene four years ago and had not looked back since.
While many Pacific artists in this genre ride on the back of US rhythm and rhyme, he has kept it real by being true to his identity as a Pacific Islander.
From his early forays into music while a student at Wesley College in New Zealand to the present — hosting events around the Brisbane hip-hop scene — Fortafy has kept his eye on the prize and his feet firmly on the ground.
As with most hip-hop artists on the rise, Fortafy keeps a solid workout regime to meet the daily demands of making a living out of music, however, he also believes that music is not just about body shape or looks.
"If your music and the message in the music connects with the audience and how they feel, then it will transcend looks or fashion. A good example is Adele, when compared to manufactured pop stars, she will supersede Michael Jackson with the way she's going by selling more albums than Thriller because of her message," he said.
With more than three million views on You Tube, a hit single with New Zealand rhythm and blues sensation Donell Lewis titled Missing My Love, and a brand new album which features collaborations with the cream of Pacific hip-hop, Fortafy is on track to making his mark on the international music scene.
"I have done tracks with pretty much everyone in NZ including Scribe, J Williams, Young Sid, PNC, Savage and now it's time to focus on Australia. I have always loved hip-hop. I feel it has taught me a lot about life, way more than teachers at school ever could. I just recorded a track with 360 which was an awesome experience as he is running the game right now over here," he shared.
When he's not rubbing shoulders with Down Under rap artistes, Fortafy loves to kick it with rugby idols like Queensland Reds outside centre and wing and multi-capped Wallaby, Digby Ioane.
The duo share a passion for body art and a strong friendship that saw Digby star in the music video for Fortafy's Come Close released in 2011.
Fortafy's rise to stardom Down Under has largely been due to what he calls conscious lyrics where stories are told, feelings shared and the reality of the difficulties faced by Pacific musicians in their musical journey are exposed.
Hip-hop, he said, had charted his course from as far back as he could remember. Apart from the musical influence, the genre has also changed his outlook and perspective on life.
"I've always loved hip-hop. I feel it has taught me a lot about life, way more than teachers at school ever could. I've been on the scene for a few years but started taking it seriously last year when I decided to change doing it as just a hobby and turning it into something full time and meaningful," he shared.
From the inspirational overtures of Champion which features 360, ATP, Vince Harder and Blanco through to the more Pacific flavoured For The Island, featuring Papua New Guinea born urban reggae artist Jagarizzar, the message is clear. It's about connecting with family and going back to the roots and it's also about not giving up even when the odds are stacked heavily against you. Fortafy hopes to connect big time with his Fijian audience when he debuts at the Ice Bar in Nadi on February 22 and February 23 at Down Under in the capital city.