PRAVEEN 'Spooky' Sharan is still driven today with a passion that was ignited about four decades ago at the Golden Dragon.
His story is best told as a passionate journey that began by spinning records, while still a primary school student, at the Golden Dragon in the early '70s to playing percussion with some of Fiji's greatest musicians — the Dragon Swingers and Ulysses.
His passion then turned to radio in the '80s where Sharan gained renown as the man who introduced reggae music to Fiji's airwaves.
Some, including his mother, would argue that Sharan's passion for music developed in the early '60s as a baby whose cries could only be placated by opening the windows of the Sharan home and welcoming in the sounds of the Dragon Swingers belting out jazz and rock tunes.
"Our family home is on Carnavon Street and it is The Cottage now. This is the wooden colonial-styled house behind the Janson Ho building where the Golden Dragon is situated and mum used to say that I used to cry at night and the only way they could get some peace in the house was when she opened the windows and the music from the Dragon Swingers would make me go quiet," he reminisced.
Mrs Sharan had no problems getting her son to sleep after that, he would nod off in her arms night after night, rocking gently to the sounds of the Dragon Swingers who played seven days a week.
"You have to remember that in those days there was no sound proofing, they had louvre blade windows that were open for ventilation and the music would come out loud and clear seven nights a week — they never had a night off because there were no disc jockeys at the time. Those days people such as Ray Foster and Mawi and all the greats used to play there."
As a youngster, while many boys' memories of their childhood would be playing cowboys and Indians in the back yard, the same could not be said for Sharan.
"My back yard was Suva City and my hangout was outside the Golden Dragon chatting with the band boys on Victoria Parade.
"My father used to have tea with Ken's dad, Janson Ho, and one day I asked old man Janson if I could go upstairs and have a peek. He said yes but also gave a stern warning to the bouncers and the staff that I was not to be given any alcohol or cigarettes.
"From the moment I walked in there, the music just enthralled me. It really captured my interest and this grew as time went on."
In 1974, at the tender age of 14, Sharan began spinning records at the Golden Dragon.
"Ken had just gotten the deejay set-up and I asked him if I could play around with it and gave me the go-ahead. After a while he asked me if I was interested in spinning records when the band took a break. I jumped at the chance.
"Here I was, a primary school student, spinning records at the hottest night club in the country and in the company of the greatest musicians of that era."
When Sharan turned 15, Ken Janson took him on as the official deejay at the Golden Dragon.
"People didn't even know what a deejay was in those days. I'm not sure who it was but someone at the Golden Dragon began calling me DJ Spooky because I was spinning records in the night and the name has stuck since.
"I didn't know what Spooky meant at the time but it sounded cool and Ken began advertising me in The Fiji Times as DJ Spooky and everything just started from there.
"It was a thrill seeing people jump up when I played a record and look for a partner to dance."
While Sharan was thrilled at the prospect, his enthusiasm was not shared by his parents.
"I used to go home at 2am and wake up in the morning and go to school.
"My parents were not thrilled with the idea at all. And sometimes when mum would open the door at 5am in the morning I would be sleeping outside on the veranda.
"They were worried but they knew where I was and knew that all I had to do was cross the fence and I was home — so that kind of gave my mum some peace of mind."
Sharan's deejaying went up a notch when he was handed a microphone and urged to speak to the crowd in between songs.
"One day Ken gave me a microphone and said just talk to the people in between spinning the records and that's where my confidence level just grew.
"The band boys saw my keen interest in music and that's how I got into playing percussion.
"Paul Stevens was the one who got me into playing percussion.
"And I remember that he got me to beat the cowbell, that was my first introduction to playing live music.
"He then took me through the congas and all the other percussion instruments.
"It was an amazing feeling and I was so blessed, at 15 years old, to be playing with some of the top musicians of the time.
"I used to get $5 or $10 and, boy, I was so happy, I was on top of the world. Five bucks was big money those days."
In 1979, Sharan developed new friendship with a band that also grew up in Suva City called Ulysses.
"I used to hang out with Vimal Prasad and blended in well with the band because they played a lot of Santana numbers which featured a lot of percussion so I left the Golden Dragon and went to Lucky Eddies.
"It was an amazing time because in the space of 10 years I went through two of Fiji's top bands in two of Fiji's top venues."
In 1985, the country's foremost radio announcer, Gary A'Costa, coaxed Sharan to go on radio.
"He asked me to go over to the Radio Fiji studio at 1pm the next day.
"I turned up there and he showed me how the controls worked and then said 'in 30 seconds you're on' and walked out the studio.
"At 2pm I went live across the country and it was an amazing feeling and I owe a debt of gratitude to Gary for giving me that opportunity.
The program was called Nice and Easy and Sharan slogged it out for four months.
"People began calling in and wrote letters to the editor and said they liked the program but I had something else on my mind and approached Gary with a request to give me a shot at hosting my own show.
"When he heard that I wanted to play reggae music over the air, he freaked out but eventually he gave in and in 1985, I introduced reggae music to Fiji radio audiences."
Prior to this reggae music had not been allowed on local radio because of its association with marijuana.
"A lot of people didn't know what reggae was.
"So I began pumping out Third World, Bob Marley and the Wailers and Peter Tosh and because the rhythm was so similar to the island strum style and the heavy down beat of sigi-drigi, people began to like it.
"Then one day I got a visit from a band called Rootstrata and they asked if I could play their music over the radio and I began promoting their song, Young Generation, and told Fiji this was local reggae.
"And that's how reggae started on radio in Fiji and I am proud to have been the one that brought it here."
In 1987, after the coup, Sharan shifted camp to a new and emerging radio station called FM96, which was situated on Stewart St at the time.
"Around 1985, FM96 started and when the coup happened in 1987, I realised that I couldn't continue at Radio Fiji because there were different vibes and so William Parkinson offered me a good deal and I joined them and took reggae music there.
"And the music and movement grew and with it bands like Sister Phumi and Lucky Dube began touring Fiji. I remained on the scene until 1994 when I got married."
Sharan now walks to the beat of a different drum as an employee of the Australian Government.
However, the passion that began his career four decades ago still burns deep but this time with a different flame.
"I just feel that we dropped the ball somewhere along the line because our music went from being the best to the situation that we are in now.
"My dream is that one day musicians in Fiji will be recognised as professionals and be proud of who they are and what they have to offer.
"Musicians in Fiji have been ignored until today and yet, with their humble hearts, they continue to play music and entertain the masses and put out albums despite the locked doors and that is another amazing aspect of music and musicians.
"I hope that one day people will respect musicians and acknowledge their contribution to Fiji."