HOMER Fare could best be described as the professor of local music.
Behind his headmaster spectacles and under his well-worn hat lies about four decades of music experience, memories and a wealth of knowledge.
Despite Fiji having a rich history of performed and recorded music, only a handful of musicians can claim to have some knowledge of music theory.
Many were and still are content with playing music from the heart and by ear. Homer is not among those.
From humble beginnings on Motusa in Rotuma where he grew up in the '50s, the Hapmafau native developed his skills to become one of the most studious musicians in the country.
"I had always wanted to read music because I was fascinated by how the dots and squiggles on a piece of paper could translate to some of the most beautiful sounds human ears have ever heard," said the 61-year-old Nadi resident.
"Growing up there were no music teachers around and it wasn't until the early '80s while I was living in Suva that I met a classical guitar teacher called Lawrence.
"So I seized the opportunity to learn how to read."
After learning notation for guitar, Homer spent hours applying what he had learnt to the keyboard.
"I had played guitar in many bands in the past but at this stage I had discovered the keyboard and it took me a while to work out how the notation applied to the piano."
Fortunately, a friend gave him the address for the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and Homer immersed himself into a jazz piano correspondence course.
Unfortunately the course was discontinued after two and a half years because of lack of tutors. At this stage Homer had managed to complete 12 assignments out of the 26 required for certification.
Right when he had just got a whiff of the inner workings of the mysterious world of music theory, Homer had to resort to the Fijian expression of 'choro chord' - but this time - from overseas musicians visiting resorts.
"I was disappointed about not completing the course but I managed to develop my sight reading abilities when I started working in hotels where I met a lot of overseas musicians and pianists who took the time out to explain the magic of reading music."
He still dreams of a crack at Berklee one day.
Homer's fascination with music began as a youngster growing up in Itu'ti'u District in Rotuma in the '50s.
After mastering the ukulele and guitar, he began strutting his stuff as part of the fara where groups of people would indulge in merry-making during Christmas by waking up households with singing and dancing in the hope of being given gifts.
Although he was into the rhythmic simplicity of the traditional Rotuman songs, a chance encounter with the king of rock'n roll over the radio had planted the seed of discontent in his heart. He began searching for something more than island music.
"I loved music from the first moment my ears first heard the sweet sounds of voices and instruments, this was around the age of three or four.
"But when I first heard Elvis Presley, I was inspired to find out the complexities of different music movies and that's when the search to learn as much as I could started."
After completing primary at Motusa District School and intermediate studies at Malhaha High School, Homer set sail for Ratu Kadavulevu School in 1966.
This was the venue of his first public performance and it set the stage for a music career that would span about four decades.
"I still remember that day," he laughs.
"It was the end of year concert in 1968.
"I was on guitar and vocals and a buddy on drums. He used a sasa broom as the drumstick and a steel plate was used for the hi-hat and snare.
"I think the song was Don't Let Me Down by The Beatles.
"I have heard a lot of people, when they talk about their first performance, say that it was nerve-racking but I felt quite at ease on that small stage."
Inspired by the rock sounds of Santana, folk influences of Bob Dylan, pop-rock of the Doobie Brothers, the funk of Earth,Wind and Fire, the groove of Stevie Wonder and the genius of Quicy Jones, Homer began his musical journey in Suva in the late '60s.
"There were a lot of great bands in Suva in the late '60s like George Knight and The Falcons, Manoa Rasigatale and Maroc 5, Maxie Columbus and The Bali Hai Trio.
"But the best was the Dragon Swingers with so many great musicians like Wise Vatuwaqa, Ronnie 'Paspatu' Samuels, Joe Viasi Heritage, Paul Stevens and my cousin Rupeni 'Rupsanji' Davui.
"This was before Ulysses broke into the nightclub scene at Lucky Eddies in 1976."
Homer entered the music scene as part of Sangfroid Ride - a band which featured Bertie Lee Junior on bass, William Amputch and Johnny Shankaran sharing the Drums.
As the group evolved, shoemaker-turned-musician Jimmy Nathu took on the male vocals, Khalid Dean featured on organ and Darryl Bryson on flute and saxophone. Patricia Lee was the band's female vocalist.
"When I first started to play professionally in the mid '70s, country music and English rock bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and Cream, Jeff Beck, John Mayall and The Blues Breakers were the hits.
"Rod Steward and a lot of great English pop bands like Procul Harem were also quite big.
"We played this music and some American tunes that had started to infiltrate the music market until Bob Marley and The Wailers and then Peter Tosh brought reggae music to our ears."
Over the decades Homer performed alongside some of the best that Fiji has ever produced - Ken Janson, Tom Mawi, Robert Verma, the late Melaia Dimuri, Eni Kumar, the late Sakiusa Bulicokocoko, Marika Gata, Ezra Williams, the late Lia Osborne, George Knight, Laisa Vulakoro, the late Litia Ravoka and the list continues until today.
His wealth of experience is also drawn from experiences with Sangfroid Ride and the Dragon Swingers at the Golden Dragon, Ulysses at Lucky Eddies, Sunshine Mecca Band and Night Wind at the Sheraton Fiji Resort and Westin Fiji.
He now teaches piano and has also formed a band with his wife Sylvia and daughters Katrina Mataiasi, Marilyn-Joy Mataiasi, Grace Mataiasi and Deborah Mataiasi.
"Katrina is the eldest and she does the lower part of the harmony. Marilyn-Joy shares the lead vocals with their mother. She also plays a bit of guitar and keyboard.
"Grace is the pianist and she also does harmony and lead as well and our youngest, Deborah, does lead and harmony and wants to be a bass player too."
Homer said because his family was in charge of their church music ministry, they have been doing a lot of vocal harmony practice at home.
Apart from preparing hymns during the week, the girls sometimes pick on melodies they hear during the week from mp3 files lying around the house.
"I found that the girls could easily sing the four-part harmonies in those songs even when the song is a two-part or even a three-part harmony.
"Someone would hit the missing harmony line with ease without faltering and that was where I discovered that God had really poured his blessings on my children with the gift of harmony. I cannot thank Him enough for that. It is such an amazing thing.
"So, the forming of Fam Band was just a formality. My wife and I have been working together in the hotel industry for years. The girls are just an extension of what we were already doing and together we create a sound that is all thanks to God."
Apart from his work with the church and Fam Band, Homer also plays a crucial role as the secretary of the Western Musicians and Entertainers Association. This is his vehicle for passing knowledge to younger and up-coming musicians.
"As the secretary of the Western Musicians and Entertainers Association, I have made it my passion to work with the government to help develop music talent with regard to live music entertainment in this country.
"Live entertainment in the tourism industry has to be well packaged for the tourist market and we need to develop our younger musicians because they are the future of this industry.
"The music industry is a very important industry; so it should be structured, and all stakeholders will be able to know what their roles are. It should be controlled from within and what we need now is government help."