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Fiji Time: 9:32 AM on Thursday 24 April

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The rebirth of old hits

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, December 27, 2013

WAINIBU Tamani nodded his head in time to the music being played by Lautoka-based group Makare.

The Fiji Military Force band member came from a long line of musicians who not only played but also composed music.

His shoulders slumped and he could not control his emotions when the band played their version of a hit tune co-written by his cousin, the late Luke Tamani, one of the leading figures in a group called the QEB Serenaders that had composed and recorded some popular songs in the '70s and '80s.

The scene was Traps Bar and the event was the launch of Lautoka-based musical group, Makare's debut album which featured a collection of classic iTaukei tunes remade for the modern generation.

When the group — which included his nephew Phil Dakei — struck up Keu Lesuva, the military band member was overcome with emotion.

"I wish my cousin was here to hear this," he emoted.

"I never believed that his song could be performed as a duet and arranged the way Makare has done it.

"This is pure magic."

Perhaps, the magical aspect of Makare is the fact that the group is made up of distinctive artists, who had each made an impact on the local, regional and international scene in his or her own right.

And, what made the event even more special was the support shown by a huge audience who had come to pay homage to classic iTaukei tunes written by some of the greatest composers and performers that Fiji has ever produced.

Makare's first-ever musical collaboration came about quite by accident.

William "Bigwilz" Waqanibaravi was renowned as a local recording artist with two singles — Butterfly that went to number one and Life that grabbed the number two spot on the Pacific Top 20 charts — administered by French Radio in New Caledonia.

Arriving at a recording session two years ago at Dakei's Noisy Oyster Studio at Field 4 in Lautoka, Bigwilz had forgotten to bring the lyrics to his new song.

Being a part of Bigwilz previous solo projects, I was fortunate to be present at the time.

After a few bowls of kava, a decision was made to record an iTaukei track. That first recording marked the birth of Makare.

Because of work commitments, the group decided not to establish itself as a band proper. Instead, it utilised the talents of artists such as Simi Rova, who was a founding member of the popular local covers band Heart Beats to play guitar and lend his vocal talent to the project.

Dakei, renowned for his production work on Daniel Rae Costello's albums and live performances, was heavily involved in producing audio for advertising.

His claim to fame is his original hit single Play On which generated close to 19,000 hits on You Tube and caught the attention of Media Factory, one of Japan's biggest distribution labels. They took him on an all expenses paid trip to Japan to perform at a number of notable venues. The trip generated interest in Fijian music.

Fellow Makare singer-guitarist Simione Rova is an exciting performer and an upcoming producer in his own right. In the Western Division, he is highly regarded as an all-round musician showing proficiency on drums, bass, keyboards with his main instruments being the guitar and his voice.

He was one of the main voices on the National Council for Building a Better Fiji's theme song, A New Day.

Ditui Abariga Raoma may be unknown in Suva but in the West, she is regarded as one of the best female vocalists around.

Her versatility, range and power were all harnessed in her performance of Keu Lesuva alongside Dakei.

Their version of the QEB Serenaders classic was one of the highlights of the launch event.

A familiar sight on-stage, Gilman Lasaisuva is no stranger to the local music scene.

From the moment he emerged as a drummer with the Dragon Swingers in the '60s through to when he recorded his biggest original hit, the ode to his motherland titled Lakeba, Lasaisuva has remained a dominant figure in the local industry.

When Makare invited him to be a part of their project and do a remake of his hit tune Vorolaki Au, the Kabara native was excited at the prospect of recording after a lapse of 25 years and was emotional when the finished product was played back to him earlier this year.

"I can't put into words all my feelings," the 68-year-old quipped.

"Being appreciated all over again after all these years is something I will never forget.

"This goes down as one of the biggest moments of my music career."

Jim Ratusila is a familiar face as the front man for Pacific music superstars, Rosiloa.

When he was asked to be a part of the Makare project, the Ra man jumped at the chance.

The seasoned artist's vocal contribution on Lasaisuva's Vorolaki Au was a very special performance.

Ratusila has been at the forefront of Fiji music since the '90s when Black Rose was officially formed.

The thrill of appearing at live concerts and festivals all over the world and composing hit singles was more than equalled with his contribution to the Makare project.

"Paying homage to our forefathers and great composers like Gilman was my way of saying thank you for the sacrifices and immense contribution to Fiji music."

Makare's decision to put out an album of iTaukei classics may have started by accident but as the album evolved, songs that were hits about 40 years ago took on a new shape and deeper meaning.

From the outset, a decision was made to ensure that all the songwriters would receive their just dues.

"We made it a point to contact the Fiji Performing Rights Association and informed them of the project and the songs that we were going to reproduce," Bigwilz explained.

"For the songwriters that had passed on, we asked for their immediate family members or nominees who were receiving royalties.

"We couldn't get in touch with people like Marika Gata, the composer of Sa Bera, because he lives somewhere on Vanua Levu but we did manage to contact a few on the mainland like Mere Rokodrega, the daughter of the late Jolame Rokodrega.

"Jolame was one of the founding members of a very popular Fijian group called Bua Ni Lomai Nabua and he composed Wavokiti Vuravura and E Na So Na Siga, two of the 10 songs on our album."

Two of legendary composer, singer and radio personality Yaminiasi Gaunavou's tunes also feature on the album.

YG, as he was popularly known, together with Mosese Kalidole and Peniona Rakuro formed the Gaunavou Group in the early '70s. Aided by Saimone Vuatalevu on keyboard and Marika Gata on bass guitar, the group released their first album in 1973.

It is ironic that Makare has not been able to determine who was the composer of the band's biggest hit to date, Na Gauna.

"We had made a number of queries at the Fiji Performing Rights Association office but there are no records as to who wrote the song," Bigwilz explained.

"The only information that we have on record is that the song was first performed by the PJ Twomey Serenaders.

"It is believed that the song was written by a leper about his experience of being shipped off to Makogai Island and the feelings of loss and separation from loved ones make up the lyrics of this song."

Makare goes on sale at all SPR outlets Fiji-wide.