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Backtracks: The revival of the Quin Tikis

By Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, February 20, 2014

JUST as '60s English music legends The Rolling Stones continue to perform to date, local band the Quin Tikis just can't stop doing what they do best - playing music and entertaining the masses.

Unlike Mick Jagger's motley crew, the line-up of which has remained relatively unchanged since 1975, Saimone Vuatalevu's band has undergone a series of personnel changes over the past four decades.

The new Quin Tikis Revival Band includes his son Archie bringing in a fresh sound to old and trusted brand.

Despite a busy gig schedule, Vuatalevu senior says there is a possibility some of the founding members of Fiji's longest running band can regroup for a one-off show this year, close to four and a half decades after they formed in 1969.

"I still remember the day that Cecil and James Dass came to see me when I worked with the Health Ministry in 1969 and asked if I was interested in being part of their band," the 66-year-old Kinoya resident recalled.

"I was so excited because I had won the Jaycees English talent quest the previous year and had been looking around for a band for some time and when they came to visit me, it was as if they were an answer to my prayers."

Although the Dass duo were in their final year at high school, they had some experience in the music field. Guitarist Cecil Dass said he still remembers the day he and his brother James visited Vuatalevu at Government Buildings in Suva to ask him to front their band.

"We were both in fourth form at the time and Saimone was like a big star back then, so when he said yes to us, we were over the moon," the now 64-year-old retiree shared.

"The original band had Bryan Hazelman, Edward Krishna, a guy Ilaitia and I.

"The whole reason we wanted Saimone in the band was because none of us could sing."

The Quin Tikis with Saimone as the lead singer was officially formed with Edward Krishna on drums, James Dass on lead guitar and Cecil on bass in 1969.

When quizzed about how they came up with the band name, Dass said Krishna's sister was the decider.

"At that time, the Maori tiki was very popular in Suva, all the young boys used to wear a tiki around their neck tied with a bit of string because it was symbolic of manhood at the time.

"It was Edward's sister that suggested we should call ourselves the Quin Tikis because there were five of us in the group.

"We rehearsed in the Sea Scouts hall which used to be situated behind the Suva City Library and began playing at functions around Suva and in all the halls where dances were held."

Dass said during his high school years at DAV College in Nabua, he befriended a young Seru Serevi.

Their love for music would see the friendship extend outside of the classroom and into the club scene in the late '60s and '70s.

"We used to jam after school and at every opportunity that we had.

"Seru had a great voice and he was such a developed bass guitarist for his age.

"Apart from being a part of the Quin Tikis, he also went on to form a band called Mary Jane with another amazing bass player called Marika Gata."

During the '60s and '70s, Vuatalevu's vocal prowess was challenged by Manoa Rasigatale who fronted a band known as Maroc 5.

As far as bands were compared at the time, the Quin Tikis' competition as a show band was none other than Ratu Manu Korovulavula's group, the Southern Brothers.

While Vuatalevu has been hailed and acknowledged by his peers for his contribution to Fiji music by gaining local and international recognition for his efforts, Dass said it was his humility and leadership traits that should be applauded.

"In terms of music influence, I would say that Tom Mawi, Waisea Vatuwaqa and Sakiusa Bulicokocoko had a huge impact on my career.

"But if you're talking about a person that has been an inspiration and someone I looked up to as a leader, then it would have to be Saimone.

"His leadership of the Quin Tikis took us from an unknown group to stardom.

"Through his humble approach, we all developed as musicians and through his dynamic vocals, we became a band that travelled all over Fiji."

Dass said one of his proudest moments as a member of the Quin Tikis was when the group was flown around the country when then Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara established the PM's Hurricane Relief Fund in the early '70s.

"We launched the fund and the first gig was held at the Tradewinds Hotel in Lami (now the Novotel) where close to 1000 people turned up.

"We then flew to Taveuni, Savusavu and then to Nadi where we played at Moon's nightclub.

"It was a great feeling to contribute to raise money for such a worthwhile cause and something that has gone on to help thousands of people over the years."

During a recent visit to Tavola St, the home of the now Quin Tiki's Revival Band, Vuatalevu shared how the band had to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the entertainment industry.

"We are no longer just a band, the Quin Tikis Revival now includes a production studio and we also provide a total entertainment service," he said.

"My son Archie has joined us, that's why the name has changed and we play music from the '60s right through to the current pop hits because that's what a band should do.

"You always have to play for the people."

Next week: Meet the Dass brothers, a musical brethren that have played a significant role in the local industry from the '60s right through to the present time. Read about how the Dass brothers' father, Cecil Dass senior, began a musical journey in the '50s that continues till today.





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