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Fiji Time: 7:30 PM on Wednesday 17 September

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Artist finds hope in child star

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, May 29, 2014

AFTER scooping four Vakalutuivoce Awards in the '80s and '90s, Iliesa Baravilala is looking forward to the inaugural 2014 FPRA Music Awards.

A song he wrote in the '80s titled Mai Sawana that became a hit for crooner Jimmy Subhaydas in 1989, will soon be re-released by West-based band Makare.

And Baravilala says the new version could win him an award.

"At 67 years of age, I thought things would start slowing down," he said.

"But, if anything, my interest has been reborn by two amazing events — the remake of Mai Sawana by Makare and the discovery of a new talent in 11-year-old Class 5 student Mosese Taura from Lautoka Delana School."

Baravilala took home the coveted Best Composer Award in 1981 for penning Lagani Rabukawaqa's hit tune Isa Bau Laga Mai, in 1989 for Jimmy Subhaydas' ode to heartache Nodaru Veitalatala, and in 1997 when Georgina Ledua took his song Vunivaivai Levu Mai Ba to the number one spot.

In 1999, Sebastian James, a St Thomas Secondary School teacher won the Best New Talent at the Vakalutuivoce Awards. An amazing achievement for someone who could not speak or read iTaukei.

He was coached for two years by Baravilala, who also wrote all the songs on his debut and only album.

Despite the accolades, awards and achievements, the Natabua resident said the Makare remake and the powerful vocal style of Taura was inspiring him to write more songs and reach greater heights.

"Mai Sawana was done sigidrigi style and every group that has recorded the song has kept true to that style.

"But the remake by Makare has got me excited at the possibilities if other groups decide to remake my songs.

"During the Bati ni Tanoa show in Lautoka last year, I was invited to perform a few songs at Churchill Park and as soon as my group began singing Mai Sawana, thousands of people joined in the chorus.

"I could not believe it. It was such an emotional experience that I broke down and cried on that stage.

"It's such an amazing feeling to hear thousands of people singing along to a song that I wrote almost a quarter of a century ago."

Mai Sawana was written in the late 80s while Baravilala was head teacher at St James Anglican School in Levuka.

The song tells the story of a girl from Domokavu, Vaturova in Cakaudrove who travelled to Vanuabalavu. During her visit, she fell in love with a boy from Sawana Village on Vanuabalavu. While preparing to tell her family of her intention to wed the lad, her heart was broken when he left her for another.

"She was so heartbroken when she wrote to me in 1989, one line in her letter really told her story — noqu dodomo kece sa voca, lutu dromu e na toba ko Lomaloma — so I kept it and put it in the chorus of the song."

Baravilala said of all the songs he had penned, Mai Sawana was special because it had been covered by many groups over the years and was a sigidrigi favourite at almost every function held around the country.

Even if he doesn't win at the inaugural FPRA Music Awards, the former school teacher said he was optimistic of the future because of his new musical find.

"I was at a function and I heard this voice in a group that was entertaining and I was amazed because for a small person, his voice was very loud and clear and strong.

"I asked around and someone mentioned that he was from Natokalau on Ovalau.

"I met his father and we arranged a few practice sessions and have done a few recordings just to test his voice and he passed all with flying colours."

Baravilala said what made Mosese Taura different from his first child music superstar Lagani Rabukawaqa, was the fact that he was much younger.

"Lagani was in Form 3 at QVS when I discovered him but Mosese is only in Class 5 and he is very confident and mature for someone his age.

"I believe that we have here the next big thing in iTaukei music and Fiji should get ready to hear what this Levuka boy has to offer.

"He will be something special."

Taura will make his debut public performance at the Saioni grounds next to the Methodist Church in Natabua on Saturday when he entertains to celebrate Vuma Day. The event is an effort by Baravilala and the people of Vuma to raise funds for their pastor's quarters at the village on Ovalau.

No doubt, Taura's debut will mark the beginning of a long musical journey with the able guidance of the renowned musical storyteller.

Baravilala's contribution to local music is not limited to composing iTaukei songs that have become classics. He also has the ability to identify special talent. His resume includes Subhaydas, Rabukawaqa, Kavekini Saukuru and many others over the years.

Matching each unique voice with a specially composed song is second nature for the former school teacher.

After composing more than 600 songs in a career that has spanned more than four decades, he has learnt many lessons and he emphasised the importance of registering songs.

"I want to encourage youngsters to write their own songs.

But after composing and recording, it is vitally important that you register your music.

"During one Vakalutuivoce Awards, the final came down to me and another artist that was very popular on the airwaves that particular year.

"However, because he had not registered his song, I won the award.

"Registering your song means that no one can reproduce it without your permission and, even if they do, you still earn all the royalties every time the song is played over the radio or at a public venue like hotels and restaurants.

"So my message to all the young composers is keep writing music but always register your songs."

Vude king and executive member of the Fiji Performing Rights Association Seru Serevi said people such as Baravilala deserved recognition because of his outstanding contribution to Fiji music.

* The Fiji Times is a media partner for the inaugural FPRA Music Awards which will be held on July 26 at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.