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Gucake still makes music at 86

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, June 26, 2014

AT 86 years, Timoci Senibici Gucake can't remember when he first began composing songs.

He also cannot recollect some other details of his music career and puts it all down to age.

But tell him where you're from and like a light switch, the Tubou, Lakeba, native's face brightens. He immediately begins serenading you with a song you can't help but relate to.

Gucake has written songs about almost every part of Fiji and chronicled landmark moments in Fiji's history.

He even spent five years in the police force and wrote Sere Kei Nasova — a song about his experiences there.

"I began telling stories by writing songs from when I was very young," he shared.

"You have to remember that I was born in 1929, so there's a lot of things that I have seen and experienced in my lifetime and a lot of this inspired me to write songs.

"People ask me all the time — how did you write this or where did the inspiration for this song come from?

"I honestly don't know.

"I think it was a gift from God and I just went with it.

"Words and melodies just came easy to me.

"Do you want to hear a song?"

He picked up his trusty ukulele and began tuning it in earnest. The wrinkles on his face disappeared as the strings began to stretch into tune.

On that day at his oldest son's house, Gucake began strumming and singing his latest composition, a song about Fiji.

"I have seven children and more than 30 grandchildren and it is very unfortunate that none of them play an instrument or sing.

"I always tell them to have a look at my passport, my songs and talent have taken me overseas. Because of my music, I have travelled from Australia to the United States."

The veteran composer has penned many familiar tunes and recorded notable renditions of classics such as Seni Cevuga Lei, Taletaki Dina, Ena Bogi, Sereima Lei, Buna Isa Lei Buna, Sere Kei Kadavu, Au Sokota Cake Yani, Sa Seavu Tiko Yani Vakamalua and Tagimoucia Ga.

During a visit in Sydney a few years back, Gucake was so overcome by the sheer majesty of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that he wrote a song called Stars At Night.

Gucake's contribution to local music as a composer, performer and recording artist will be acknowledged along with other local legends at the inaugural 2014 FPRA Music Awards.

The event, which will be held at the Grand Pacific Hotel on Saturday July 26, is being touted the night of nights for local music.

Previously known as the Vakalutuivoce Awards, the FPRA Music Awards organising committee has promised an event like no other.

"We are raising the bar in terms of how music awards events will be held in the country," said renowned local artist Seru Serevi.

"The whole concept of the awards has changed from how it was organised as the Vakalutuivoce Awards.

"Beginning with the nomination forms that were sent out to all the members of the Fiji Performing Rights Association, right through to the choice of judges of the calibre of Igelese Ete from Pasifika Voices and Master Laisiasa Veikoso.

"The way the program for the night has been laid out, this awards night will be a truly international event."

Television giant FijiTV and The Fiji Times are media partners of the inaugural awards night.

With 12 trophies up for grabs, the FPRA Awards is being looked forward to by composers and music fans.

"We have had a lot of enquiries come in about the awards night and the interest has been overwhelming," said veteran iTaukei and Hindi singing artist, Saimone Vuatalevu.

"In terms of ticket sales, the response from the public and companies has been absolutely fantastic.

"People are buying tickets by the table and this just cements what we have always believed — that the general public are appreciative of local composers and performers efforts."

Vuatalevu added that the awards night also presented musicians with a unique opportunity to change the way they were sometimes perceived.

"A lot of people look down at musicians because of various reasons and we believe the 2014 FPRA Music Awards gives us a chance to change that perception.

"Hopefully this will change people's mind-set about musicians and pave a better way forward for Fiji's music industry."

One of the highlights of the awards night is the establishment of Fiji music's Hall of Fame.

Vuatalevu said the judges had yet to decide which 10 artists would be the first to be acknowledged as composers and performers that have contributed significantly to the local music industry.

"The Hall of Fame will not be limited to contemporary or traditional popular music and will not be limited to just the indigenous community.

"We will look at the contribution of people from the Hindi and English speaking artists. We are looking back at the people who wrote some memorable Christian hymns decades ago that are still being sung and enjoyed today.

"And then there are artists like the late Sakiusa Bulicokocoko, Wise Vatuwaqa and Tui Ravai.

"We will continue to install 10 composers and performers at a time in order to capture the so many talents that have contributed and shaped our local music industry and got us to where we are today."

The inaugural 2014 FPRA Music Awards will be held at the Grand Pacific Hotel on Saturday July 26.

Tickets for the event are on sale at the Fiji Performing Right Association office at 66 McGregor Rd in Suva.

For enquiries or to book a seat at Fiji's premier music event, call 3312494.

The Fiji Times is the print media partner for the awards night.

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