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A song that rocked nationwide

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, August 28, 2014

GROWING up in Navolau Village, Rakiraki, exposed Seci 'Fly' Banuve to Hindi-speaking tenants who farmed on his mataqali land.

Over time, he developed his Hindi language skills so well that he would often converse with his iTaukei peers in the lingo, often to the amusement of relatives and friends visiting from urban centres.

"It was a natural thing for us, we never thought of it as a racial issue or they were different from us," the 53-year-old shared.

Little did he know that the language skills he had acquired at the time would later take him to the top of Fiji's music charts and bring him fame and a little fortune.

Banuve worked on sugar-cane farms as a teenager and just when it looked like he was destined for working on the land, an event happened that had a significant impact on his life.

Things changed when Sakiusa Bulicokocoko and Timoci Gucake came to Rakiraki and rocked the sleepy little backwater right off its feet.

Their non-stop, high-tempo show stirred a feeling that he could not shake off.

And long after the duo left, their songs reverberated a new beat in the Navolau youngster's life.

"I saw the way they performed and I knew right there and then that I wanted to be a musician and an entertainer.

"I was in Class Five at that time and like all other young boys, I had accepted that my life would be on the farm.

"But the moment the band struck its first chord and the way the music made me feel and the joy that Sakiusa and Timoci brought to the people really touched me.

"As their performance went on, you could see people forget their worries and dance to the music and that really inspired me."

About two decades later, the dream that began in Rakiraki in the '70s became a reality at Procera Music Studios in Suva.

"By the '80s I had moved to Suva and I began to hang around Procera.

"Here, I got to know all the great musicians and the more I mixed around with them, the more I knew I wanted to be in the music business."

In 1989, Procera owner Ashok Narsey and recording engineer and producer Ramesh Hargovind decided to give him a go.

"I can't even tell you how excited I was. It was a big thing for me because I had dreamt all my life to be a performer and here I was being given a chance to record a whole album."

Unbeknownst to Narsey and Hargovind, the Navolau native had begun composing songs in 1987 and a Hindi number he had written would soon be an anthem on radio and among musicians performing on the live music scene around the country.

Dui Larki became a nationwide hit as soon as the album was released in 1989.

It remains the most popular song he has ever composed and earned him a livelihood for some time.

"The funny thing was I had no idea that the song would become a hit because most of my focus was on the iTaukei songs I had written.

"Dui Larki was written with a lot of humour and, in a way, it was my tribute to Sakiusa because he was the inspiration behind the song.

"I was really influenced by his on-stage humour and I thought a song about a guy asking his parents for permission to marry two women was really funny."

Banuve asked the Wilson brothers to assist him with the recording. Eddie played bass and Lennie took the lead guitar role.

Henry Moore from renowned reggae band Exodus played the keyboards and Sudesh Singh from Hindi music group the Melody Makers sat behind the drums on the song.

"I was so touched that all these great musicians wanted to help me even though I was an unknown artist. "

Banuve was overwhelmed with the attention he received for the song and because of its popularity, he decided to re-record it another two times on his second album with Procera and the third with SPR in Suva.

"I think people couldn't get enough of that song because it was written and sung by an iTaukei artist and the humorous nature of the song also made it popular with everybody.

"And that's the amazing thing about music. It has the power to unite people from different cultures and even language is not a barrier.

"If a song has a nice tune and a good beat then people from all over the world will like it and accept it."

While Dui Larki broke new ground on the local music scene by virtue of it being a Hindi composition by an iTaukei artist, another song written about his brother-in-law, Viliame Cikaitoga's, journey to the Lion City also became a hit on indigenous radio stations.

"The song was called Singapore and it was told through Viliame's eyes.

"He was part of the group of seamen who went to pick up the navy vessel, Kiro, from Singapore and the song is basically about that journey.

"When he returned home, all he would talk about was the cleanliness of Singapore and how well-organised the country was, so I put all those details down in my song and it was a very popular tune on the radio."

Banuve walked away from the music business in 2006 after becoming disillusioned by the rampant piracy. He ventured into farming and even operates a juice stand at the Lautoka Municipal Market.

"I keep myself busy but I do miss recording and performing sometimes. "I made some money back in the day and I used to collect good royalties from the cassette sales but when the computer age came in the money began to drop.

"As soon as one recording went out, it spread like wildfire all over Fiji because of piracy and it made it difficult to make a living and after a while I lost hope.

"The pirates are out there to make a quick buck but it's the people who are buying the music that are the real culprits.

"They don't stop and think about people like me and how much time I put into writing the song-words and coming up with the tune and getting a band to learn the songs. "In a way, they are stealing from me because they want my music for free.

"If I turn up to their workplace and ask for something, they won't give it to me for free so how is my work different from theirs?

"People need to think about artists and spend a few extra dollars to buy the genuine product.

"That way, we can feed our families and continue to put out good music year after year."