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A musical journey

Filipe Naigulevu
Friday, November 10, 2017

FROM traditional folk music of the chants and vucu to the vude tunes that topped the local charts, Fiji's music industry has flourished since its early beginnings.

But while this fairly small but promising industry has much potential, our music and its journey has a deeper story to what we know today.

A plethora of emotions, struggles and stories untold, traditional Fijian music in particular is a mystery in itself which tells of a rich iTaukei history and culture.

With this in mind, Fijian singer, songwriter, musician, entrepreneur and pioneer Talei Draunibaka had set out to rediscover this journey that shaped the local music scenery.

Ms Draunibaka together with her music and life partner Nemani Vanua are making waves in contributing back to the industry by creating a platform that would pay homage to those who made Fiji's music industry what it is today.

With an established music business and a relatively young music academy for budding musicians and artistes, Ms Draunibaka and Mr Vanua are the masterminds behind the Tribute to the Classics show, an annual music event which was inaugurated last year.

The musical duo, fondly known as Nem and Talei, are among Fiji's prominent entertainment businesses with their services demanded mainly for corporate and private events.

Based out of Rewa St in Suva, the business also made a lucrative investment back in 2015 to establish its very own Intune Music Performance Academy to guide artistically-inclined individuals.

While music at the academy is set to move to a new location in the capital city, their recent work — Tribute to the Classics — has dawned as a premier local music event.

The event is a walk through the mists of time, taking a look back at and honouring the stories of Fijian composers, musicians, singers and songwriters who had paved the way for the industry.

"When we started off in the music industry, we felt like there was more we can contribute to help bring out the music industry more to its potential," Ms Draunibaka told this newspaper in an interview.

"When we were on a trip in China some years back, there was so much that was happening there in terms of opportunities and we just wanted to find a way to contribute to the local music industry.

"The next idea was developing young kids and looking for youths, specifically unemployed youths who didn't have resources for their talents.

"We went into that idea that if we were going to try and earmark young talented youth to be renowned local artistes then we had to take it back and first acknowledge those that brought us this far, and that's why we brought in the Tribute to the Classics."

This saw the birth of the Tribute to the Classics, an evening musical concert which was now a flagship annual event under the couple's music business.

"When we started going back, we began exploring this idea of paying tribute to those who have paved the way for us, those on whose shoulders we stand," Ms Draunibaka said.

"We always knew that Fijians were naturally talented and being abroad just gave the clarity on just how talented local artistes are and it's a natural flair for us.

"The idea was if we already had the natural flair, all we had to do was to start a platform that could develop a natural flair into a skilled talented musician."

Ms Draunibaka said the Tribute to the Classics journey had also created an interest around the deep rich history of traditional Fijian music, which is an ideal aspect of the event.

"Having gone on to this journey, it has now brought us to how much further back can we go?

"So it started to again sort of birth this interest into traditional cultural knowledge in music.

"Because we are a very oral society and community in our traditional setting, we are not so much a written culture, all our stories are in our songs.

"Is there a possibility that we can uncover parts of our history that's never been uncovered before and has never been documented through these songs?"

Ms Draunibaka stressed the need to have their (Fijian composers/musicians) stories told and rediscovering their journey.

"We'd like to hear from people who have stories about traditional Fijian vucu, stories we've never heard before because we seem to have lost our way in terms of our song writing," she said.

"Because they (Fijian composers/musicians) really went deep into the iTaukei language, the depth of their songs can get lost in translation but it was so poetic and so subtle which was beautiful."

But holding an event of such magnitude is a daunting task; getting in the right people and supporters to make the show a success.

"It was a risk and it was a challenge going around pitching the idea of Tribute to the Classics as we wanted to have it at the Grand Pacific Hotel and we needed to put a high price on it at $200 this year," Ms Draunibaka said.

"We are OK if we go overseas and we pay $200 for international artistes, but as soon as we say Fijian music, the idea is people are not willing to pay $200 to listen to Fijian songs.

"It implied that yes we can listen to Fijian music, but we don't value it the same way we value international music."

This year, the musical duo are hosting two separate events, — The Black Tie Event and Public Event — because of the positive feedback they received from last year's show.

The Black Tie event show is scheduled for November 18 at the Grand Pacific Hotel with the Public Event to be held at the Vodafone Arena on December 2.

"We are trying to slowly change the mind-set that this is what these Fijian composers and songwriters came out with as far as 70 years ago. And it has so much meaning, that's why we are telling you their stories so we can understand how deep their stories are," Ms Draunibaka said.

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