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Lonely without music

Colin Deoki
Sunday, November 26, 2017

HAVE you ever wondered where the word music comes from?

Music, it seems, comes from the Greeks who believed it was divine-inspired.

It appears the source of this inspiration came from "Muses" — the goddesses of song and poetry. According to Greek mythology the Muses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Legend has it these goddesses of song were also associated with Apollo, god of the lyre.

As the myth evolved, getting more traction over time, more muses (goddesses) were added, nine in all. There were muses for heroic poetry and history, music, tragedy, choral song and dance, erotic poetry, astronomy, comedy and merry-making, sacred poetry and hymns.

The word mousike, with a little hyphen over the letter "e", came from the Greek mousa — meaning one muse. It literally meant "the art of the muse". With time, mousike matured becoming known for the pleasing arrangement of ambient sounds and tones. So the word music most probably comes from the word mousike.

The human body, it seems, is biologically and chemically "tuned" to enjoying musical pleasure. When our emotions are aroused, or if we're surprised and excited when the unexpected happens, something called dopamine is released from the brain into the body.

When I first came across the word dopamine, it sounded like some weird drug. Neurological scientists, through extensive studies, have been able to measure the amount of dopamine that's released from the brain into the body when a person feels aroused by the heightened sense of pleasure or listening to their favourite music.

While there are many neruoscientists who will agree to disagree with some of the theories surrounding this subject they're in agreement that dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Which is why the subject of dopamine is as varied as it is controversial.

There have been well over 110,000 research papers written on the subject of dopamine. How it functions and operates in the body is still something of a mystery and the painstaking study by hundreds, possibly thousands, of research scientists all over the world. It is being trialled in assisting patients suffering from Parkinson's Disease as well as many other ailments.

We may not be able to describe the feelings we feel in any scientific or medical jargon but we know how we feel when we hear our favourite song or instrumental music.

There are moments when something we hear for the very first time, does something to us that is almost indescribable. The emotions and feelings of pleasure-giving joy filling our being can sometimes be likened to a euphoric experience lifting our spirit and soul. Nothing can aptly describe this feeling.

Just like the Greeks, every culture on planet earth has some form of musical sounds describing the rich tapestry of their history and heritage.

There is music even in the human body. Our heartbeat has an almost perfect rhythmic beat. The boboom-boboom of our heartbeat plays non-stop 24 hours a day as blood courses through our veins and arteries making a swooshing sound. And depending on how or what we're feeling, our rhythmic heartbeat increases in rate and speed through physical exertion or when we're emotionally stressed or excited. Yes, you could say that we are a human music machine with a non-stop internal orchestra playing our very own symphony.

Growing up, I remember having the best fun cranking up the old Gramophone record player at my grandma's home.

This marvellous piece of music invention could only play what was a round 10 inch, 78 acetate disc — a far cry from the music devices of today. This hard, black coloured brittle record would have to be placed on a flat revolving plate-like contraption with a green felt-like cover to stop it from damaging the disc. Then the arm on the side of the gramophone player would have to be "cranked" several times to "power" the "motor" for the plate or turntable to start spinning.

When the gramophone record started spinning at the right "revs", the arm holding the needle would have to be placed gingerly at the beginning of the record groove to play whatever music or recorded message was on the acetate disc. I'm not sure whether I enjoyed the "cranking" process more or the sound of the music.

Of course after several minutes of play the "arm" cranking the gramophone would have to be powered up again or it would start losing speed going into slow motion. As the turntable slowed to a crawl and if it was a female singer, she would end up sounding like a garbled male baritone.

After many plays of the same disc there was always the chance that the grooves on the record would become damaged. The scratches and bumps on the record would often lead to the needle getting stuck at the damaged groove making the weirdest repetitive sounds.

Sometimes we'd let the record keep playing the repetitive sound stuck at a groove because it sounded hilarious. Of course the grown-ups didn't find this funny at all. We'd be given the "look" to signal it was time to quickly move the "needle" or risk a shut-down of our musical mischief-making.

When the new electric powered stereophonic record players hit the stores it wasn't long before our family bought one. As soon as the new stereophonic record player arrived home there was a change in the whole atmosphere. We started playing the latest 33 and 45 inch vinyl records. My step-mum introduced us to Tommy Garret and his 50 Guitars, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Johan Strauss, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Gene Pitney, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and so many other amazing artistes of the '50s and '60s.

She began teaching us how to dance the foxtrot, the chacha, the waltz, swing and jive. When Chuck Berry released a new dance craze called the twist, we learned that too - all in our lino-covered lounge room floor.

They were some of the most enjoyable times I remember growing up in our Thurston St home.

As I got older, I remember sneaking out through my bedroom window at night to hang outside the Masonic Lodge in Gladstone Rd. The band boys in those days would be dressed in white shirts and black bow ties. The ladies at these dances would be dressed in shimmering gowns while the guys would look so dapper dressed in black pants and a creamy white jacket with a coloured sash instead of a belt.

And I remember the bass player because he would be belting out tunes on the big stand-up "slack" bass. They'd be playing everything from waltzes to big band swing sounds as the people jigged the night away. What an amazing sight it was as the people dressed in their finery enjoyed the rich sounds of the live orchestra style band.

There were other functions at the Masonic Lodge and the featured band would be The Young Ones. What an amazing group they were.

As the electric sounds of The Shadows, Elvis Presley and The Beatles began to become popular, and when I was a little older, I'd go further down the road to the Nawela Girl's Hostel in the old Botanical Gardens beside Government House (later Thurston Gardens) to listen to the famous Maroc Five featuring the legendary Manoa Rasigatale. This soulful band would be belting out tunes from the Bee Gees and Steppinwolf.

Their lead guitarist, the late Naca, had such an amazing way of making the guitar "talk". They were such a tight band and I loved listening to their music. And of course there was the famous Havana Boys and Fiji Five featuring some of the most prolific musicians ever assembled recreating the sounds of the Shadows and so many other fabulous musos of the era.

The Dass brothers together with the vude king, Seru Serevi, featuring the dulcet sounds of Saimone Vuatalevu were a hugely sought after group called The Quin Tikis.

And how could we ever forget the fabulous Falcons featuring the famous Knight brothers. They put La Tropicale at the forefront of the music scene with their polished harmonies and rocking riffs.

When Them Insex came along, they brought with them a new sound. Kids especially loved their rendition of the popular music of the '60s and '70s.

Maxie's Mule was a kick-butt band that brought the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple to the Bali Hai Nightclub. Even though it was the era of great live bands, there were lead vocalists like the famous Jimi Nathu who single-handedly could electrify a crowd with his performance.

On the flip side was my good friend and guitar teacher Anil Valera playing his soothing folk songs that made everyone sit up and take note of the "Times They Are a Changing".

Sometimes I'd stand outside the Old Suva Town Hall listening to the bands that played there until there was an almighty brawl where everyone went scurrying for cover because it was so easy to get caught in the crossfire.

From there we'd mosey on down to stand outside the Golden Dragon where Tom Mawi and the Dragon Swingers would be creating some of the most soulful sounds ever heard. The Golden Dragon Band over the years has featured some of the most mind-blowing musicians ever assembled; greats like Waisea Vatuwaqa, Ben Rabaka, Rupeni Davui, Passportoo, Joe Heritage, Tui Ravai, Paul Stephens, Sakiusa Bullicokocoko ably led by the iconic Ken Janson. And of course who could ever forget the famous Daveta Sisters with their vocal harmonies that were out of this world!

I know that I've most likely left out a great many more artistes of renown — just too many to mention but live music was such a huge part of our world in the '60s, '70s and '80s and it's great to see that people like Serevi are at the forefront of keeping it alive and kicking.

Many of these amazing musicians have since passed on yet the pool of talent has since grown as other younger budding artistes grace the scene. And there's definitely plenty of it out there.

Music — without it the world would be a very lonely place!

* The author is a former Fiji resident who now lives in Australia. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

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