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From the tanoa to the studios

Serafina Silaitoga
Thursday, March 08, 2018

IT all started around a tanoa during family grog sessions. Known for their melodious voices, the Wakeham family of Taveuni was satisfied with their performance at sigidrigi sessions, entertaining families and friends.

But one particular evening in 2010, a friend who lived next door to them at Savuwaqa, Wairiki, opened up the idea of recording albums with their songs.

After that evening, the group formed "Waisavuyaku Serenaders" and it includes dad Abraham Wakeham, sons John Paul, Bernard, Arthur, Ben and their cousin Niko.

They had to spend two weeks camping in the forest of Lavena where their farm sits to practise their songs until it became perfect. The group then returned to Savuwaqa where they resided and travelled to Suva with the friend, Jone Katoni, to do their first recording.

In that same year, they recorded their first album 'E Vakadonui Keda Vakacava' which contained 10 songs composed by the family.

Wakeham described his sons as talented and gifted singers.

"After we recorded that first album, we then prepared for our second album which was recorded in 2011 and was named 'Reveni Dromodromo' or Yellow Ribbon," he said.

The release of the second album, Wakeham said, coincided with the launch of the Yellow Ribbon program in Wairiki.

"We also launched our second album at Wairiki and I remember there was a huge crowd to witness the launching of the Yellow Ribbon program and our album," he said.

"The second album is special because it encourages the communities to accept our friends who are released from correction centres.

"It also pleads with the communities to treat them equally and don't see their wrong, but to focus on how we can all work together to help them become better people."

Apart from recording albums, the family has also entertained in various functions such as weddings, birthdays, village or family gatherings and other events.

Wakeham said they had travelled around the country for the sake of entertainment.

"Being a singer has a lot of advantages as we travel together as a family and my four sons are naturally gifted with their good voices and as composers," he said.

"My eldest boy, John Paul composes a lot of our songs and he writes songs like someone tells him in his head because his writing just flows fluently.

"Then my other three sons help out with the tune of the songs, so we are a great team and I help out where necessary.

"But otherwise, we work together and sometimes we endure tough times. We endure together and that has kept us through thick and thin."

However, the boys' education and academic achievements, have taken them far from home and this has hindered the group's recording progress.

But they are not easily taken by this situation.

Wakeham is adamant of recording their third and fourth albums.

Although he has not confirmed a time for recording, he is positive that the albums, already compiled, would be recorded for their fans.

His son John Paul is now a schoolteacher on Gau Island and the other three boys are also occupied with their work and farming activities.

"All our songs for the third and fourth albums have been prepared and we only need to record it, so once we get together, we will record the albums," he said.

"The first two albums we have recorded became popular and up until today, we can't find any more albums on sale in towns.

"So we hope to keep our own copies when we continue with our recording."

The name 'Waisavuyaku' contains important meanings in their family.

The word 'wai' is taken from their family farm in Lavena which is known as Wailevu because of a river that sits there.

Wakeham said the word 'Savu' is short for Savuwaqa, their current residence.

And 'yaku' is from the mataqali Wainiyaku of Vuna, Taveuni where his wife, Di Vee, hails from.

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