A big will to keep old songs alive

Bigwilz (front, middle) is assisted by members of the Gurus of Groove band during the launch of his album Rai Lesu at the Damodar City Cinelounge in Suva in March. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Songs of old still have a place in today’s COVID-19 stricken world.

That’s what William ‘Bigwilz’ Waqanibaravi established after analysing the response to his online charity concert event on Tuesday.

The Suva-based singer-songwriter said he did not expect people to respond to the ‘Lockdown Aid Livestream’ the way that they did.

At the time this article was written, about 3000 social media users had viewed his online solo concert in aid of non-governmental organisations – Fiji Council of Social Services, Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) Fiji and Lautoka community worker Allen Lockington.

The Samabula resident said he wanted to contribute towards the efforts of FCOSS, FRIEND Fiji and Mr Lockington because of the sacrifices they were making towards bringing relief to thousands of Fijians affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bigwilz, a former Fiji Airways aircraft engineer, knows firsthand the challenges many are facing.

Many of his former colleagues are going through similar difficulties.

“Instead of wasting time lounging around and going on Netflix during the Suva-Nausori lockdown, I discussed the idea with a few friends and we put together the Lockdown Aid Livestream,” he said.

“It was the first time for me to do something like this and there were a few crinkles that emerged that I will work on to ensure the next one runs without any glitches.”
Bigwilz said the online fundraiser began slow but began raking in likes, comments and emojis as the hours went by.

“When it hit about 3000 views, I was really surprised.

“But what surprised me even more were the reactions and requests for songs from Fiji’s past.

“And this was from youngsters right through to those who probably were there when the original artists performed those songs.

“These were songs that everyone was familiar with, like Na Gauna – originally done by the PJ Twomey Serenaders in the ’70s – and Talei Ni Gauna by the Old Timers from the early ’80s.

“Other songs that drew a lot of attention were Kea Dau Voli Na Gauna, which was originally done by Waikoula Kei Tavua, Ratu Isireli Racule’s song Niu Dau Raica Na Vei Senikau and Liwa Mai, the beautiful tune composed by Ratu Manu Korovulavula.”
Bigwilz is no stranger to songs from the past.

During his formative years in Sigatoka, he remembers listening to classic iTaukei tunes on an old transistor radio.

When he moved to Nadi with his family, Bigwilz began rubbing shoulders with iconic local band Black Rose, which later became Rosiloa.

He later met up with Simione Rova, Phil Dakei and yours truly, and formed Makare – a group that gained popularity by revamping old iTaukei songs.

His love for music was recognised by Talei Draunibaka and Nemani Vanua who invited Bigwilz to perform at their Tribute to the Classics show at the Grand Pacific Hotel in 2017.

They asked him to perform Lakeba, a song composed by Gilman Lasaisuva who wrote it while he was doing a resident gig in New Caledonia in the ’70s.

“It was easily one of my biggest challenges as an artist to perform such an iconic song in a packed out room.”

When quizzed about his favourite iTaukei tune, Bigwilz said it was Timoci Gucake’s Isa Noqu Lewa Au Domoni Iko (Ave Maria).

More recently, Bigwilz began a solo career and released a collection of classic iTaukei songs in an album titled Rai Lesu.

He believes the magic, penmanship and musical intricacies of songs of the past have a way of touching people’s hearts in ways that modern tunes just can’t seem to do.

“I believe that we have a duty to keep these songs relevant and to introduce them to the next generation.

“These songs have a unique way of taking people’s minds off the COVID-19 crisis by transporting them back in time.

“And I am grateful to be given the opportunity and platform to share these old songs with Fijians around the world.”

Bigwilz said his next Lockdown Aid Livestream would feature his daughter, Lia Waqanibaravi, on guitar and vocals.

“It’s still in the planning stages at the moment but stay tuned, we will have a few surprises in store for you all.”

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