A jazzy family affair

Local band Blue Monk playing at the 2018 Vonu Uprising Festival of Music, Dance and Lights at Pacific Harbour last weekend. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

MELODICALLY and rhythmically, their jazzy tunes wafted through the swaying coconut palms of the Uprising Beach Resort in Pacific Harbour.

The Blue Monk and Tom Mawi Family Band played several of their songs as families and revellers milled about.

Singer Annie Mawi sways almost in parallel to the swaying coconut palm leaves as her voice rings out smoothly on stage, complemented by the sophisticated and sublime guitarist Tom Mawi.

Their music genre surely has that magical appeal to serious jazz aficionados, musicians, non-musicians and those who simply love and appreciate great music.

Just hard swinging rhythm guitars and a base, and a cool swing with an almost gypsy vibe to it.

It’s a style they’re known for and they continue to enrapture audiences with their brand of music. “It’s a fusion of styles but it’s mostly jazz,” Annie says.

“We often play as a family, but at this year’s festival we decided to team up with Blue Monk.

It’s great after a long time then I came to perform at the music festival and music is what brings everybody together.

It’s just a wonderful experience to come and see musicians perform and learning so much from other bands.”

Her father-in-law, the legendary jazz guitarist Tom Mawi, did not show signs of slowing down on stage.

With a music career spanning six decades, the 75-year-old was at his usual best as he played several numbers to the delight of the audience. Many Fijians grew up listening to him and another legendary artist, Ken Jansen.

Even though Mawi had begun his journey into exploring the intricacies of jazz music, he showed his ability to play different styles by venturing into soul music and rhythm and blues and in those early days, sing.

In an earlier interview with The Fiji Times, Mawi said there were few artists who could juggle playing an instrument and singing at the same time, but he knew it was not for him.

“I realised very early on in my career that if I focused on singing then I would lose my touch on the guitar and I loved the guitar too much to do that.

“And that’s one thing I have seen happen to a lot of musicians over the years. Because they wanted to do both, one talent had to give way to the other.

“When you look at an artist like George Benson (renowned US singer and guitarist), he is one in a million — he managed to make both talents work for him.”

When quizzed about the depth of local musicians on the scene today, Mawi said there were a number of youngsters who were displaying amazing skills.

“We really should have a lot more guitarists, bassists, pianists and drummers playing music at a very high level and the only reason I can find is that there are a lot of distractions.

“The ones who are playing well are doing so because they have put time into learning their instrument and developing their skills.

“And that is one thing that I want to share with all the young musicians out there — you have to spend time with your instrument and get to know it well.

“If you want to be good at something, go and speak to people who are playing good music and jam with them. You will only get better if you play with the best,” he said.

Annie, a schoolteacher, says it is music that has kept her going through all these years.

“It’s very much a part of my life. It has helped me through high school, it has helped me through tertiary level and I’m still sticking to it,” she said with a laugh.

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