Senivutuvula band, the pride of Vaturova

Korotasere villagers in Vaturova who make up the current mix of the Senivutuvula band led by the original bands member Apakuki Senilebakula. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

THEY are the true essence of Vaturova hospitality, instilling in every stranger a feeling of being at home.

This was the feeling of a recent government entourage to the village led by Minister for Employment Jone Usamate as they were being serenaded by the Senivutuvula band.

Back in the days, the original Senivutuvula band was famed for its signature bass band whose songs were a hit.

Most of these songs continue to be sung around the tanoa during kava sessions.

Hearing some of their old hits during the visit took me back in time to my late grandmother who would hum to the rhythm of their songs blaring from her transistor radio while she carried on with her chores.

The distinctive music and songs of the band still lives on in the village among the youths and a few surviving band members who continue to sing under the name of the band.

The band is named after the flower of the vutu tree which is found along the shores of Vaturova.

The vutu tree is commonly known as the fish poison tree or sea poison tree. Its scientific name is Barringtonia asiatica.

Band manager Ilikasa Sukanaivalu remembers the old band, adding it was the pride of the village.

The 67-year-old Korotasere Village elder said the band was at its peak in the late 1970s.

Mr Sukanaivalu said members of the band hailed from the villages within the district of Vaturova. “Actually, people along the coast of Vaturova extending to Saqani and Udu are known for their musical talents,” he said.

“The band is famous for its numbers such as Dolava Tale Nomuni Vale Senirosi, Senivutuvula and Adi Lule.

“Most of their songs have been redone, remixed and continue to be sung around the country.

“With the band we have, it is made of youths, elders and a few of the original band members who are continuing the tradition of the group.”

The original band is made up of bass singers Josefa Dakai, Apakuki Senitirikula and Inoke Tuisoko who started off as a bass trio known as the Senilebakula, the totem tree of the district of Vaturova, before it switched to become a band.

“Nowadays it is rare to find a bass group, but the original Senivutuvula band was well known for this form of singing.”
The current members of the Senivutuvula band in Vaturova are made up of the children and grandchildren of the original band members.

A member of the original group, Apakuki Senitirikula, now coaches the band which mostly entertains in the village during functions.

Mr Senitirikula said they started the band after requests for the district to have an entertainment group to entertain guests during formal village functions.

The 62-year-old, who was the lead singer of the trio and the band, said he was selected to be a member of the trio.

“The songs that we sang revolved around events and the experiences of people within the village of Vaturova,” he said.

“Then we had love ballads which are still being sung around the country today.

“People welcomed us to their homes on their transistor radios and we were quite a hit back in the days.

“In resurrecting this band, we have children of the original members like Josefa Dakai’s son, Anasa Vocea, who is now the lead singer of the band.”

Mr Senitirikula said he was proud to lend the band his musical talents, adding they continued to bring joy to visitors who visited their village.

“Visitors to the district have not had the true Vaturova experience until they have been serenaded by the band,” he said.

“This is a duty that we carry with pride, making our visitors feel like they are at home.

“Our songs continue to be sung by the group who have adopted the bass singing style of the original band.

“It is a unique form of singing that calms the nerves down especially during a yaqona drinking session.”

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