Waqa, Hazelman to rock Mawi tribute show

SAM Waqa and Nesbitt Hazelman are two of the country’s leading guitarists. However, in terms of preferred genre — they are poles apart.

Waqa is renowned in music circles for his smooth and jazzy style while Hazelman can crank out the blues and roar into rock in full flight when the audience requires it.

This Saturday, the two will showcase their unique styles at a show to honour a guitarist and man who has influenced them both as musicians and also as human beings — local jazz great, Tom Mawi.

For Waqa, paying homage to Mawi through music while he is still around to hear the accolades is the ultimate tribute.

“It is just so unfortunate that long after the demise of some of our greatest musicians — Waisea Vatuwaqa, Tui Ravai, Paul Steven, Sakiusa Bulicokocoko, Samisoni Koroi and so many others — that we lament their passing with a sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment,” he shared.

“There were things we could have and should have said either through words or through music that were left unsaid and then they were gone.

“We only realise the value of what we had when it is gone.

“The musicianship they nurtured and their level of devotion to an art that God blessed them with is often taken for granted until He calls them home.

“That is why this Fiji Jazz & Blues show in honour of Mawi is such a special moment for me and my family.

“It’s a blessing for me, my daughter Catherine and my son Marvin and for the whole Waqa family to be able to acknowledge one of our greatest ever artiste and a humble man of God.

“There’s so much the younger guys and even we can learn from Mawi. Being a musician does not begin or end when you’re on stage. It is who you are from the moment you open your eyes every morning to when you shut them at night.

“While Mawi is undoubtedly one of the greatest musicians Fiji has ever produced, he is also the humblest man you will ever meet.

“And his greatness is amplified because of his humility.”

Waqa is a firm believer in the spirituality of music and he hopes to share the experience when he performs with his daughter, Catherine at the tribute show this Saturday at the Holiday Inn in Suva.

“We were so fortunate that when guitarists like Nez and I came on to the scene, the platform was already there.

“It was the efforts of musicians who have passed on and greats like Mawi that set a very high standard for us all to follow.

“And we will forever be indebted to Mawi, Wise (Waisea Vatuwaqa) and the so many others who paved the way for us all.”

For Hazelman, performing in honour of Mawi is the greatest expression of respect for a musician who has committed his life to perfecting his craft.

“While growing up in Suva, there were two names that were on the lips of every young boy wanting to become a guitarist,” he said.

“It was either Tom Mawi or Wise Vatuwaqa.

“Everybody was measured against these two greats and everyone wanted to be like them but, as we learnt over time, in the pursuit of these endeavours we all progressed and became who we are today.

“Each of us developed our own style and we owe a lot to Mawi and Wise for setting such a high benchmark for us all to emulate.

“They made us aspire to be something better and it is only fitting that we honour Mawi in such a musical way.”

Hazelman will be backed by One2eight but instead of performing the repertoire the Suva-based group is renowned for, he will be delving into the past.

“I want to bring back some of the music that I really got into as I was growing up. Stuff from Jimi Hendrix and more contemporary tunes from blues great Joe Bonamassa.

“I really hope people will come out and support the show because apart from the diverse range of music and musicians, there’s also the opportunity to hear stuff that’s hardly played these days.”

Both Hazelman and Waqa will join other musicians of note including guitarists Maxie Columbus and Robert Verma, drummers David Steven and Ratu Marika Nasoqeqe, vocalists Steve Makaba, Laisa Vulakoro, Georgina Ledua, Annie Mawi and her keyboardist husband Sam in handing over the funds raised from the tribute show to Mawi on Sunday, October 30, at the Royal Suva Yacht Club.

Here the musicians will let their hair down and have an impromptu jam session the likes of which Suva has not witnessed in a very long time.

The Sunday jam will replace Sam Waqa’s regular Sunday gig at the RSYC.

“When music lovers come to honour Mawi on Saturday, we will be there to pay our respects to him with our individual performances but on Sunday is when we really let loose and just play music for the sake of music,” he said.

“I just urge all the people who have been touched by the depth of Mawi’s music, his generous personality and unwavering kindness to support this show.

“Far too often, we wait until one of our greats has gone to say all the nice things about him.

“And I just hope people will stop doing that and just come out, shake his hand and say thank you by buying a ticket to honour a guitar legend and a gentleman who deserves more than we could ever give him.”

At Tom’s Place kicks off at the Holiday Inn in Suva this Saturday, October 29, at 3pm.

The Holiday Inn show will feature Tom Mawi accompanied by bassist Filimone ‘Baba’ Waqa, drummer Ratu Marika ‘Tuma’ Nasoqeqe and keyboardist Samisoni Mawi.

Also featured are father and daughter duo Sam and Cathy Waqa, guitarists Maxie Columbus, Robert Verma and Nesbitt Hazelman, vocalists Margot Jenkins, Georgina Ledua, Laisa Vulakoro, Salome Baravilala, Steve Macomber and Ken Janson, drummer David Steven and Dr Richard Beyer.

The show crosses the road to the Golden Dragon at 10pm where One2eight will host a multitude of musicians into the wee hours.

Tickets for the show are $30 and available at Dragon Music, 379 Victoria Pde and Alliance Francaise, 20 Desvoeux Rd in Suva.