Sunday, December 9, 2007


FIJIS greatest musical alchemists gather for a night of blues and jazz on Tuesday in the hope they can inspire a new generation into chanting down Babylon and building a nation in One Heart.

Fronting the live gig will be two visiting living legends in Skee Bainimarama and sultry siren, Michelle Rounds.
With them will be, among others, guitar god Tom Mawi and the evergreen Ken Janson, whose love for jamming is as enduring as ever.

But it is the musical elder statesman with the most recognisable surname in the country who will front the gig. Skee is perhaps best known locally for his days in the mid to late 70s as part of the Sonia and Skee duet who were the talk of the town and are still referred to in almost reverential awe.

At 60, this singing Bainimarama is as young as ever. Skee or Sevanaia Laua Bainimarama is the older brother of interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

His love for music and performing live goes back into the mists of Fiji time, having done the old town hall and Coffee Lounge circuit in the hey-days of live sound. He has played with the whos who of Fiji music, growing up and jamming with our brightest musical luminaries. Talk Sakiusa Bulicokocoko, Mawi, Paul Stevens, Vili Tuilaucala, Tui Ravai, in fact all our musical angels and saints, at some time Skee has jammed with them.

Im a Suva kid. I know the city inside out, this bundle of positive vibrations said last week as we sat around jawing away with the darling Michelle, who like Skee, is home for a short visit. He earned his moniker in China while sailing the globe, working as a navigator on a ship. The Chinese just could not say Sevanaia so I became Skee and then I adopted it as my stage name, he said with his trademark elfin grin.

Having lived in New Zealand, he returned home with wife Sonia and they quickly made a niche for themselves, establishing a solid following that is still talked about. But long before that Skee was already being referred to as Fijis Ray Charles. Thats what I did best then ... rhythm and blues was my thing ... thats where that came from.
The fire within burns as strong as ever, with Skee saying it is time the nation paid its dues to its artistes.

We need a musical school. We need support for music makers ... the people who front up on stage and bring the world together, he said. He believes industry players can do much more. Imagine, having all the gear set up in Sukuna Park every Saturday. Anyone who can play is welcome to come along and jam.
Can you imagine what that will do for Fiji.

Music is something that comes from the heart. The world is a graveyard without music. Musicians are spiritual alchemists. The effect they and their work have on people is unrivalled. No politician or religious leader can achieve that kind of heart chokra, the harmony music infuses in us, he said.

He is unperturbed by his brothers and other members of the chiefly clan frowning on his chosen path in life. As musicians we dont believe in god the way most people do. We live God.

As musicians we dont look at people by race ... what is that. No, rather than differences, we create harmony by putting people in touch with themselves. We make them look inside and bring out the best in them. Musicians are not straight people. We cant live in the normal world, you know straight and flat. Its not about handing out an easy path for todays aspiring musicians. Rather it is about encouraging them to sing and play their dreams.

Musicians always make the world a better place. Lets do it our way and soon well find the way because we dont have to live up to other peoples standards, well leave all our troubles behind. But first we must learn to put our hand in each others. Religion cant take us there, politicians cant vote it in but musicians can enable the country to do things our way.

That is the miracle of music. Skee, Michelle and company play at Golden Dragon from 9pm onwards on Tuesday.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online