Moroivalu recalls the good old days

Taniela Moroivalu (right) with Nasautoka villagers in Wainibuka during the opening of a school walkway last month. Picture: VILIAME ODROVAKAVULA

Today, sigidrigi bands are a dime a dozen.

Travel to any village or rural community and chances are you will find a group, complete with guitars and ukuleles strumming their way through iTaukei tunes.

Wind the clock back half a century and the music scene was quite different.

Taniela Moroivalu, the surviving member of the iconic Senivuga Serenaders from Nasautoka Village, Wainibuka, said back in the ’70s, they were the only sigidrigi group in their district.

He said their ensemble was named after their chiefly household native wood known as vuga.

Moroivalu said they did only one recording in the ’70s and their songs were such a huge hit, they were invited to perform at many events in Wainibuka and Ra.

“We used to go and serenade in Nayavu and most of the villages in the area,” the 74-year-old said.

“When there is a function in the village or in villages near us, they always used to invite us because they liked our music.”

Moroivalu said Jonasa Naqamu was the man behind their compositions and the reason they became so popular.

He said sigidrigi groups had an edge over other types of vocalists because the three main singers were always carried by the fourth voice — the bass vocalist.

Moroivalu also said the singing styles of the past were much better than the boy bands in these modern times.

“In the old days, we used to have a lot of fun during our performances and the people watching us live, they loved it too.

“This is because there would be the three or four of us playing the guitar and ukulele and the rest could be tapping an empty bottle or a stick as they serenaded along with us.”

Moroivalu said the unique three-part harmonies in Senivuga Serenaders were sung by Iliakini Delai, Kameli Tacikalou and Apenisa Ciri.

He said their first recording was done live at the Fiji Broadcasting Commission by Bulou Vasemaca Robarobalevu.

“We were not only famous, we were heroes at that time because we were the only sigidrigi band in our district.

“We were so happy when we did our first recording and it was done live at FBC in Suva.

“The entire village waited for the release of our song and everybody was proud of us because we were the first from our area to perform live over the radio.”

He said music provided a means of survival for them because none of them were working at that time.

“Singing and playing was our main source of income and I thank my fellow band members for believing in each other and for making us famous.”

Moroivalu said today, there were many sigidrigi groups like Miramira kei Nakoilava in the Wainibuka and Ra districts but “none can beat us in our time”.

He said in the ’70s, whenever they performed upbeat songs in a village, everybody would get up and dance and sing along with them. “That’s how we performed and everybody loved it.

“We didn’t care about how much we would get paid because we just loved performing.

“It was never about the money, it was about giving back to the people.

“And what we found was that the more we did this, the more popular we became and people began giving us money. Moroivalu said young Fijians were very lucky because they could listen to music from anywhere in Fiji or across the world on their mobile phones. He said during the ’70s, the only ones who could do that were those with little transistor radios.

“In those days, some of the villages had only one radio so everyone would gather around it in the village hall and drink kava.

“Today, nearly all the houses in the village have radio and TV and they see news and music from all around the world by just pressing a button.”

Moroivalu said the only advice he could offer up-and-coming musicians and entertainers was to always set goals and pursue them.

“If music is your passion, then do it because you love it, not because you want to make some money or become rich and famous.

“And always make sure God comes first in your life.”

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