The untold tale of the Bua Ni Lomai Nabua

Taito Cavei with his wife Selai Mate at their home in Tamavua-i-Wai along the Queens Rd outside Suva. Picture: ATU RASEA

The people of Rewa are renowned for being witty and for having a way with words.

And this “gift” has also found its way into the music that emerged out of the many villages in the area.

A good example of this is the iTaukei music group called Bua Ni Lomai Nabua.

If we were to list the songs that made the ensemble famous, they would fill the space allocated for this article.

Tunes Bua Ni Lomai Nabua composed in the ’70s and ’80s that remain evergreen hits today include, Noqu i tau, Drodro tu na sucu kei na oni, Sa seavu tiko yani, E na so na siga niu dau nanumi iko, Mai tatadra taka voli, Au nanuma ni na sega tale, Rui domoni vei au, and many more. What gave the group its magic and why they were able to produce timeless and memorable iTaukei hits will be explored in this column over the next few weeks.

Bua Ni Lomai Nabua compositions are so unique that they were remade by numerous bands and artists of note over the years.

Their songs have been immortalised by Sakiusa Bulicokocoko, Waisea Vatuwaqa, Kabani, Makare, Nabukalou Serenaders and the list goes on.

According to one of the group’s lead singers, Taito Cavei, Bua Ni Lomai Nabua was formed by Jolame Rokodrega from Naqarani Village in Noco, Rewa, and Jone Gata also from Rewa.

Cavei said during his school days, vernacular writing was his favourite subject and his love for writing continued even after he dropped out in Class 6.

He said when he started composing songs, he thanked his teacher for teaching him how to read and write because that knowledge took him places.

The 92-year-old singer is the only surviving member of the group.

He said he was in Taveuni when the original Bua Ni Lomai Nabua group started.

“I had a sigidrigi band in Taveuni called the Matei Trio at that time,” he said.

“I formed the band and also composed our songs.

“My mother is from Qeleni, Taveuni, and my cousins liked the songs I composed.

“Even though the Matei Trio only recorded and released a few songs, they became popular and we made a name for ourselves through them.”

One song Cavei composed that remains popular until today is a tune about a soldier who was going to Lebanon and there was no one from his family at the airport to farewell him.

“I heard him telling the crowd to go and pass his love and best wishes to his family.

“And I used those words to compose the song Tukuna na noqu i loloma vei iratou kece mai vale.”

When Cavei moved to Suva to join Bua Ni Lomai Nabua, the group recorded it again and made it a mega-hit. Cavei said when he came to Nabua, he helped Rokodrega compose the group’s songs until Rokodrega made the switch to composing gospel songs.

“When he switched to praising God, I continued composing Bua Ni Lomai Nabua’s songs.

“We toured many places in Fiji and one day we were invited to go to New Zealand and we serenaded there for a week. “This was a big thing because it was the first time for us to go on an aeroplane.

“The whole Fijian community in New Zealand came to visit us every day during our tour, it was an amazing experience.”

When they departed Aotearoa at the completion of the tour, Cavei said he wrote the song Ni bula Niu Siladi vanua vinaka inside the aeroplane on their way back to Fiji.

He said he returned to Taveuni to meet up with the Matei Trio — a group he had formed with Varanisese Vakaloloma from Buretu, Tailevu, Baleiwai from Bau and Sikeli from Waicoka.

Cavei said everybody in Taveuni thought the Matei Trio was formed by and made up of the people from the “Garden Island of Fiji”.

“Little did they know the band was formed by three gentlemen from Kubuna confederacy and their composer was from Burebasaga.

“I enjoyed singing in Taveuni because of the beautiful scenery around the island.

“It helped me compose songs like Rui domoni lei nasi, Baravi ni koro nei Nau, Cila ni vula e delai Jubani (Naselesele) and many more.

“Before I compose a song, I try to put myself in the situation or the subject of the song.

“And this is my advice to all the young composers out there, if it’s about love, you  have to sing it like you are looking at a beautiful girl and you have to describe her in totality, not just on the surface.

“When you write a song about a beautiful beach, imagine that you are the waves  that wash on to the sand.

“You have to explain how the waves are formed in the ocean and carry themselves  until they end up to the beach.”

Cavei returned to the Bua Ni Lomai Nabua when he was confident that the Matei Trio band would be able to continue without him.

  • More on Bua Ni Lomai Nabua next week.

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