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Tamani’s journey to musical stardom – Fiji Times Online

IF there is one person who should be considered for inclusion to the Hall of Fame at the Fiji Performing Rights Association’s 2016 Music Awards, it is Luke Tamani.

As the leader and founder of the QEB Serenaders, Tamani’s influence on the way iTaukei songs were composed, arranged and delivered, spoke volumes of his command of music.

Along with fellow band members, Timoci Cabenauli, Laisa Rokodrega, Peniyasi Nagudrunidoi, Eroni Koroivuki, Jale Daucakacaka and Ro Rabici Logavatu Vuikadavu, Tamani forged a plethora of classic iTaukei tunes that remain timeless classics to this day.

“We were all members of the Royal Fiji Military Forces and in-between our military duties, we had a lot of time on our hands and that’s when Luke first put the idea to form a band to us,” he said.

Little did the members of the select few that Tamani and Vuikadavu chose know, they were about to enter the annals of Fiji music history and become responsible for penning and recording songs that would define a generation.

Among the many tunes written, recorded and released by the group were Domoni Iko, remade by Black Rose in the ’90s and Keu Lesuva, remade by Makare three years ago.

“Luke was such an amazing musician. Most of the songs would begin with him penning a line and then we would all put in a line or two until we ended up with the lyrics for a song.”

The group’s first recording was done at Radio Fiji (now Fiji Broadcasting Corporation) under the guidance of choir master and recording engineer, Peni Ravutia (uncle of The Fiji Times chief photographer Eliki Ravutia).

“Peni was a renowned choir master and an excellent recording engineer. The recording was done in 1974 and it was done very differently to how groups record now.

“We all sat around in a circle and Peni arranged microphones for voices and instruments and off we went.”

Many would argue that recording any group in such a manner was not the best in terms of capturing each instrument and voice with integrity.

However, Ravutia’s skills behind the mixing desk contributed to him putting together a sound that captured the unique nuances of the QEB Serenaders.

The songs were popular on Radio Fiji and were only overshadowed when the group recorded and released their second album nine years later.

“In 1982, we found ourselves at Procera Studio in Lami. Two of the country’s best engineers, Ramesh Hargovind and Max Baran decided to experiment with our sound by using some of Fiji’s top musicians to back us up in the recording.”

Hargovind said getting the cream of Fiji’s musical crop involved in the sessions was all Baran’s idea.

“He had a vision for the group because of their amazing chords and melodies so he recruited legendary keyboard player Tui Ravai, guitarist Vili Tuilaucala, bassist Saimoni Waqa and drummer Sakiusa Bulicokocoko to play on the recording.

“They were one of the easiest bands to record because they all sang in perfect pitch, they knew the arrangements of the songs and because they played music everyday for a living, they were masters of their instruments and songs.”

The album was a huge success for the QEB Serenaders in terms of popularity but financially it proved to be a dismal failure thanks to piracy.

“Recording with legends like Tui, Vili and Sakiusa was an unforgettable experience,” shared Vuikadavu.

“Despite their fame and popularity, they were so easy to work with. We recorded the album and then we were shipped to Sinai to serve peacekeeping duties there.

“We were the third lift to Sinai and the album was released while we were there so the soldiers on the fourth lift brought our cassettes over.

“They went like hotcakes.

“We were all over the radio and people were playing our songs everywhere but sadly, we didn’t make any money out of it.

“All the hard work we had put into the album was wasted.

“We were victims of piracy and interest in composing and recording began to fade away because we all lost interest.

“And as each of us got married, circumstances and priorities began to change and we slowly began to drift away from music.”

The QEB Serenaders called it quits in the late ’80s. However, the group held impromptu performances at events from time to time.

“We were lucky and blessed in the sense that the songs we composed became very popular and when I hear new versions of the songs played today, it is very humbling to know that I had contributed to local music in my own little way.

“Makare’s version of Keu Lesuva is very special because they featured Ditui Raoma, who was a student of mine at Latter Day Saints College and Phil Dakei, who is the nephew of Luke Tamani.

“Black Rose’s remake of Domoni Iko is also a very touching tribute to our song and we would like to acknowledge them for keeping our music alive.”

Vuikadavu spends his days as the director of LDS Family History Centre on Princes Rd.

He has retired from the RFMF after 26 years of service.

The FPRA 2016 Music Awards will be held on Saturday May 14 at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.

The Fiji Times is a sponsor of the event.

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