YOUNG people in Fiji have great talent in the musical world but because many take for granted such talents, success in their music careers only reaches a certain stage, and most fail to pursue this.
It has also been suggested that lack of support from society has contributed to the non-development of young talents and community members need to form groups, including church groups, to help the youths of Fiji develop their singing skills and show the world the unique talents, particularly traditional music that still exist in our society.
Samoan musician and coordinator of the Malaga Group, a well known University of the South Pacific musical group, Igelese Ete spoke to Serafina Silaitoga at the Savusavu Music Festival about the talents that exist in Fiji and what the community can do to make the world recognise the potential among young people.
Times: When did you come to Fiji?
Ete: I came last year in January to teach at the University of the South Pacific, becoming a senior lecturer in music.
Times: What do you think about the talent among young people in the musical world?
Ete: I think it's like the talent in rugby that we see here in Fiji. The natural talents are here and once exposed to development will enable the young people and upcoming singers to become better with their skills and as a result they can sing anywhere in the world. Not only with music but with dance as well. We Pacific islanders are known for these talents and I see a lot of it here in Fiji.
Times: Have you visited members of the community including those in villages to hold consultations on what they can do to develop such talent?
Ete: I have visited villages and seen great talents. I also notice that most of them are in church group choirs and that's where they sing and that is also where their talents in music is developed. Some even join other groups outside the church boundary, singing in bands in nightclubs or hotels and this is also good because it helps develop talent.
Times: What are some obstacles you see that have hindered such talents from being recognised in Fiji?
Ete: The main hindrance would be the non-existence of groups in society that youths can join to help develop their music talents. What I have seen is the lack of support for the young people who want to develop their music talents with the unavailability of groups that will attract the young people or have the type of music that young people enjoy because that will help develop their talents and skills of singing. There are hardly any organisations around that are relevant to young people. There may be some groups in society but the music involved is not relevant to young people and that's why young people don't want to join them. I don't blame them. There are some songs that are popular with our parents or the older generation but are not popular with the young people. It's a different style now and they have to be attracted to what they do and being passionate about the songs they sing. It's a situation that's got to be relevant especially when the locals sing and dance very well. Like the members of this Malaga group, I teach them songs that will inspire them.
Times: So it's important that the young people enjoy the songs and be attracted to it as that helps develop their talents.
Ete: Absolutely. You got to give them songs they enjoy singing because if they are given songs they don't like, they will not give their best. As for me the songs I teach my group has to inspire them and we have seen that those that watch or have heard us sing, tell us that they were also inspired by the songs sung by the group. And it's simply because these young people are inspired by what they do.
Times: Like in athletics, the young people are known or recognised for their talents on the tracks and in this case, for their singing talents, but after that season of fame, there is nothing more. They don't produce their own albums or continue singing in bands or in nightclubs.
Ete: That's true and it is something we need to develop here with big companies in the music industry that will support these young people throughout their singing career from being identified in the initial stages to days of becoming successful. This should also include sending them overseas for exposure as it will develop their skills and talents in singing. Or have music festivals in communities like this Savusavu Music Festival, and bring over the music industry producers from overseas to see the talents we have. And then they get to see the talents available locally and what they can offer our young singers especially when we have our own style of singing here in the Pacific. There is no where else in the world you can hear our type of music and that's the best way to further develop the singing talents of the young people.
Times: What are your views about traditional music?
Ete: I think it's a great art of music and the music of the Fijian culture blending with modern music is just a unique sound and attracts people, like other Pacific island cultural music. In Fiji, Black Rose does, and George Fiji Veikoso in Hawaii and if we continue to develop our own style we will inspire other countries. But we should stick to traditional music and have our own style because there will definitely be something in music that Fiji can offer to the world. Traditional music needs to be grasped by people around.
Times: What's the role of the community in helping young people develop their talents in singing?
Ete: It will be good if members of the community get together and form groups that are relevant to the young people and have the kind of music young people enjoy because when this happens, the youths will take it on from there. They just feed off each other with ideas and encourage each other, becoming role models for each other. Forming such groups also is a positive move for the young people because they will be occupied with the music world instead of turning to drugs or alcohol. It will also instill in these young people a purpose of living, they will think positive and know a purpose in life because they will realise they have talents to become successful, they realise they can do different types of meke and modern day dancing and basically know they can make a difference in society. We also need to encourage them. So it's important that we help our young people in this area. There is so much talent here but there needs to be a lot of support and good organisation. So forming groups is important because that is when we can put together our talents and show the world that we have something to offer because we live in a small country compared to the United States, Australia and other bigger countries that have developed world known singers.
Times: Does piracy affect the potential of developing the talents and skills of musicians?
Ete: Yes and it is something that authorities are trying to crack down on. It affects musicians because there are pirate copies being made and the musician does not gain anything. Musicians need to make a living and piracy does not help at all. Some are put off by this and even lose hope pursing their musical career so it is very important that the crime of piracy is tracked down by authorities.
Adapted from Fijitimes.com November 13th, 2007