Why is reggae popular in Melanesia
From ukuleles to reggae Fiji's music scene
Local fire dancers perform with guests in Nadi. Image by Matthew Micah Wright / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images
Many people get a taste of it at the end of their trip, when the resort staff serenade guests with a rendition of the music Isa Lei, the national farewell song that seems like a lullaby. However, don't let the music sit until the end of your stay as you drive to the airport with a hibiscus flower behind your ear.
Traditional Fijian music is a mix of Melanesian and Polynesian rhythms. Split drums made of resonance wood provide the beat, while the melody is played on guitar and ukulele (unfortunately the once common bamboo nose flute can now be found mostly in museums).
Contemporary Fijian music picks up on the folk melodies of the past and skillfully combines them with modern influences. The singer Laisa Vulakoro, who lives in Suva, is known as the queen of vude, a genre that mixes old Fijian songs with modern R&B and jazz influences. Reggae rhythms go well with many Fijian styles - check out bands like Voqa ni Delai Dokidoki and singers like Daniel Rae Costello. Rosiloa (formerly Black Rose) is one of the most successful rock bands in Fiji.
In the past, Fijian musicians often had to play in resort bands or move to Australia to make a career. However, in recent years there has been an attempt to rediscover the popular Fijian music of the 1960s and 1970s and reinvigorate life. Music scene. Lautoka-based band Makare pioneered the revival: if you catch them playing oldie songs like the incredibly catchy one May Gaga Voli (written by Lela Seruvakula, 1980s star), you will be humming the tune for the rest of your trip. Other bands to watch out for are Rako Pasefika and One2Eight; both perform live regularly.
Traditional resort band welcome to Beqa Island. Image by Cultura Travel / Stuart Westmorland / Getty Images
Live music venues
Fiji doesn't have a tradition of live music, but Suva and Nadi - the best places to see a band - have several bars and restaurants that regularly host live shows. Advertising is often a bit ad hoc; Check flyers and posters across the city for upcoming events.
Suva is the easiest place to see a band in Fiji. In downtown Suva, the two most popular bars with regular live performances are O'Reilly's and Traps Bar. Both are lively venues with a club atmosphere and sound systems that play music late into the weekends. If you want to eat or drink and order your music as a side dish, the Sunday afternoons on Bad Dog (facebook.com/pages/Bad-Dog-Cafe-Fiji) are dedicated to live jazz, while on Friday and Saturday evenings there is live music Music is offered at Governors (governorsfiji.com), a restaurant in a beautifully restored colonial bungalow.
There are a few additional venues for semi-regular events. The Oceania Center for Arts, Culture, and Pacific Exploration (usp.ac.fj) on the University of the South Pacific campus has occasional live events. It's especially good if you want to see traditional music and dance, not just from Fiji, but often from other countries in the region as well. The Royal Suva Yacht Club also hosts live concerts in its charming waterfront location.
In Nadi, the New Nadi Farmer's Club (facebook.com/nadifarmersclub) is the venue for live music. The bands play from Wednesday to Saturday and the music in the beer garden is often preceded by fire walks. Ed's Bar has a slightly more understated atmosphere, but is one of Nadi's better bars and also has a reputation for regular live performances.
Colorful appearance at the Uprising Festival of Music, Dance & Lights. Courtesy of Pacific Coast Events & Promotions
If you want to make music more central to your trip to Fiji, there are a handful of festivals to note on your calendar.
Fiji's largest music festival is the Music, Dance and Light Insurrection Festival (uprisingbeachresort.com/music-festival), which takes place every November at the Uprising Beach Resort in the Pacific Harbor. The beach is only a stone's throw from Suva. The festival brings together some of the best live bands in Fiji and attracts more and more bands from Australia and beyond. It's also a rare showcase for the best of Fijian contemporary dance.
The annual Fiji International Jazz Festival, held between Port Denarau and Suva each April or May, skipped a year in 2015 but will return in 2016 with its popular line-up of local and international jazz artists.
Enjoy the show at the Uprising Festival of Music, Dance & Lights. Courtesy of Pacific Coast Events & Promotions
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