Copyright 2014

Tongan young FIVE

Just the other day I received the most surprising news that pop singer Paula Abdul has just turned 50 and incidentally so too is pop music. More popularly known for her role as a judge on US television show American Idol and X Factor, Abdul regularly had to reinvent herself in order to make her career. From cheerleading to being a pop singer and then dance choreographer. And so too did pop music. This genre simply was not pure music per se but the fusion of many, depending on the taste of its audiences. Born in the 1950s in the US of A, this genre of music spawned contemporary music as we know it, where its basic structure of short verse-chorus, melodic tunes and catchy hooks is how the world is expressing its music today.

The celebration to mark the birthday of this pleasurable but no doubt commercially driven music was held at the Fiji Museum compound last week thanks for the Alliance Francaises Fiji Music Day.

Yes we might have our very own reservations about certain types of music but to be able to enjoy the feel and the electricity of live music made it a party worth attending. Never mind if the pop music theme was just some alphabets on the poster. Fiji is still going to celebrate music.

The presence of Ken Jansen, Tom Mawi, Laisa Vulakoro and Saimoni Vuatalevu was Fijis homage to pop music. The years may have caught up with them and they may have etched their names in different genres of music but the one common thread in their musical careers is the pop influence in their early years. They were part of the golden age of Fiji music, where sequined or silky dresses and shirts along with bell bottomed pants go well with the power plays of the guitar, drums and bass. All this is nicely topped with afro hairdos and long handled mustachios. That was in their youth. And credit to the upcoming bands like the Tongan Young Five, the Knox Brotherhood and Kala Bline for serenading the crowd that had gathered at the Museum veranda with pop cover tunes.

The Tongan Young Five is made up of the five Taukafa Tongan brothers and sister who were all born in Fiji. Reminds me much of the famous Tongan pop group, The Jets, that made it big in the USA and the world. Just a year and a half old, the band is made up of vocalist and keyboardist, Captain, 15, bassist Steven, 13, drummer Samuela, 11, lead singer Ro Asela, 8, and tamborine Benjamin, 6.

What we do now is not the final destination. There is always a step higher that we need to do and try to improve. Thats what I think where were right now, Captain says.

From Fijian vude, to reggae and forward to Adeles soft pop tunes, the Young Five are well on their way with their music. The next step now is to compose original materials and involve the kids in penning original songs and tunes. Were about to reach that stage but at the moment were just doing cover tunes, the Young Fives father Leonaitasi Taukafa says.

Another young act is the Muanikoso Dance Group which also performed at the Music Day celebrations alongside the Vou Dance Group.

Started in 2004 by a group of unemployed youths and students who grew up in this Nasinu housing project, the dance group has grown through many obstacles, especially financial difficulties, to become a household name in the entertainment industry. Made up of itaukeis and Fijians of Indian origins, the dance group , they will never forget their humble beginnings as part of the housing projects plan to combat crime by keeping the youths occupied with dancing.

The music played on late into the night.

The youthful music of today, however, has changed and its a far cry from the 1960s, 70s and even the 80s pop dominated era. But the ungainly hip hop and rap music which dominates nowadays is definitely a spin off from the pop genre. The difference lies in the ambience and image projected by this new genre.

Reminiscing on the Radioheads song Pop Is Dead, it may seem like the art has lost its form forever to the brash beat boxing of hip hop but then again, it is just pop music. Many would say pop music now belongs to history and will forever be known for its commercial value than for its artistic depth.