Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On life, love and spreading hope through music

This morning Fiji wakes up to a new world. A world where anything is possible and even old dogs can learn new tricks. We awake to the manifestation of the mantra “Yes We Can.” We awake to a world with a new member of that cadre known as world leaders. To a world with US President Obama.

Some of us must have slept through the inauguration of the 44th (and 1st non white) President of the United States of America. Some of us may have been to “grog-doped” to comprehend what we saw on television. Some of us may still not have any electricity or our televisions (and the rest of our possessions) have been ruined by recent flooding, to notice. Some of us couldn't really be bothered as we worry about where our next meal will come from and how we will send our children to school next week.

As a nation we know all too well that one man can make a difference. Well one man and a group of heavily armed men with him. For us the mantra is not so much “Yes we can,” as “yes you should.”

However, our family celebrated the inauguration of the first US President to flash the “hang loose” sign to the media (thumb and little finger extended from the fist). Well my son and I did by getting the Obama-haircut. It was a momentous occasion for my son to bravely sit still as the barber gave him the “Number 3 Cut” with a pair of electric clippers.

My son, Francisco-Xavier has also been preparing himself to donate towards one of the many flood appeals. The Indian Division of the Methodist Church has been working to collect donations with the education of children affected by the flood in mind. We have already received pledges of financial contributions from our Fellowships and friends overseas. The Church is focusing on school books, uniforms and where possible, school fees, to enable children to attend school this term. At this stage all Francisco has to offer is some of his toys and books. I have assured him that they will go to a kindergarten where lots of children can enjoy them.

His reward, and a pre-birthday present for his soon to be 3 year-old sister, will be to watch their favourite MIC stars Nasoni and Eroni perform at the Radio Fiji-organised flood appeal Concert of Hope on Saturday (24th January). Having friends who work at Broadcasting House I was able to get a look at the list of artists who have given up their time to provide not only some great entertainment but the musical backdrop to the opportunity for the public to give some of there “spare” change. For many of us for whom the words “spare change” have ceased to hold any meaning, performances by some of Fiji's best bands and singers will be compensation for opening our clenched fists to let those precious saqamolis and hard earned green, orange, purple, blue or even red notes to drop into the collection bucket/box.

Groups such as Jeriko, Divine,Bad Boys East,Carpe Diem, Cagi Mudre ni Delairoro, Eagles Wings, Malumu ni tobu ke Navaukura, First Tribe and Dokidoki and One2Eight promise great entertainment as do vocalists Seru Serevi, Ofa Ali,Ronald Jai, Jet Shiri Krishna, Sekove Raikoro and Peni Seniyasi.

The RFMF Band will also be performing, although whethwe Major Leweni will come out of entertainment retirement to lead them or at least perform with the RFMF meke group is as yet unknown. Other dances groups so far confirmed are the Tiare Dance, Makareta Dance, Fiji Multi-Ethnic Cultural Centre, Young Bloodz and Sharon Chandra groups.

While my children are looking forward to their MIC heroes, the performance that I am eagerly anticipating is Ken Janson and the Hearts with Jazz-Legend Tom Mawi.

Mawi, who was critically ill last year, is back inform. I met up with him and Ken Janson last week to catch up and see how the “godfathers of Fiji music” were doing.

Mawi shared his experiences with me. What struck me the most was that he chose not to dwell on the illness, apart from the basic facts. He chose rather to express his gratitude. He was grateful for the work of the doctors and staff at the Suva Private Hospital and the many well wishers and visitors who came to see him in hospital or telephoned. He expressed his thanks for the prayers said for him and the miracle of healing he experienced.

But for Mawi, the other miracle was the support he received during his crisis. The treatment for his medical condition was not cheap, to say the least. Yet people gave and gave; quite possibly because many recognise how much Mawi has given to Fiji and the world – through his music and through his gentle guidance of musicians.

Some gave cheques, some like Ken Jansen, Gary Apted and the management of the Holiday Inn and Taunovo Bay, all places where Mawi has performed, open their doors for musical fund-raisers. The local musicians gave of their time to perform and each event was a success with people happy to pay the cover charge, not just to listen to great music, but to show their support and love for Mawi. An overwhelmed Mawi asked me to convey a “Big Vinaka Vakalevu,” to all who came, especially to Michelle Rounds who put the events together and cajoled support from musicians and the listening public alike.

Fundraising “gigs”were also held in Australia and the United States with Victor Rounds and Mark Williams headlining the event held at the Golden Palace in Sydney's Chinatown along with Australian-based Fijian musicians.

For Mawi, the Concert of Hope is just one way of saying thank you for all the support, especially as many of the support he received also came from the western division and Nausori, where he lives. He's been given a second lease of life, and he seems determined to appreciate it. “For us musicians,” he said, “sometimes all we have to give is our music. I know for many of us this is the only way we can help.”

So on Saturday, those of us who escaped the devastation of the floods can join Mawi and the other talented entertainers in a celebration of life, of hope and of love. And along with our applause, we can show our appreciation for the music and our solidarity with those struggling in the aftermath of this natural disaster. Individually our donations may only be pocket change. Together, they amount to a new life for so many.

The Concert of Hope begins at 12pm (midday) at Suva's Albert Park this Saturday 24th January. I'll see you there.

May the rest of your week be blessed with love, light, peace and hope.

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