Monday, July 21, 2008
Music in the Fiji schools
I was happy to read this article from the Fiji Times about music education in Fiji. Excellent work Igelese Ete.
All for the love of music
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Local singers are fast making an impact in today's modern world. One of the most anticipated event is the Suva Secondary School's Music Festival which was revived last year. Organised by the Pasifika Voices formerly Malaga Singers of the University of the South Pacific, the festival saw a wonderful display of choral music by secondary students in Suva.
GERALDINE PANAPASA talks to coordinator for the event, choral conductor, composer and senior lecturer at USP Igelese Ete.
Times: What is the festival all about?
Ete: Uniting, inspiring, and uplifting the youth and community of Suva through the creative arts especially singing,
Times: When did the festival start?
Ete: Well I hear through the grapevine that it started around the late 60s early 70s. But lay dormant for around 10 years until we decided to revive it last year.
Times: How did the idea for a festival as such arise?
Ete: Well it's my passion to use music as a vehicle to inspire and uplift whoever is involved. So when I established the Pasifika Voices (formerly Malaga Singers) last year they were also of the same mind of reintroducing the Music Festival, which is something that I've long being involved in New Zealand.
So the choir decided to re-establish it as part of Pasifika Voices community outreach. This year we've established the Suva Community Gospel Choir which rehearses at the church where I'm based 'New Life Centre in Raiwaqa' and it adds that extra community dimension.
Times: Why were students brought in to participate in this event?
Ete: Not sure if you mean the secondary schools students? If so they are a part of this because we want to empower and inspire our young people to achieve in whatever they choose. And also they all have God given purpose and gifts, to cultivate these gifts so they may serve and inspire their families and communities.
Times: Was the event last year the first of its kind in Fiji?
Ete: As I mentioned earlier it stems back to the late 60s and speaking with the evergreen amazing Ethyl Naidu there has always being a strong ethic of building unity and empowerment through music and dance, we have just continued on from the foundation set by Ethyl and her contemporaries. So it wasn't the first of its kind it was basically a re-ignition and revival of a long held tradition in Suva.
Times: How many students participated that year?
Ete: Last year we had around 250
Times: What was it like working with students?
Ete: Extremely rewarding seeing the gifts and talents blossom, also serving young people so they can serve the next generation.
Times: What are some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome these?
Ete: Well I suppose its always financial I find even now. It takes a lot of effort to convince prospective sponsors about the huge impact that this festival has not only for the students involved but also for the community and nation. I pray one day we, Pasifika Voices can just concentrate on organising the music and dance without the whole organisational logistics.
The Pasifika Voices are working tremendously hard to ensure that the festival is an amazing success, and you have got to remember they're only students, some just out of secondary schools. Organising what corporate companies would find challenging I'm full of admiration for the Pasifika Voices for their work ethic and passion to ensure the young people receive the very best.
Times: How have preparations been so far for this year's music festival?
Ete: Extremely challenging and tiring for all involved, at the same time rewarding and exciting as we are making a difference to our community.
Times: How many students have volunteered to join?
Ete: Well in the choir we have 450 plus the Pasifika Voices and Suva Community Gospel Choir we will have a mass choir of approximately 550 which is just going to be absolutely amazing.
Times: Comparing this number to last year, have numbers increased or decreased?
Ete: As mentioned earlier we are moving up in numbers which is fantastic.
Times: Are you anticipating the same challenge as last year or will this one be different?
Ete: I think there will be the same challenges but I expect them . in fact I would be a little worried if there weren't. It also keeps us on our toes and away from complacency.
Times: Is there a particular theme for the event?
Ete: Yes it is 'Powerful beyond measure' suggested by one of the members of the Pasifika Voices, a famous line used by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural presidential speech. We want to lift the self-esteem of young people, to let them know that they can achieve anything through faith in God and action. They are powerful beyond measure, and to use that God given power to serve each other and their community and nation.
Times: How do students benefit from such an event?
Ete: Obtain unity, self confidence, respect for each other, developing as a family, to realise that the creative gifts are important and also that they obtain acknowledgements from their schools. I think of prize giving ceremonies at the end of the year. You will always see awards for top scholar, top sportsperson but I hardly hear about the best or top musician, vocalist or dancer, visual artist. I feel our creative people are always neglected and marginalised by the education system, we need to value our creative youth and inspire them further.
Times: What do you think of the vocal talents of secondary school students in Fiji?
Ete: Well it's just like the rugby talent in Fiji. They have the natural ability and gift so with the resources, infrastructure, leadership they are powerful beyond measure.
Times: Should there be some sort of development program for these students in their respective schools?
Ete: Absolutely. A Creative and Performing Arts program should be developed in the grassroots level as that is where the young people are most influenced.
Times: How important is this event for Fiji as a whole?
Ete: Extremely important, it is an event that will inspire, empower and uplift the nation in these challenging times. Music and dance is where we turn to, to inspire ourselves. This event will do just that. We want our community to walk out with a feeling of euphoria, and positivity and that they can achieve and serve and that they all have a God given purpose.
Times: Why is it significant to realise the tremendous talents of the young in Fiji?
Ete: Simply if we neglect ourselves and what our purpose is in life we live life unfulfilled and our creative talented young people must be given opportunities to develop their gifts or else they will always feel unfulfilled and that is very dangerous.
Times: What can people expect from this year's event?
Ete: Well they can expect a phenomenal inspiring sound and movement that will move their body mind and spirit.
Times: What makes it different from last year?
Ete: I think the sheer size of the choir. 550. It will be epic in sound and sight.
Times: Any other comment regarding this event?
Ete: Just asking the whole Suva community to support your gifted and creative people as they will in turn empower the future generations.