Thursday, July 31, 2008


I had the opportunity last week to watch a moving and thought-provoking performance. No, not the "Sorry I confused you by switching cars on the way to the office;" or "Sorry to disappoint you but I'm not resigning," performance.

The performance I refer to had amateur performers. And they didn't change their tune even once until the song was over.

I am of course referring to the Suva Secondary Schools Music Festival, held at what I've always known to be the National Gymnasium (not that I've ever seen a gymnastic performance there) which is today almost the ignored older brother (or sister) of the larger Dome/Arena of Sports City in Suva.

As an International School student, I remember performing many a strange display of contemporary dance at this venue; or sitting high up in the back (in theatre-speak those seats are often referred to as the "God's") trying luck on whichever poor girl was the object of my obsession at the time.

More recently I remember being a ring-announcer to one of those boxing nights when "Joy-the-leaving-on-a-Jetplane" never showed up. "Let's get ready to rumble!" Or maybe not, as the case was.

I was fortunate to get tickets for the family to watch the Wednesday night performance of some 400 young people from schools of the greater-Suva area as well as the Pasifika Voices, wonderful Taiko drummers and of course the arrangement and conducting of among others, the very talented and humble (as only the son of a Samoan talatala can be) Iglese Ete.

For those who never got to watch Malaga: The Journey, or attend the USP's graduation day, it was wonderful to see an actual musical maestro (as opposed to the 7s rugby one we know and love) in action.

Choreographed movements and song seamlessly flowed to "inspire" at least one member of the audience, who emailed me later.

Some wanted more well most wanted more music but one or two wanted more out of the show; but my own experience was sublime, disrupted only by my dear children, who wanted first to go up to the stage and sing, then go up and dance, then go up and play the drums, then go up and conduct.

Their mother who is visiting George Bush's relatives (oh sorry ... it's only in the Pacific that everyone is related) in the United States (actually on a wonderful history workshop facilitated by the US Embassy here), missed out on the show and the joy of having two children wanting you to carry them and sit on your shoulders, or go to the toilet (not to be confused with the other BOG next door), when your favourite song is about to be sung. Ah the joys of parenthood!

The coming together of rival schools to sing duets of appropriately titled songs got me thinking that instead of all this money being spent on councils to weave better mats could be equally (or better your choice, this article is democratic) spent on putting together a Choir for Singing about a Better Fiji.

Of course those singing about a new day (no offence but I prefer the Stevie J. Heatley version) could be in the back up choir as could all the former, or in-limbo members of parliament and former or current members of the military-inspired Cabinet.

There'd even be enough room for the military council and the rest of the other councils.

However the stars of the night would be the duet singers. Here a couple of suggestions for songs:

- Let it Flow (originally sung by Toni Braxton) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Water Bottlers;

- Message in a Bottle (originally sung by The Police) Mahendra Chaudhry and the Cabinet;

- Get Back to Where You Don't Belong (originally sung by The Beatles) Evan Hannah, Russell Hunter and Viliame Naupoto (okay that's a trio)

- Ain't No Sunshine (when He's gone) (originally sung by Bill Withers/covered by Skee) "Frank Bainimarama and Parmesh Chand;

- What's Going On (originally sung by Marvin Gaye) Neumi Leweni and Daryl Tarte

- How Can We Be Lovers If We Can't Be Friends? (originally sung by Michael Bolton) Frank Bainimarama and Laisenia Qarase;

- Another Brick in the Wall (originally sung by Pink Floyd) John Samy and the TASS singers; and

- Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (sung by UB40) Tukana Bovoro and Taito Waradi.

Next week: "Heroes and Villains."

Have a week blessed with Love, Light and Peace!l Reverend Bhagwan is a member of the Faculty of the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and in no way represent the opinion of the College or the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma.

Adated from Fijitimes Online

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Dancing is not just for the slim and the fit. It is something that can be done by anyone and Sharon Khelawan (pictured) is proving just that.

The 32-year-old research assistant for the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is not only passionate about women's rights but the freedom for individuals to express themselves through dance. She is a dancer, choreographer and runs her own dance group named after her.

Born and bred in Suva, Sharon grew up in Namadi Heights.
Her parents were Jack and Shyam Khelawan, former principals of Dilkusha High and Dilkusha Girls respectively.
The younger of two, Sharon was exposed to a lot of activities but dancing soon became a passion at the tender age of 10.

"I never thought I would also take up dancing professionally so I used to dance for fun. I wanted to become a lawyer when I was young. "A lot of people have said I am very talkative but I believe one day I will achieve that aim.

"The striking thing about being a lawyer is fighting for justice and helping people. Even though I am not a lawyer, I am still helping people in my profession whether at the centre or with dancing." Although a Methodist, Sharon attended primary school at Saint Annes before finishing her secondary education at Saint Josephs.

She then went on to complete a degree in Sociology at the University of the South Pacific. The interesting thing about Sharon is managing studies and dancing. She is the only local to specialise in kathak which is six dances of India consisting of fast spins, facial expressions and movements.

The difference between this dance and bharat natyam is it is done straight legged.
"I have been dancing since I was in Class Four. My sister had a big interest in this dance so we were taught the dance at the Indian Cultural Centre. "My first teacher was a male, Syed Asgar Trimizi.

"When I went to high school, I still practised the dance at the cultural centre. During the secondary schools music festival some time in 1992 or 1993, Saint Josephs was asked to perform during Indian night. "I performed with about 10 girls and I was so nervous but the support and the cheering from the other girls boosted my morale."

It was a memory she never forgot. At 19 years old, Sharon began to teach kathak professionally.
Although she was not taken seriously because of her age, Sharon made it a point to show that she had the knowledge and the passion to dance and choreograph.

In 2004, she was the lead dancer and choreographer for the Fiji contingent to the second Paravisi Bharitiya Divas in Delhi, India. It was a proud moment for her when her name was called out and like the other dancers who were nervous, Sharon danced her heart out.
"I have done solo dances in New Zealand and Canada but I have received lots of support from my family and people who have seen the dance.

"My mother is my biggest critic and I appreciate and love her for that. "My father was very supportive when he realised it not only gave me a whole lot of confidence but he knew it was something that really touched my heart.

"I lead a dual life. One is helping women through my work at FWCC and the other is helping dancers appreciate Indian culture." Her ideas come naturally and consist of a fusion of mixed cultures. She even choreographs moves for Fijian songs and is thinking of doing a drama along the same lines.

Proud of who she is and her cultural heritage, Sharon is living proof that size really does not matter when it comes to a matter close to the heart.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


SHE could stop you dead in your tracks or make any passerby turn for a second glance as is she normally stared at.

Agnes Pillay, 32, can be found on weekdays with a group of Telecom technicians working in the Nasinu-Suva dressed in her blue and orange overall.

As if that's not enough Agnes stands almost six feet tall so if her height does not catch your attention, the overalls will. Agnes is one of fewer than five female technicians at the Telecom Walu Bay base.

She was born and bred in Labasa, attended Bethal Primary, Sangam and then All Saints Secondary School. Agnes comes from an average family.
Her dad works as a driver for the Public Works Department and her mother is a housewife.

"I come from a family of nine and I am the eldest in the family," she said. "I always wanted to do a man's job and that's what I'm doing but there are other female technicians," she says modestly.
"My family has always been supportive of my work." Agnes began working for Telecom Fiji eight years ago and even then she used to go out on the field with the guys. It was only until she married that she stayed at home for three years but her passion for the job could not keep her away.

Her husband, Parmod, has always been supportive of his wife's career. The couple have two daughters, Shonelle, 8, and Shalom, 5. Agnes is a senior designer with TFL. "I design cable network structures for telephone lines," she said

"I have been back as a technician for two years. "I spent some time in Lautoka then was transferred to Suva only three months ago." Agnes said sometimes the stares from people embarrassed her but the outgoing mother of two fits in very well with her workmates.

"My workmates are very supportive because I'm a female," she said. "Most of them are Fijian and I understand the language."
Throughout the interview, Agnes occasionally replies with "io", "I have lunch with them," she said.

"When we're out on the field sometimes we eat with dirty hands we have to eat," she laughs.
"I thought Suva was modern but the people in the West don't stare at me like the people in Suva do.

"I accept it as a compliment but it some times becomes embarrassing." Agnes reckons she's like any ordinary Fiji-Indian woman. "I'm normal," she said. "I cook and clean. "I love music and I like dancing too. "I love fashion and dressing up.

"You wouldn't recognise me if you saw me in town in casual clothes." When Agnes is at work, she does almost everything the men do including carrying heavy things like a manhole cover. "I can do most of things they do but I'm still learning," she said.

"My work is fun and I fit in very well." Agnes said Shonelle was very proud of her mother and wanted to be like her when she grows up.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online

Monday, July 14, 2008


HUNDREDS of people flocked into the Suva Civic Auditorium as Heat 3 of the Vodafone Hibiscus 'Kaila' Star Quest continued over the weekend.
For three weeks now the 'Kaila' Star Quest featured talented and eager singers who poured out their hearts and hidden talents on stage.
Sixteen participants took part in the singing contest.
Jam-packed audience cheered as organisers Sereana Senidamanu introduced each participant.
The participants were vying for a place in the semifinals.
Losana Masitabua, 15, of Suva Sangam College with her Carry your Candle song took out last night's completion and was selected the seventh semifinalists.


Saturday, July 12, 2008


Hibiscus queens are not only beautiful they are smart as well.
This is what 22-year-old Amele Tubuitamana aims to prove by taking part in this year's Vodafone Hibiscus Festival.
"People have the general assumption that Hibiscus queens just have a beautiful face and lack intellectual ability," she said.
"That is not true, most contestants are an educated group of people who are not in the contest for the fame but for a lot of other reasons," said Amele.
She is sponsored by Aquifer Fiji and a push from her family was how she got into the Hibiscus picture.
The ex-Jasper Williams High School student is confident of doing well.
"Thinking about contesting in the first place, gave me some nervous vibes but I know I should be able to pursue further confidently."
She is a go-getter type of person who believes in achieving everything she knows she can.
But one has to start from the small things before looking at the big picture, says the contestant.
"You cannot solve the hunger problem facing the world but you can feed a hungry person," is how she puts it.
"People always want to do big things but ignore the little facts around them."
She works as a youth volunteer at Ba Pilot Community Correction Centre.
Amele is a daddy's girl and hopes to follow her dad's footsteps.
Her father, Vilikesa Tubuitamana is an evangelism pastor. "I am very keen to grow spiritually and I will sing and preach the good gospel with my dad some day.
"That is my dream. It is only through the Almighty's strength I am able to face all hurdles of life," she said.
Amele, is a Western girl. She was born in Lautoka but brought up in Ba.
She lives with her family in Ba.
Amele loves singing, gardening and reading.
- Fiji Times Ltd is a sponsor of the festival


Wednesday, July 2, 2008


THE face on the FMF 24/7 biscuit ad is one of the charming figures vying for the king's title at the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival next month.
Petero Dominiko, 27, hopes to make the national event more memorable, alive and exciting with his participation.
"I would like to make the kings participation more significant because it was just introduced last year. Hibiscus has become a tradition for Suva and something people look forward to every year so I really hope to make it more memorable and successful with my participation," said the determined contestant.
Dominiko is sponsored by Stayin' Alive Corporate Promotion Fiji an ad agency and handles sales and marketing for the company.
He is also a graduate teacher from Corpus Christi College an institution close to his heart.
He has a bold personality and is not afraid of trying something new.
"It's always challenging for me to do that and I would just like to say that if your heart is into something then just go for it.
"Don't wait and sit around, plan and spend too much time on it," he said.
Dominiko has a friendly and warm personality with an everlasting smile on his face.
He hails from Rotuma but was brought up in Suva.
He likes socialising and catching up with friends around the tanoa of grog.
His favourite hobby is reading and it is something he does nearly everyday.
The Hibiscus festival is from August 15-23.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008


THE young and cultural figure of the University of the South Pacific is vying for the King's title at the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival next month.
But it is not all about winning for 24-year-old Tevita Tonga.
"I intend to promote the value and significance of the different and rich cultures that we have in the Pacific," said the Supreme Fuel-sponsored contestant.
"One's culture is significant because it gives you your identity and shows who you are," said Mr Tonga with pride.
To be the cultural chairman of the USP Students Association is a perfect match for him and something he organises and teaches with great interest.
Tonga is the key figure responsible for organising all cultural activities and dances at the USP's annual open day.
Taking part in the contest is an escape from his "small box" world.
"I grew up in a very small box and it was that way until this opportunity came by.
"I have always wanted to be part of something big and going for something this big is very exciting."
He is grateful to his sponsor for giving him the opportunity and he hopes to make them proud.
Tonga, always referred to as Dee by people who know him, is a final-year Accounting and Information System student at USP.
His best friend, Izzal Azid, describes him as sociable and funny.
"Tevita is friends with everyone and mixes around with everybody," said Azid.