KNOX

mailife - - Music - By RAJAN SAMI Pho­tos IVA ROKOVESA

The house that mu­si­cian Knox and his part­ner El­lana Bick­erdale call home high up on a hill­top on the out­skirts of Lami has a lived in qual­ity. With a 12 year old and three more boys un­der the age of six, there’s no short­age of ev­i­dence that there are kids around. The house it­self is a work in progress. The cou­ple bought the two-storey plan­ta­tion style house from an older Ger­man man some years ago and have been ren­o­vat­ing it slowly ever since, up­dat­ing the bath­room and kitchen, re­mov­ing a wall here, adding a bed­room there so that the space works for their grow­ing fam­ily. The spa­cious liv­ing room on the sec­ond floor ex­tends out onto a cov­ered deck. It of­fers tree­top views of a calm, se­cluded bay in Lami with nary a pow­er­line in sight. There’s an invit­ing ta­ble for six on the deck where friends are said to gather for drinks. And de­spite the sur­face chaos that comes from hav­ing with three very young chil­dren, a sense of calm and peace pre­vails at Fort Knox. The near­est neigh­bours are a fair dis­tance away and you don’t hear a sin­gle car. Knox and El­lana chose the place be­cause they wanted to raise the kids away from the chaos of Suva in a qui­eter place that in some ways is rem­i­nis­cent of their own child­hoods. He comes from Naimasi­masi, a vil­lage of some 200 peo­ple in Tailevu while she was raised in Coota­mundra, a ru­ral farm­ing town four hours south of Syd­ney. Cows fea­tured promi­nently in both their child­hoods but there are cur­rently none at their Lami home. The cou­ple had been friends for years be­fore they got to­gether six years ago af­ter run­ning into each other at a mu­tual friend’s wed­ding. Their first date was lunch at the Pearl. They’d first met in Bird­land many years prior when Knox was launch­ing a CD. “I never in a mil­lion years thought we would end up to­gether,” says El­lana of that first meet­ing.

NAT­U­RAL SYN­ERGY

In May, the cou­ple jointly launched Knox En­ter­tain­ment, a new event man­age­ment and en­ter­tain­ment com­pany. For some years now, El­lana, who by her own ad­mis­sion is more of a “be­hind the scenes type per­son” has worked qui­etly in the back­ground sup­port­ing Knox in his mu­si­cal and cre­ative en­deav­ours. He has spent the past five years play­ing the fes­ti­val cir­cuit in Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Knox En­ter­tain­ment marks the first time the cou­ple has stepped for­ward into the lime­light to­gether. In June last year, El­lana took over the run­ning of the monthly ROC Mar­ket in Suva (held on the third Sun­day of the month), which has since grown both in the num­ber of ven­dors and the va­ri­ety of things on of­fer now that it ex­tends all the way down Car­navon St. She also runs a mar­ket at the ATS ground on the last Satur­day of each month and a smaller My ROC 2 mar­ket on the first Sun­day of the month at the new My FNPF Plaza on Greig St in Suva. A nat­u­ral syn­ergy has come to­gether to form Knox En­ter­tain­ment. The cou­ple’s first event un­der the new ban­ner is the Thurston Food and Mu­sic Fes­ti­val on Satur­day July 15. It will bring to­gether lo­cal acts like Talei and Nem, In­side Out, Seru Serevi, The Rel­a­tive, Tom Mawi and Na­sio Domoni – along­side Knox of course at an all-day af­fair for the whole fam­ily in Suva’s Thurston Gar­dens. The duo hopes to up the ante for fes­ti­val food by push­ing locally grown pro­duce and a va­ri­ety of world foods and ven­dors. They also want to keep the kids happy by of­fer­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like jump­ing cas­tles, face paint­ings and art. Next up for Knox En­ter­tain­ment is a record­ing stu­dio on the ground floor of their home in Lami, which will al­low the duo to take on, record and man­age other lo­cal artists and develop the next gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cians. For Knox, it will be a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion to step into the role of men­tor.

MU­SI­CAL JOUR­NEY

Af­ter do­ing the rounds of sev­eral schools in Suva, Knox was packed off to Ro­tuma (where his mum is from) for his fi­nal year of high school. It was here that he chanced upon an older man called Petero Ro­manu with “fat fin­gers like a farmer” but whose gui­tar play­ing was “out of this world”. Ro­manu took the teenager un­der his wing. Knox had grown up in a mu­si­cal fam­ily and so knew how to play the gui­tar but was per­haps a lit­tle too at­tached to the­atrics, he ad­mits. “It’s about rhythm, slow your­self down,” Ro­manu said to the younger Knox, a message he now passes on to younger mu­si­cians who seek him out. The singing and that unique “gravel and di­a­monds” vo­cals that Knox is known for came much later and al­most didn’t hap­pen. He was play­ing gui­tar for the band Kul­ture in 2005 when founder Arthur Phili­toga pushed him to sing. At first he would only sing once the clubs were empty, but over time he slowly built up his con­fi­dence and even­tu­ally moved to writ­ing his own mu­sic. The ti­tle track from his first EP Jah Love (re­leased 2007) was hit Num­ber 1 in the NZ Reg­gae charts, where it sat for weeks. In 2010, he re­leased his only full al­bum to date, Old Old Tree, off which Sa Rui Dede was nom­i­nated for Pa­cific Song of the Year. In April 2013, Knox re­leased his de­but Aus­tralian sin­gle, Candy, which made Num­ber 2 on the Sounds like a Café mu­sic data­base that’s streamed to cafes and eater­ies in Aus­tralia and New Zealand. In 2015, he launched the EP Fad­ing, which won him four awards in­clud­ing Most Out­stand­ing Song at the 2015 Fiji Per­form­ing Rights As­so­ci­a­tion Awards. More re­cently, he worked on the sound­track for an up­com­ing sea­son of Sur­vivor shot in Fiji with friend and fellow mu­si­cian Talei over four days, their parts recorded sep­a­rately, then lay­ered onto tribal an­them type tracks. When we spoke in mid May, he was on the verge of fi­nal­is­ing his first full Fi­jian EP Lele Mai, which means “to row across” or trans­lates more loosely as “come over”. The idea to launch Knox En­ter­tain­ment came at a time when the fam­ily had been con­sid­er­ing mov­ing to Aus­tralia. In­stead, they de­cided to stay put, in the quiet sanc­tu­ary the cou­ple has built for their boys that is all about sim­ple plea­sures. “We love to take them to the beach or the wa­ter­falls in Wainadoi or not do any­thing at all,” says El­lana.

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