FOUR years ago 27 year old Apakuki Nalawa had no vo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence but a pas­sion for play­ing gui­tar which he just picked up when he was in his early 20s. It is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that in 2013 the Drau­ni­ivi vil­lager from Raki­raki in Ra had doubts about whether his mu­si­cal tal­ent and voice was good enough for pub­lic per­for­mance. “In 2013 I had no ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing gigs or live shows but I thought I would just give it a try. I walked into Mango Café at Nas­ese which was owned by Kalara Vu­soni­wailala, in­tro­duced my­self to her and told her I had no ex­pe­ri­ence but I wanted to start some­where,” Nalawa said. Vu­soni­wailala agreed to lis­ten to the Ra na­tive sing his heart out. Fast for­ward to to­day and Apakuki Nalawa is a house­hold name as lead singer for pop­u­lar lo­cal boy band In­side Out. “I sang Grav­ity by John Mayer and the rest is his­tory. I played my first gig at Mango Café and con­tin­ued to play there ev­ery Fri­day and it just rolled on from there.” Things started to change for the fa­ther of two as he found his foot­ing in the mu­sic arena. “The way I sound and played at gigs be­gan chang­ing and then two years later I met up with friends from school whom I grew up with – and formed a band. Now I am a full time mu­si­cian.” Rem­i­nisc­ing about the days when he was start­ing out, Nalawa said that to prove him­self and se­cure a place to sing, he at first played for free. “When we formed the band we got paid $100 a week to be shared amongst the five of us. Our first gig as In­side Out band was at Traps and I re­mem­ber we got paid $60 and we had

to share that amongst us. I am grate­ful for how far we have come from that time.” Nalawa said he faced a lot of chal­lenges start­ing out as a mu­si­cian, mainly be­cause he was so in­ex­pe­ri­enced. “I was not used to talk­ing, es­pe­cially in­ter­act­ing with the crowd – that was one thing I had to force my­self to do,” he said. “When I started off I was more fo­cused on play­ing the gui­tar, not re­ally on singing so I had to work on my vo­cals.” Nalawa is try­ing to per­fect his skills and learn more about mu­sic be­cause it wasn’t some­thing he was able to learn at school – he is self taught. On the busi­ness end of things, es­pe­cially when In­side Out was first formed, some band mem­bers were work­ing full time and some part-time and they en­coun­tered fi­nan­cial con­straints. “We had to sac­ri­fice a lot. At times I had to sac­ri­fice my pay so that things could run smoothly for the band be­cause we started out with no cap­i­tal – with noth­ing, ba­si­cally.” “The mu­sic in­dus­try in Fiji is a strug­gling busi­ness and it is a big chal­lenge try­ing to be a mu­si­cian here.” “I of­ten ask my­self how can we im­prove the many strug­gles or chal­lenges we mu­si­cians face in this in­dus­try and the an­swer is it be­gins with us –mu­si­cians need to por­tray a good pic­ture and have faith in our­selves, that we can be more pro­fes­sional so that the pub­lic can see that mu­sic for is not just a part-time job but a ca­reer,” Nalawa said. “I also be­lieve that as mu­si­cians we need to look at the past, see how far pre­vi­ous mu­si­cians have taken the in­dus­try, and how we can im­prove it, es­pe­cially in this day and age with the tech­nol­ogy avail­able to us.” He reck­ons this can only be achieved if mu­si­cians work to­gether. “There is a lot of dis­unity, peo­ple go­ing in and do­ing things on their own and there is still a lot of back­bit­ing and un­der­cut­ting. Mu­si­cians need to work to­gether to build the in­dus­try.” “Very sim­ple things like get­ting to­gether and get­ting to know each other and rub­bing ideas with each other is the way for­ward,” he said. Nalawa said there is a lot of com­par­i­son be­tween bands and artists, but one thing to un­der­stand is that mu­si­cians have their own genre of mu­sic. “We are all dif­fer­ent in the style of mu­sic we play, but it would be good if mu­si­cians keep their dif­fer­ences aside and have a heart for work­ing to­gether,” he said. A good ex­am­ple of Nalawa’s phi­los­o­phy is the Liv­ing Room Jam that was held at the Suva Yacht Club two months ago, in which four lo­cal bands in­clud­ing In­side Out per­formed. “The Liv­ing Room Jam was an ini­tia­tive by Nem and Talei and Wil­liam Hatch and we are priv­i­leged to be a part of it also,” he said. “We didn’t look at band pop­u­lar­ity or who brings in the most num­bers, the night was all about live mu­sic and hav­ing fun – and that was ex­actly how Nem & Talei en­vi­sioned it and how var­i­ous mu­si­cians have put their heads to­gether to make the night such a suc­cess.”

Mu­sic Man - Apakuki Nalawa

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