Fiji is not one country you would associate with rock or metal music and yet it seems there is one band set out to change that, bring forth The Relativ. A six-piece band playing rock/metal music on the tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean. With a population of just under 900,000 which is just above the populations of Newcastle and Liverpool, you would think they would be celebrated as legends in their own right, in which case you thought right as Benjamin (manager and drummer) Seniroqa goes on to tell GMA... with a surprise regarding the Fijian Metal scene.
"There’s a couple of Heavy Metal fans out here as well and we are one of those people who listen to Heavy Metal".
Can you give us a brief history of The Relativ, how did you meet? What are you aiming to achieve?
"The band was initially formed on November 2015. We all started out recording covers on YouTube then just continued from there. The funny part about this is that we are all cousins hence why we named the band TheRelatiV. There are mainly 6 of us that make the band work, 4 band members and 2 roadies / stage coordinators. When we started the band, we actually had a dream of making it big and be the first rock band from Fiji to make it overseas, we’re still working on that and there have been good responses from our fans and hopefully one day we’d make it."
Names of Band Members:
Josh Tukana - Lead Vocals
Johnny Seniroqa - Lead & Rhythm Guitarist / Backing Vocals / Music Director
Nahshon Fong - Bassist
Benjamin Seniroqa - Drummer / Music Director / Band Leader & Manager
Filipe Lalauvaki - Backing Vocals / Synth / Stage Coordinator
Nelson Cokanasiga - Backing Vocals / Drum tech / Stage Coordinator
What can you tell us about the Fiji Music scene, as you play rock music is the rock / metal scene well supported?
"The music scene in Fiji is quite unique, we were shocked that we had people who loved rock when we started out. If you play it right, people will love it because Fiji is a very talented country in terms of music, the only problem is that there is no proper platform of exposure for many bands out here and hopefully one day there would be a good platform for younger bands to start off from. We play at a club called Traps Bar and they’ve been very supportive with the band, mostly tourists, volunteers and exchange students go there to dance and listen to us play when they get a chance which is so awesome."
Are there any heavy metal bands in Fiji? Any metal music fans? What are your thoughts on Heavy Metal?
"There used to be a Metal band a couple of years ago but most of their members have parted ways to continue living their normal lives. You could also say there’s a couple of Heavy Metal fans out here as well and we are one of those people who listen to Heavy Metal."
Given Fiji's isolation, as a band have you performed outside the country? Do you tour the island or are most concerts held in Suva?
"We’re hoping that one day we’d get to tour the world and play out side of the country but at the mean time, we’ve only played within the country. Mostly for Concerts and Festivals."
Are you aware of any rock or metal bands in other countries in Oceania other than Australia, New Zaland and Papua New Guinea?
"Not that we know off but I’m pretty sure there should be a couple of them. Australia and New Zealand would probably have a lot of Metal Bands for sure."
How did you become interested in recording and playing music? Are there any music schools?
"Most of us were brought up through musical family backgrounds, our parents and uncles used to play for their bands and we used to watch them as we grew up. All of us were brought up and played at church so you could say the interest was always there ever since we were young. All of us love music and we’ve come to a stage where we appreciate all sorts of styles of music. The Seniroqa brothers who also run a media company called Only Idea Studios are the ones who usually record & produce our Music & Music Videos (both covers & originals. There are a couple of music schools here in Fiji where musicians go and learn how to read music. None of the band members has ever attended music school but are all self taught. which is nothing new to most musicians here in Fiji."
What plans do you have for the year ahead? What was 2017 like for you guys?
"This year we’re planning on taking things slow and hopefully get everything right, being in a band is not as easy as it sounds, if you’re not organised well, things will be really hard for you. Last year was pretty crazy, we really enjoyed every moment of it, I’d say we’ve never played so much shows compared from last year than the year before that."
Finally do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
"We would like to thank everyone who has supported and believed in us and our dream through out all these years. Mostly we’d like to thank God for always being there for us, our parents and our families, to Traps Bar for always providing us with a venue to jam all the time and to all our fellow musicians who have become a part of our family."
We already know Australia and New Zealand are the most prominent metal scenes in the whole of Oceania, with the addition of smaller scenes in Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Guam... but one surprising scene has sprung up thanks to the Groove / Rock / Heavy Metal band Dropvkal from... Vanuatu.
It seems that metal music is finally touching the hearts of the most isolated island nations on earth, having won a music competition with their song 'Dangerous' (which is about climate change) and seemingly causing a buzz in that part of the world, GMA caught up with band member Braxton Cooper to find out how the band started and what their role in the Vanuatu Music scene is.
"Our aim is to get attention around the world... we have like not more than a thousand fans of heavy metal / rock in Vanuatu."
How long has Dropvkal been going? Who came up with the band name and what style of music do you play?
"Dropvkal is like 3 words joined together:- 'Drop' is for tear drops that our ancestors shed during the blackbirding in the 18 and 19 centuries, 'V' is for vision, the band has a vision of creating something unique that will touch the heart of peoples when they listen to our music. 'Kal- kalja', that's in our local dialect, which means culture, we are trying to mix up today's music with our culture, we even have some local instruments in our music that our ancestors used, we used that too to add some flavour to our music... we the band members came up with that name, We play any type of music, reggae, rock, latino zouk, African zouk, pop music, easy listening, blues, etc., we even have some songs written in local dialect..."
Is it relatively easy being a music in Vanuatu? What challenges are there as a band?
"It's a little bit hard back here, with our style of music tourists enjoy it, cause we played a lot in hotels back here, most of us are unemployed youths and we earned just a little to support us. The two main challenges that we usually face is money and families, we tried our very best in our gigs but we get just a little. Families sometimes they don't support us, we even get cursing words from our wives saying we are wasting our time with music, but its what we love so none of that stops us, we are still together till today for almost eight years."
What are your thoughts on rock and heavy metal music? Are there any rock / metal fans in Vanuatu?
"We have mixtures of music, we even try to mix rock with another type of music, but yes we have a lot of fans back here. They love our music.
In Vanuatu we have a lot of bands, mostly reggae bands, and we decided to play rock, heavy metal; we have few fans here but our aim is to get attention around the world with our acoustic rock. We love rock because it easily gets peoples attention and because it is a way you express yourself or how you do campaigns or fight for something, e.g. like our single 'Dangerous' which was released in early 2016 is about climate change; we won a music competition with that single. You can watch that on YouTube. We have like not more than a thousand fans of heavy metal / rock in Vanuatu."
Have you had any fans outside of Vanuatu get in touch with the band? Surely it would be hard to perform outside of the country?
"We have a lot of fans outside of Vanuatu, we played mainly in hotels so tourists enjoy our music, we have fans in the Solomon islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Caledonia, Germany, England, and many more."
Are Vanuatuans encouraged to learn music? What styles of music are most popular?
"In Vanuatu we have a music festival, called Fest'Napuan music festival and it happens in October every year, and during this festival we try to make it gender-balanced in our music, we don't have too many females in music so we trying to encourage females to take part in music, we don't have any proper music schools in Vanuatu we just learn music anytime or anywhere we feel like we want to, but yes we are encouraging people to learn music in Vanuatu. Reggae music is the only popular music in the whole of Vanuatu with our local music, called string band."
Do you feel music brings the world together? That it speaks a common language?
"Yes I feel that music brings the world together, the way we see when we play in the hotels we meet people from all around the world, we even feel the love and joy we share together with our fans, and even just between us the band members. With music, it is a common language that we musicians speak even if we are from different places around the world with different cultures but with that we understand each other very well, and with that you can see that music always brings people and the world together.."
What plans does the band have for the year ahead?
"One of the main plans for this year is an album. We are already practising for going into the studio by next month and with that we will be looking forward to touring in Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. We really want to expose our music to the world.."
Ever since Sepultura emerged on the scene, Brazil has been churning out metal bands left, right and centre and whilst a vast majority rarely break out of the wider South American Metal scene, they do in the own right build a name for themselves on their own continent. Mind, one could argue that with globalisation as it is, the novelty of discovering the first ever metal band from a country soon dies off when the scene reaches the echelons that the Brazilian Metal scene has done.
However bands like Leatherjacks are ensuring that the vibe doesn't die and that rock / metal carries on thriving. GMA spoke to vocalist / guitarist Mauro Cordeiro about the band's history, their debut album, challenges of being a Brazilian metal musician and what sights / attractions should metalheads check out in São Paulo.
"I keep on persisting and fighting for what I believe, ´cause THIS is Rock ´N´ Roll!"
What was the inspiration behind the band, what does the band name mean? Why Modern Hard Rock / Metal?
"Hey Rhys, hello everyone at the Global Metal Apocalypse and all of our readers! Nice to meet you all! Well, the inspiration behind the band name, came from lots of names I was trying to experiment during my name elections, you know? At first it was something with Hawks. Then something with Leather... LeatherHawks, Hawkstones, LeatherBones, woof... lots of names ha-ha!
Finally I reached LeatherJacks. It´s the abbreviation for Leather Jackets. It came from the most obvious and simple idea. It was right in front of me ahah! I always used a brown leather jacket. All of a sudden, the little cartoon light popped out in my mind, and it came on. Step by step, I got the idea for the Jacker Army, the Go Jackers scream, hashtag, slogan and stuff.
Modern Hard Rock / Metal, is a term that I use when I define my project. I mean... It´s Hard Rock and Metal. But it sounds modern. So I always entitle LeatherJacks as a Modern Hard Rock / Metal band / project. Dunno if it´s right or not. But it´s cool, isn't it? haah!"
You released your debut album "The Lost Arks Of Rock And Roll" last year, what was the reception like? Was there any attention from outside of Brazil?
"Absolutely, Rhys! It´s been amazing! The album is having a bigger reception outside then inside Brazil, unfortunately. Here, people are not listening so much to Rock or Metal. And those who do, only search for little cover bands, and don't open themselves up to NEW bands you know? But everything is going very well outside Brazil, and people are receiving so much well. I feel very thankful and honoured for it, and it´s extremely gratifying to have this amazing repercussion."
What are the challenges of being a metal musician in Sao Paolo let alone Brazil? Are the authorities supportive of metal music?
"It´s tough... It´s really tough. Because as I said previously, the genre is kinda "dead" here in Brazil, ´cause people don't care about original bands, and the crowd don't search for new stuff. Of course there are people who do like new things and stuff, but... It´s really really rare and difficult. The authorities respect metal and rock music, but they always say it´s not a Brazilian thing and stuff, so... It´s not a priority genre here, you know? But... I keep on persisting and fighting for what I believe, ´cause THIS is Rock ´N´ Roll!"
Are there any areas in São Paulo you would suggest for metalheads to visit; what sights and attractions are there?
"Here In São Paulo, we have great places to visit to listen to a great Rock music. I love these pubs: Manifesto Bar and Stones Rock Bar. Both are really amazing places, great bands, great drinks, and amazing girls (the best part haha!). I also like to go sometimes to Augusta Street, ´cause sometimes there are some cool spins to do. But... Only to drink some stuff. If you guys love IPA or another hand-crafted beers... I totally recommend a place called Cervejatorium. Simply AMAZING!"
What are some phrases metalheads should be shouting at a Brazilian Metal concert? Any phrases you could teach us?
"Yeah! Lea ther jacks! Lea ther jacks! Go Jackeeeeers! Oleeee ole ole ole, Leather, Leather - Kiddin´ hahahah! But I always scream things like: AAAAEEEEEEEEEEEE PORRAAAAA / CARAAAAAALHOOOO (it´s like: OOOOOOOOHHH FUCK! but it´s dirty words haha)"
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your relatives musicians?
"Yeah! My mom doesn´t play piano any-more, but when she was younger, she was an amazing classical piano student. My grandpa never played any instruments, but he loved jazz and drums. And me too! Then my mom´s cousin (I call him "uncle") - He is responsible for teaching me acoustic guitar, MPB, Bossa Nova and stuff. I was 10 years in 1996, and I never stopped! Here I am now haha!"
What plans do you have for 2018?
"I´m searching for musicians to make a definitive line-up and I think I will write more songs, and release a new album, but nothing 100% sure. Only some thoughts, ´cause I need to tour and to promote the first album. But any news, you will be the first ones to know, for sure!"
Finally are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"I´m really thankful to you Rhys and everyone for the interview! It´s an honour, ´cause I like Global Metal Apocalypse a lot! I thank all of your readers too, and I really hope you guys headbang with LeatherJacks! Let´s F***ING ROCK!"
South America is awash with many metal bands, some of which have become established in the international arena:- Brazil's Sepultura (of course), Venezuela's Culture Tres, Argentina's Skiltron, etc., but even in the lesser known metal scenes there are bands making a name for themselves across their respective continent.
And of course those bands who do make it internationally aren't always the best sounding, some of the most underground bands are better than the successful, ironic no? Anyway the point is the underground has a breadth of talent that most of the time gets ignored by the masses in favour of established bands and that's why GMA prides itself in giving coverage to bands on all six continents.
Anima from Peru are the latest band to be interrogated by GMA, fresh on the block this quintet sing in Spanish and English and play Hard Rock / Heavy Metal. But what makes this band tick exactly? Alvaro Bueno Triveño [AT} and Diego Adrián Bueno Triveño [DT] were more than happy to share their world with us... from Lima with love.