Fiji's Family Network
Each time I fly in one of the the Air Pacific's flights, the farewell song "Isa Lei" is always my favorite. Before it gets to the part that says "Cava beka ko a mai cakava, Nomu lako au na sega ni lasa" my heart is all swelled up and tears are no longer controlled. I feel that way because I lived most of my life far far thousands of miles away from where I was born. I find no other place that has a welcoming spirit than that in Nadi International Airport. I always look forward to the band that welcomes travelers at the airport.
Anyhow, way back in 1915 or thereabout, the Tuivakano of the time composed a song to serenade the young princess and the only heir to the throne of Tonga, Salote Pilolevu. Princess Salote Pilolevu was merely 14 going on 15 years old. During this time Princess Salote lived in New Zealand with a royal family friend while she was going to school. She occasionally returned to Tonga for visits or holidays.
The talk of the day was, who will be the lucky suitor for the princess, who will become Queen of Tonga someday. The Tongan protocol for the royal children is (still true to this day), they can only marry to someone who is a foreigner. For no Tongan person is worthy or chiefly enough to marry any of the royal children.
Tuivakano, being of Fijian decent from Lakeba, fits the bill. He was qualified as a foreigner in his own country. Meanwhile, Tonga had a royal choir. This choir sang medleys, anthems, love songs and varieties of music composed by both world renown composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and as well as local composers who were popular at the time. Tuivakano was also a member of this choir. So he composed a song as his love message to the young princess. The song was titled, "Ise Isa viola Lose Hina".
The choir sang this song and it became a hit in Tonga. The song became part of the Tonga Police Band repertoire. The following year, a sergeant from the Tonga Police Band was detailed to provide duty in Fiji. Not sure what type of duty it was but it was requested by the British Consulate. While in Fiji, this police sergeant shared the song with the Fiji Police Band. The Fiji Band liked it so much, they adopt the tune and composed their own song called "Isa Lei". Almost a hundred years later, the tune is as popular as ever.
But, this is the original lyrics in Tongan:
(1) Ise isa viola lose hina, Fisimoto matala he lilifa, Isa ete nofo ihe toafa, To'e loto tangi ihe potu lala
(2) Ake mai pe vaa he peau, Toko faingataa ene ha'u, Ka neongo sii lupe ni kuo alu, Ho sino na te u fua pe e au
Chorus: Fakapo he kohai te ne lava, ete manatua ae ofaanga, Ne ngangatu mai o alaha, Feluteni eku ofa taengata
Translation? (1) Oh my! those viola white roses, Blooming flowers from yonder, howbeit, I live in a desert, With the aching heart of loneliness, Crying from desolate
(2) Those branches reaches through the waves, Though difficult and laborious thou attempt, But lo! the lovebird (dove) will now depart, Your body's image will be a burden of my heart
Chorus: Oh no! Who can endure? The memories of of whom I love, She is my perfume and the fragrance of my life, The catalyst for my eternal love
Verse (1) Tuivakano knows, Princess Salote is like those roses blooming up high on mountain cliffs. Tuivakano also knew his chance of marrying the Princess is as good as finding those roses in a desolate desert or where he was. So, all he could do was hope and love her from afar.
(2) Princess Salote now lived in New Zealand. Her only mode of transportation to Tonga was by boat (branches reaches through the waves) or riding the waves to Tonga. With the lovebird or dove now depart (Princess Salote returning to New Zealand), All Tuivakano could do was ......you know the deal when THE GIRL is beyond your reach and she is leaving.
(In Tonga, the highest form of praise to a girl, we call her lupe or dove. Lupe means majestic and honorable up there in a pedestal. Yes, even if it is in hog heaven. In ancient time, lupe was on the taboo list. Only the royal family can eat these birds. There were special and selected people who were trained in snaring them. There were special equipment and procedures to catch them and to process them before they were send to the king's dinner table.) On the other hand, you don't call a Tongan girl a fox (flying fox or ground walking fox). The term peka (flying fox) or fokisi (fox) will bring immediate violent physical response. Hopefully not from her male relatives. That could hurt a lot.