kava music

Kava Kava and music: musical journey around Fiji

Kava is well known for its enriching effect on the musical experience. It sensitises to sounds and opens up to harmonies. It raises a question, what to listen to for Kava? What does the music of the Pacific islands sound like? Join us on a musical journey around Fiji! Bula Maleya!

Is there a better way to start off your musical journey across Fiji than with the traditional welcome song Bula Maleya?


Bula! is the most popular form of greeting in Fiji. Ni bula, ni bula kece sara! (meaning “Hello, hello everyone!”) also best reflects the openness and cheerful nature of the inhabitants of these islands.

The tune (and all the positive charge it carries) of Bula Maleya was made world-famous by none other than Elvis Presley himself. In the movie Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), Elvis performed an interpretation of this popular song in his trademark bravura style!

Elvis played the lead role in this film. He also performed all the songs, which were later released in the form of a soudtrack as a separate item in his dyspography. Notably, a few years later – in 1973 – the song Paradise, Hawaiian Style was used as the intro in the world’s first satellite broadcast concert: Aloha from Hawaii! Although it could have been called: Bula from Fiji!

We also recommend the slightly less faithful version of Bula Maleya performed by the charmingly named band The Kavaholics!

It is worth noting that meetings over Kava are seen as an opportunity for people to play and sing together. Kava is said to “loosen your tongue” – apparently working as an inducement not only to talk but also to sing together.

It is customary for music makers to sit close together on mats – around the Kava bowl – and sing in parts, often accompanied by just guitars and ukuleles, weaving their voices together into a beautiful harmonious whole.

But music in Fiji is not just about male voices. Let us introduce you, for example, to Laisa Luala Vulakoro, also known in Fiji as the Queen of Vude (Pop). Tradition or disco – there is room for both!

And there is also Lia Osborne with the classic piece Isa Lei. Legend has it that this song was created in 1916 for Adi Litia Tavanavanua and co-written by Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba, the father of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who in turn is called the father of modern Fiji.

Now for a beautiful acoustic version of Isa Lei.

Talei Burns is one of the contemporary divas of the Fijian music scene. First rising to fame through her performances in a TV singing competition on Fiji One in 2000, today she performs in a duo with her husband under the name Nem & Talei.

Fiji is a place where tradition and modernity blend together perfectly, and nowhere is this more evident than in its music. Sakiusa Bulicokocoko is a figure credited with bringing modernity to the music of the islands (The Fiji Times describes him as a legendary musician, and the government of the Solomon Islands refers to him as Fiji’s most famous artist).

It was Bulicokocoko who rediscovered Isa Lei for a wider audience, so we would like to show you how his legacy is interpreted today, using the funk cover of Rui Totoka as an example.

Fiji’s musical richness is impressive – especially when considering the small population of these islands (the population is less than 885,000!). More classics and evergreens, as well as contemporary sounds of today’s Fiji you can find on the playlist below – we have selected for you over 40 tracks (and a few jewels for Kava fans from other corners of the Pacific), all to be listened to in one place. Enjoy!



[ just click to play the playlist via Youtube ] 

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