Sernicumu (Popular filian folksongs)

Serenicumu literally means “bumping songs,” a genre of popular music that is widespread throughout Fiji today and is performed in villages as well as at local resorts and hotels. These songs are covers of or are influenced by styles from Europe and America as well as from other Pacific islands or the Caribbean (particularly reggae). They are often performed at informal yaqona drinking sessions and are also associated with informal dance types broadly termed tauratale or danisi (taken from the English word ”dance”). The exact origin of the genre is obscure. Serenicumu is said to be associated with the first legally allowed sales of beer to Indigenous Fijians in the 1920s in Suva, and it is suggested that this genre originated from parties where men bumped their drinking glasses together. Another source further adds that this music was originally called sere ni cumu saqa (saqa meaning “barrel” or “tankard”) and that it referred to the practice of Fijian men sitting in a circle at a table and resting their heads against their tankards of beer. Many serenicumu songs still performed today date from World War II―an intense period of creativity for this genre―when soldiers from the US, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Australia interacted extensively with Fijians. Currently, musicians distinguish two main styles of serenicumu: trio and sere bass (also called sere makawa or “old songs,” even though they may be fifteen or more years old). Sere bass performance features a large group of bass vocalists (bass/besi) in addition to three solo voice parts: tatabani/tatabana, domo tolu/vakababa, and laga/lagalaga in descending order in terms of their vocal range. Only the three solo parts are heard in trio. The types and roles of the instruments, their tuning, and their playing techniques have also changed over time. The technique of vadivadi (plucking), which characterized sere bass guitar performance in the past, has been replaced by various “scrumming” (strumming) for the rhythm guitar and a range of left- and right-handed techniques for the lead guitarist. The only chords used in sere bass were dua(tonic), rua (subdominant), and tolu (dominant), whereas trio also featured warning (seventh), minus (minor), and flat (supertonic) chords. Anyone can participate in sere bass performance, which makes it ideal for use at large social gatherings. Trio performers are expected to perform to a high standard and are usually heard at small social functions such as yaqona drinking sessions. The tempo tends to be slower and the overall pitch lower in sere bass when compared to trio. Sere bass, being closer stylistically to meke, tends to be preferred by older people (those in their mid-40s and above) and provides them with a means to connect with and celebrate their cultural roots. Trio, which tends to be popular with those in their 20s and 30s, exhibits a greater degree of Westernization than sere bass, but it is still regarded as being part of the serenicumu oral tradition that has been passed down through the generations and that continues to change as new songs are continually added to the repertoire and old ones fall into disuse.


Information source
iTaukei Institute of Language & Culture (TILC)

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