Andy Hitu, left, Stephenous Maiaba, Bronick Fafale and Ray Masilobo. Photo/Supplied
Solomon Islands musicians bring island reggae to Bay of Plenty
A simple home studio in the living room made up of an inexpensive microphone, laptop and a few speakers.
That is all Ray Masilobo is using to bring the sounds of his motherland, his beloved Solomon Islands, alive in Tauranga.
Masilobo moved to New Zealand seven months ago under a newly accredited employer work visa programme and is now working in a factory.
But music is his true passion. He has been a music producer since 2006 back in the Solomon Islands under his stage name: Baka Solomon.
Island reggae and a hint of pop
At just 16 years old, Masilobo helped produce a song - feel-good reggae hit Ramukanji - with award-winning band Onetox that picked up more than a million listeners worldwide.
He went on to do a remake of Adele’s hit song Hello that reeled in over 17 million listeners - and he has even worked with American rap legend and songwriter Snoop Dogg.
From the Solomon Islands and working at the same factory are fellow musicians Stephenous Maiaba - also known as Stegga - and Bronick Fafale, known as Broukii.
One of Maiaba’s most well-known songs is Slowly, released in 2021, and which has over a million streams on Spotify and YouTube.
Maiaba says making music helps him feel closer to home; producing their own reggae, with lyrics in Pijin.
“It’s like Island reggae but it has a pop feel to it and RnB...Music is in our blood.”
Despite being so far away from home, he says their passion for making and sharing music only gets stronger.
Collectively, the trio has released five songs since arriving in New Zealand and they have also performed at events including the Oceania Cultural Festival and the Pacifica United Community Appeal.
Most recently they have performed at the Vanuatu Independence Day and Solomon Islands Independence Day celebrations in Tauranga.
All three members speak of their hopes for the future of Solomon Islands music and how they want more support for artists back home.
They say a lot of artists in the Solomons have had to move to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand where there are more opportunities and support.
Written by Alakihihifo Vailala, Te Rito Journalism Cadet