Take inspiration from local music: veteran musician calls for return to roots

String band musician Peter Lui. Photo: Lowen Sei

Peter Lui never took guitar lessons.

His brother had a guitar — the common Pacific brand — and he often watched his brother play.

“One day I saw the guitar lying in our house,” he said. “I picked up the guitar and started playing — that’s how it all started.”

What it started was a career as a string band artist and composer that led him to fame in the ’60s and ’70s.

Decades later, Mr Lui sees the popularity of local string band music waning.

“Musicians these days have access and play different instruments, especially electrical instruments,” he said. “I think many of our boys today are copying too much foreign music.”

Top artists such as Jaro Local, Dezine and Jahboy illustrate the influence of the Jamaican reggae/dancehall genre on Solomon Islands’ music.

But the 70-year-old from Aoke Island in Malaita Province said the artists need to take inspiration from local music.

He said composers should write songs that are relatable.

“I listen to the radio, and the way some bands are playing nowadays is just one sided — they always sing about one thing,” he said. “During our time, musicians sang about many different types of things with guitars and local tunes.”

Musicians in the country should appreciate the unique Solomon style of playing music, he said.

Mr Lui attended secondary school at St Joseph’s Tenaru and King George VI and went on to study mechanics in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. There, he started a small band called ‘Eveready’ with a few other Solomon Islands students.

“There were five of us — we used to sing at some of the clubs, and we also performed for ABC,” he said. “I recorded three of my first songs with SIBC, and most of my songs are in my own dialect with some in English and Pidgin.”

He lost count of how many songs he had written, but he said he still has many. He also has his knowledge of the guitar, which he passed on to his sons.

Mr Lui said he will continue to produce string band music.

So even though it seems unlikely that young artists will return to the style, passionate musicians like him might be able to keep it alive.

By Lowen Sei

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