By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti
V5’s jazzy, soulful, and bluesy songs have a sound that sets them apart from many Fijian performers.
So it is a shock to learn that the band members, 15-year-old Lia Daunakamakama, her sister 18-year-old Jasmine, and their close friend Vika Tuisawau, are so young. Vika’s brother, Sevuloni is the fourth member, and together they are the very embodiment of old souls in young bodies.
They first met in Vanuatu, at a gathering of Fijians living there. “Our family was really close; we started hanging out, and then we realised, ‘Oh wait, you guys love music too,’” Jasmine says, making her bandmates giggle with the recollection. “We just started having jam sessions because my father used to encourage us to get together and sing, especially in church.
“Every week, as our families have potlucks or anything, we have those jam sessions,” she continued.
The girls share a love for the classics. Vika says, “Growing up, we had similar taste in music, and because we were together all the time, we would listen to the same song, find new songs together, and we listen to mostly Bee Gees, Daft Punk, Meghan Trainor, Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, the Commodores and Aretha Franklin, so there was a lot of various genres.”
Jasmine chimes in, “I feel like our parents had a lot of influence over our taste in music growing up.”
V5’s professional debut was in 2014, when the Laughing Samoans visited Vanuatu.
Lia, who was seven years old at the time, says she can barely remember that gig, but Jasmine and Vika, then ten years of age, say: “We actually felt comfortable with the crowd because it was mostly the Samoan community at a restaurant; it was a good experience.”
The group once had five members. Vika’s younger brother Jacob filled the role of manager, with the hope he would join them on stage. Her dad has also filled in as a bass player occasionally. At present, the ‘5 ‘in V5 is a floating spot.
The band members’ rise to fame at a very young age was due to their unique sound and harmonies. School and other activities such as dance keep them grounded, although they admit to being stopped once or twice by fans who have recognised them.
“Just last week, I was in the biology lab and this guy comes up to me. God bless him, but he comes up to me and he just says, ‘I know you’re a singer.’ I was trying to put a sample onto my microscope, and I was like, ‘Wait what?’ and he said, ‘I know you’re famous and people know you,” Vika says.
The girls all giggle again, shyly covering their eyes when they hear of this encounter.
Vika adds: “It gives me a reality check that people actually listen to our music.
V5’s song ‘Mango Tree’ (which was cowritten by bass player William Sanday), last year won them the Domo Vou Talei music competition, and a lot of attention.
“The mango tree is where we would hang out in Vanuatu, but the actual tree was destroyed by Cyclone Pam,” says Lia.
“The song itself is about our time as kids, when we were carefree, no care for social standards or labels and life was simple and easy.”
V5 was also nominated at this year’s Fiji Performing Rights Association awards in two categories, for Best English song and Best New Artist of the Year.
Although the group did not win, they earned the respect of many musicians, with some taking to social media to applaud their musical composition. With one original song under their belts, they plan to compose more in future.
The band has been advised by popular musicians such as Makare’s Big Wilz and others. But it hasn’t always been an easy journey for the girls, and they admit to having gone through challenges, particularly when it comes to juggling school and gigs.
“Last year, it was a challenge for me. I remember I had an exam, and we had a gig at Moments Cafe. I remember being so burnt out…It showed in our performance,” says Vika.
Jasmine adds that being part of a close group makes these challenges bearable: “As a band, it makes things easier; we can offload needs onto the other person that can help balance things out.”
It is during these times that they also lean on the support of their family and friends. “I think our parents actually give us a lot of reassurance, and seeing our friends making music motivates us to pursue it and keep on striving for the best,” Lia says.
Lia and Jasmine’s mother, Beulah Daunakamakama agrees. “As parents, we have to recognise what our kids enjoy and then just support them, encourage and sometimes push when they are unsure.”
She continues: “I remember Lia used to get upset when she couldn’t sound like Jasmine (her sister) and Vika. I said to her that her voice was different, and we just needed to find the right song for her voice.
“She is now a confident performer in her own right; she is our little vude princess and can easily switch between Samoan, Fijian, Maori and English songs.”
The band members know that they may not stay together forever, as they take separate paths to university and careers, with Jasmine reflecting, “I think it’s comforting to know that even if we happen to go into a solo career, our bond will remain intact; we will continue to rely on each other, remain friends, and still have that support system that we have as a band.”
Until that day, V5 continues to be a strong young presence in Fijian music, making waves with their unique sound and showing that there’s space for more music genres on the local scene.
This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, July-September 2023.