WHEN Jimmy Nathu was still in high school in the ’60s, he used to lie in bed at his Carnarvon St home in Suva, and soak in the sounds of Ken Janson singing at the Golden Dragon nightclub on Victoria Pde.
Already a budding singer and entertainer, Nathu had his sights on getting on stage at the iconic music venue. “And it all came true when I not only scored a gig there in the mid ’80s, but also managed to negotiate a residency with the then manager Victor Janson Ho,” Nathu shared.
“I can tell you it was surreal to carry our gear up the famous stairs that most of Fiji’s greats had walked up and to set up on the same stage that they did. “It was like getting a stamp of approval – that I had finally made it – because back then the Golden Dragon was the place.
“If you went on stage there, you had earned your place and it was really humbling to know that I had achieved something I had envisioned as a teenager while living on Carnarvon St.
“So when Ken invited me to be part of the Golden Dragon 60th anniversary show, there was no way I could say ‘no’.”
Nathu said he was looking forward to the excitement of performing with some of Fiji’s legendary musicians, including jazz guitarist Tom Mawi, rock fusion guitarist Maxie Columbus, keyboard wizard Henry Foon, drummer John Shankaran and Fiji’s godfather of music Ken Janson.
However, he said getting on stage at the show on Saturday, March 18 at Club Central will be a bittersweet reunion of sorts. Many of the musicians the former shoemaker-turned-musician rubbed shoulders with have passed on.
And many who performed alongside him at the Golden Dragon nightclub on Victoria Pde in 1986 and 1987 will not be able to travel to Sydney, Australia, for the show. “I had a really great band at the Dragon with the Kamoe brothers – John, Victor and Mesu, one of Fiji’s greatest bassists and musicians in Luke Uluiburotu who was later replaced by Paul Vaurasi.
“We did a lot of rock and abstract songs that other bands would not touch – and it was exciting stuff.”
Nathu said he hoped to bring some of that excitement on stage at the Diamond Jubilee gig. But to learn more about his entry into the local music scene, we have to wind the clock back about 50 years.
Nathu emerged on the music scene in the late ’60s after being coaxed by then photojournalist Bharat Jamnadas. “I was in Fifth Form at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial High and after school, I would catch the bus into town and go to our family shoe shop, Meangers, on Victoria Pde in Suva. “When I walked to our home in Carnavon St, I used to go past the Old Town Hall and I just couldn’t help but be drawn to the music that used to be belted out of there.”
The Old Town Hall (now home to the Vineyard and other restaurants) was one of the Capital City’s many dance halls at the time. Men doled out 30 pence and women 20 pence to dance to the music of live bands such as The Trimilords, Quin Tikis, Bandpower and Maroc 5.
It was there that he got his first experience on stage after Jamnadas literally pushed him to perform with Saimone Vuatalevu’s band, the Quin Tikis. The rest, as they say, was history.