Centre Stage With Mr Grin

Mr Grin is one of the many that make the Suva nightlife a lively one. Producer, songwriter and rapper, Dave Lavaki, better known by his stage name, Mr Grin, is
02 Sep 2017 14:30
Centre Stage With Mr Grin
Dave ‘Mr Grin’ Lavaki (middle), performing with other musicians on stage.

Mr Grin is one of the many that make the Suva nightlife a lively one.

Producer, songwriter and rapper, Dave Lavaki, better known by his stage name, Mr Grin, is a name well known in the local music scene.

Early life

Originally from Vakano, Lakeba in Lau with part European and Welsh ancestary, Dave grew up in Kinoya, Wailekutu in Lami. He had lived in England for two years when he was younger.

He attended Veiuto Primary School and Suva Grammar School and has seven siblings.

He has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Arts from the University of the South Pacific.

Music interest began

“My interest in music started very young. Both my parents had very interesting and different tastes in music. They exposed me to different genres.”

His father would listen to Pink Floyd and Sade while his mother would watch Madonna and Janet Jackson music videos.

His parents ran a bar/restaurant (the old Lighthouse in Nasese) and would host many bands, groups and musos constantly surrounding him with the musical atmosphere.

“They’d follow local bands and groups like Steve Macumber, Kabani, Tom Mawi and many others so my appreciation for live music started quite young.

“I guess I always knew I wanted to express and articulate musically, but it took me a very long time to figure out what my sound, my genre, my content and how that would all feel together.”

Mr Lavaki grew up listening to Danny Rae Costello, Bob Marley and eventually discovered hip hop music in the 1990s.

“I got so engulfed in it, listening to just absolutely everything I could get my hands on. The many different stories and styles of rap even in different languages.”

For him, it got to a stage where he had to let his collection of albums go because it over influenced and frustrated him at times.

“I’ve always written poetry and when I was seriously into my hip-hop I was writing about what I was hearing about in the music I was listening to.”

He said it wasn’t his own story anymore and that’s when he started to give his addiction into this musical genre a break.

“I’m happy I did because it allowed me to explore so much more music and many years later figure out my own style.”

He was just making music for the sake of getting things off his chest and it was a creative outlet for him.

“I played it to a few people just to see what they thought and one day I played I think the fourth song I had ever recorded to Alex Elbourne (family friend and co-worker at the time) and he said you have to send this track to Sammy G.”

Mr Lavaki was too shy at first, but Mr Elbourne convinced him and he eventually got to meet with Sammy G, which he considers was a massive blessing.

“He took my little ideas and personal stories and helped me share it with the world not just with his technical sound and video skills, but provided a space for all of us genre misfits to sit around and collaborate.”

He said Sammy G continues to inspire and encourage. He said he owes Sammy G a lot, when it comes to music and preparing for live gigs.

“If I never played that track to Alex and then to Sam all my music would probably still be in a computer somewhere and only me listening to it.”

Mr Lavaki started recording in 2007. His biggest hits include Suva City (with Sammy G), 6 7 Ciwa (with Sammy G and Tukaine), Broken English (with Red Child), Paradise, Handle that (featuring Justin Wellington and Pieter T), Centipede with Abhi the Nomad who recently got a record deal with Tommy Boy in the United States.

“Being invited to feature on Makare’s second Album was really cool. Its something I’m quite proud of.”

Mr Lavaki, alongside local artist Deuces and Mynlessme won the first hip-hop award at last year’s Fiji Performing Rights Association Music Awards.

“I was really happy that hip-hop had a category in the FPRA Awards, great incentive for the next generation of rappers to come.”

He has performed in various events around Fiji, Noumea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. One of his most memorable performances was on Koro Island with the VOU Dance group.

The chief of the village presented a live pig to VOU director, Sachiko Soro as a token of gratitude.

He was the opening act for Jamaican artist, Sean Kingston alongside Sammy G, Red Child and Troop 10. This was one of the highlights of his life.

One of the challenges he come across is trying to understand the audience, which he claimed was a good challenge.

“I’ve also come across some gigs that I haven’t enjoyed and it’s made me say to myself sometimes “I’m done with this”, but you know music is like family after a while we forgive and move on and make music again.”

Upcoming projects

For Mr Lavaki music is a hobby that he takes seriously as his focused on his Video Production Company called First Fighter established in 2014 with his wife.

They produce videos for corporate and non-governmental organisations and also deal with Digital Heritage work.

Before this Mr Lavaki was a music co-ordinator for two years at the University of the South Pacific’s Pacific Studies programme.

One of his upcoming projects is with local artist, Knox which is set for release at a later date.

Paying homage

He pays homage to Sammy G as the pioneer of local hip-hop, also Charles Saututu and George Thomas as they recorded Fiji’s first hip hop album back in the late 1990s.

“Also MC Trey (Thelma Thomas) should also be recognised because she was rapping in Fiji in the late 90s and early 2000s on the New Zealand and Australian stages,” he said.

He also said the people he mentioned and a few others had done the hard yards with Fiji’s rap music.

He also mentioned local artists Andrew aka Drixstar, Team Stay Focused (TSF), Wilo, Marcus Dreketirua, and Ezra Volavola.

His greatest supporters and inspiration is his family and friends who have all been there for him especially his wife and kids.

“As much as this is a hobby it’s not really like the bread and butter maker. My wife continues to encourage me to do it regardless of the hours it takes away from me being with my family and focusing on other things.”

He said his wife understands the importance of having music in his life.

His advice to other upcoming artist is if you want your song to be a hit, spend time on the chorus and hook because that’s what people are going to remember the song by.

You can check out his official First Fighter Facebook page on all the current projects done by Dave ‘Mr Grin’ Lavaki and his team.

Feedback: mere.satakala@fijisun.com.fj


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