George Veikoso, better known as Fiji, is a chef searching for the right ingredients to make his musical soup. Here R&B supplant carrots, reggae takes the place of onion and Hawaiian sounds are the stock. It’s a recipe that too few are willing to attempt.
“I grew up in the islands and we speak pidgin,” says the musician who appeared on MidWeek’s cover in March 1998. “It’s a mix of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian. It’s a melting pot of language and that’s how it’s always been with me musically. I’ve always tried to keep myself open to all music influences.”
For artists who practice their craft on canvas, using mixed media is embraced for its combination of textures and unique results. For musicians, it can be just the opposite. Fans rarely like surprises. “Sometimes it’s really hard when it comes to getting radio play because they have a format. They do testing now and if your score is not high enough you’re not going to get much air play,” he observes. Fiji said his solo projects cost about $75,000 to produce. So while creative freedom is the essence of art, paying the bills is of equal importance. Something that he learned with his 2002 release Transition, an album that was good but maybe not local enough for Hawaii audiences.
Fiji, who welcomed newest daughter Vinian into the family in 1999 is now pushing forward to support his latest CD, Independence Day, which was released in November. Mixing tours of New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. West Coast has helped the recording hit No. 13 on Billboard’s world music charts.
“It was very surprising and humbling,” he says. “I don’t even know how that works. It’s mindboggling.”
Working on his new record label, Jahnra Records, has forced Fiji to look at the industry in different ways. But that’s a good thing. He says he wants to move further in the direction of creating a major island record label and to further his work as a producer. The latest of which is his work with an artist called Rawsun who, Fiji says, is “super hot and unbelievable.” He is also planning the fall release of an album that includes a myriad of local talent including John Cruz.
While the fulfillment of his professional goals is coming along nicely, it’s the more personal things, spending time with family, that can be the most difficult.“I have to really schedule things out. It’s crazy because 60 percent of the time it’s broken promises,” he says of finding time for his five offspring. “It really hurts the relationship with the children. I accept all of what’s been handed to me and what is expected.”
That responsibility comes with a price. One that is no doubt easier now than it may have been years ago.
“It means that I had to really cut down on my partying. And believe me, Fiji definitely likes to party.”
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