top of page
  • Uncle Tavo

Matakaiongo & Hiva Maasi "Faitangane"

(originally posted 12 July 2014)

If only we know what Patele 'Ekuasi said in his sermon on Matakaiongo Manu's funeral, but there is definitely much to be said when it comes to this unforgettable uncle, dad and grandpa - Matakaiongo Manu. For me, he was the ultimate example of the all-important Tongan value called MAMAHI'I ME'A, especially on matters relating to God and Church. You can see why Matakai became a "protege" of 'Ekuasi from early on, starting from when 'Ekuasi groomed him to take over from him as choirmaster of the Matahau Catholic choir, and eventually replacing 'Ekuasi as Catechist of the Matahau Catholic community. But of course, if there's one talent of Matakai that stood out from the rest, it's his music, esp. the performance of the Hiva Maasi or Faitangane which became his signature achievement as a musician. I for one am quietly delighted to have learnt that his Funeral Mass concluded with the Hiva Maasi - a most fitting farewell!

Here's the Hiva Maasi at Matakai's Funeral - you may pick out Fr 'Ekuasi from the back:

it is perhaps something of an irony that it was precisely this Hiva Maasi which at one point soured somewhat the good relations between 'Ekuasi and Matakai, even though both eventually got over it. And the occasion was the ordination of 'Aisake Vaisima to the priesthood in Vava'u in the mid-eighties. 'Aisake Vaisima's parish priest, Patele 'Aliki Langi from Kolovai, then asked Matakai to come to Vava'u and teach the Hiva Maasi to the choir there for 'Aisake Vaisima's ordination. Matakai obliged but our old man 'Ekuasi did not agree for the reason that the Hiva Maasi (and other church music that were sung only at Hihifo) should not be shared with other parishes - sounds egoistic? I'll leave that up to you. The Hiva Maasi or Faitangane is actually the Tongan rendition of a very popular military marching tune called "Colonel Bogey March" which was originally composed by British Army Bandmaster F.J. Ricketts (under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford) at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. But the tune only became known when it was used as the theme-song of the 1957 movie "The Bridge on the River Kwai". If you click below to hear the original, it's easy to notice that this great piece of music was meant by the composer especially for the tenor (also notice the different ending):

Translating this not so simple music into Tongan was the genius of a much underrated musician from Kolovai (in the calibre of Sofele Kakala) named Misimoa. As far as I know, the tune has never been put to words in any language - so it took someone from Kolovai to do it. Malie Kolovai! Misimoa left his music book to 'Ekuasi who took over from him as choirmaster for Hihifo (there used to be a big red book at home with all of Misimoa's music). Not only did Misimoa translate the "Colonel Bogey March" into our Hiva Maasi, he also translated various Masses into Tongan (Misa Rossi, etc) which became the pride of Hihifo as no one else in Tonga were able to sing those. Could it be that Misimoa might have left clear instructions to 'Ekuasi to keep his music only at Hihifo? If so, then the old man 'Ekuasi is of course exonerated, for the will of the composer is paramount; otherwise, I would have to side with Matakai on this one. But now that Matakai and 'Ekuasi are meeting up again on the other side, I'm sure my rumbling here is the last thing to concern them. Ora pro nobis.

And here performed live by the British Royal Marines through the streets of Glasgow

33 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page