The Fiji Times » Sisters For Life


By painting, I mean something comforting like music comforts.

This is how the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh described how he found his muse in music.

Like Gogh, musical artists find inspiration in a host of things – from dreams and heartbreak to life events and nature.

For local artist, Elena Baravilala-Gardiner, one of her biggest motivations is the happy memory of her deceased younger sister whom she lost in March.

She said the memories she shared with her sister Salome Vuninai Baravilala were nothing short of amazing.

“These 27 years have been full of color, beauty, fighting, fighting and endurance, but in the end he was a warrior who overcame it all and left a great legacy of love,” said Elena.

These sentiments shared by Elena illustrate how close the siblings were

Hailing from the village of Nabavatu in Macuata, Salomé was a natural singer and music was part of her life growing up.

Elena said she died on March 6 after a short illness but “left a huge impact on the lives of people who knew her”.

“She started singing at age four in every Crusade around Ovalau and at the National Stadium at age five where the late pastor Tim Uluirewa played and she sang.”

“The most important thing for her was to sing every morning and evening devotional, which indirectly refined her voice.

In fact, music has always been part of the Baravilala sisters’ DNA. Their paternal and maternal grandfathers were musicians.

Their maternal grandfather released and wrote his compositions. He recorded “Caucau ni Ului Tomuna” which also featured their grandmother, Helen, who was also singing in her day.

“My mom performed at USP when she was young and earned her own talent quest and dad always played bass and wrote songs,” Elena revealed.

“Our fondest musical memories will always be our family jams where we took turns doing solos or backing tracks and we loved family harmonies – it was one of our favorite pastimes.”

Elena says Salome brought out the best in herself when the siblings performed together.

“I often had to bribe her because she didn’t really like the position of backup singer because she knew she was too good to be my backup but nevertheless she was the best at it.

“I was already coming out into the Fijian music industry and taking her everywhere with me. She was a part of it and a natural fit into the industry.

Salomé was also part of Suva-based band The Gang from 2016 to 2018.

“She had a great time with The Gang,” Elena said, “It really pushed her into the spotlight, which she loved, and gave her the opportunity to be in her element and shine.

“The band contributed immensely to her musical career and vice versa, she did to the band.

“They were like family and had their own special bond and created their own memories.”

The lesson Elena learned from her younger sister was to have a good heart because “it’s the most important thing in life.”

“She wore her heart on her sleeve and had a heart of gold, and I’m glad people remember her more than anything about her.

“She was always selfless, caring and always ready to serve, respectful of elders as well.

In summary, Elena said that Salome was a beautiful gift to this world.

“She is now in a better place to sing with the angels and we will see her again one day,” she said.

“We will always hear her voice forever and her beautiful memories live on. She has become more alive than ever and her physical presence will be missed.


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