Growing up in Tailevu in the 1950s, Satya Wati was fascinated by the sound of musical instruments.
Her father, Jowahir Lal, was renowned as a singer of kirtan (Hindu devotional song) and listening to him practice inspired her to learn Dholak.
But because it was frowned upon around this time for girls to engage in music, Satya practiced on empty gallons and drums, imitating what she had heard her father and his band play.
Today, she is a respected lokgeet, sohar and kirtan artist and has won numerous community and religious music awards. But his musical journey has been anything but easy.
“My sisters and I used to see our father singing Kirtan and doing Ramayans in our community and we were really encouraged by him,” said the 67-year-old.
She said the family’s financial situation prevented her from studying, but she didn’t let it stop her from learning music and following her passion.
“As long as I could walk and do things on my own, I would take paint cans and play rhythms on them —— using them like dholaks while I sang the kirtan I heard at the radio or my father.
“My sisters and I were not allowed to approach the dholak during our childhood because we feared damaging them because we didn’t know how to play them properly.
“But when we were given the opportunity to practice on a real dholak, we would clap until our hands were sore.
“After seeing us play paint cans like the dholak, my dad realized our interest and started teaching us dholak and harmonium.
“I didn’t learn the harmonium because my interest was only in the dholak at that time.”
Satya said that the artist she is today was a direct result of what her father and mother taught her when she was a young girl.
“My parents were very supportive and their encouragement strengthened my confidence to start singing Kirtan in the community.”
She said she used to keep her ears glued to the radio and listen to artists popular at the time to learn the lyrics.
“I don’t have a particular singer that I am, I listen to everyone and if I like a particular song then I will learn it or if I go to a wedding and the lokgeet played there m ‘breathe in, then I’ll teach him to sing it.
During her childhood in Tailevu, Satya said that she used to sing with her three sisters in the community until she got married. She said the marriage marked a new chapter in her life and it also brought her singing career to an end.
“My husband didn’t like me to sing Kirtan, Lokgeet or Dholak, so I stopped.
“I got married to Ba and my husband was a farmer, so for about 10 to 12 years I stayed at home, cooking for our workers and taking care of our household.
Satya said that due to some issues she returned to her family home in Tailevu and regained her mojo music.
“After moving to Tailevu, I started singing with my sisters again but it was only in small family functions or at special events in the community.
“Later I moved to Suva with my two children, but since I was alone I couldn’t handle too many things at the same time, so I started working in a garment factory, doing sewing at home and singing at events. as a parallel concert.
As she began to regain some stability in her life, Satya suffered a setback.
“My husband passed away and even though he didn’t live with us, it really affected me.
“I didn’t feel like singing anymore but kept telling myself that I had to continue for the sake of my children and their future.
“Life was very difficult for me after moving to Suva, but my sons, especially the support of my youngest son, and the idea of keeping them happy has always motivated me to work hard and keep watching. to the future. “
Satya said that through her talents – singing and sewing – she managed to build her house in Tacirua after renting for a few years in Suva.
She recognized the support given by the Nabua Nari Sabha which motivated her to show her talent after her time at Suva.
The mother-of-two said she “officially” started her singing career between 2007 and 2008, where she formed her own band and recruited instrumentalists.
“When I started it was hard to get gigs because I was new, so my performance fees were pretty low.
“But as I got performances and started to be recognized, I increased my fees and even the number of concerts started to increase as well.
“The concerts have continued even now, and I’m so humbled because I’m not that famous because I haven’t released a lot of albums, I only released three lokgeet albums about 10 years ago.
“For me, music is my passion, it’s not about being famous, it’s the key for me.”
She said she always followed the lyrics and styles she learned as a child, as she wanted to preserve the traditional method of singing.
“A lot of artists today are influenced by modern innovations and styles, and I want to keep our old music alive. “
Satya said she takes great pleasure in seeing people celebrate and enjoy her music.
“Seeing people happy when I sing is priceless.”
Currently, Satya sings lokgeet, sohar and kirtan songs and does some home sewing work for a living.
Over the years, she has won several awards and been recognized by various groups.
“It is so good when I am rewarded or recognized for not having an academic background, but I have learned a lot from my journey in life.”
Satya encouraged the young people to sing along and carry on their tradition.
“Kids these days are attached to their phones most of the time, so I encourage them to take an interest in things that will keep our culture and traditions alive.
“You never know, it could save you a living too. “