The ‘Honey Bucks’ – The liquid gold and dollars behind band’s name

Surviving members of the Honey Bucks band (left to right) Jone Salacaucau, Ratu Voasa Iranavuna and Nemani Morowaitui. Picture: VILIAME ODROVAKAVULA

Jone Salacaucau’s love affair with music began the day his father bought him a ukulele.

It was in 1965 and the instrument was purchased as a present to mark Salacaucau’s sixth birthday.

Even though he is a 71-year-old grandfather, he says he can still recall unwrapping the gleaming new instrument.

“I didn’t know that the little ukulele would lead to me being involved in the music scene in a big way one day,” he said.

Salacaucau said he attended Nausori District School during his primary education and moved on to Ratu Kadavulevu School (RKS) for secondary studies.

While there he got his first taste of live music performance.

“They used to have talent quests at RKS on Fridays and it was something all the students looked forward to.

“And sometimes it would involve a group of students or sometimes one brave individual would get up on stage and sing a song.

“That’s where I really got inspired to perform.”

He said after high school he enrolled as an apprentice in the construction department with the Public Works Department.

And out of the thousands who applied, Salacaucau was lucky enough to be chosen to work on the construction of the Suva Civic Centre.

When he completed his apprenticeship, he worked in many places in the ‘70s and after work he would play the guitar and serenade with his brothers.

As their repertoire grew, the brothers decided to form a band and they began practicing every Friday after work.

He said when the band was formed they were invited by many villagers to perform at functions and they had to hire instruments from the Golden Dragon Music shop at Victoria Pde, Suva.

As they began to grow in popularity, the group began to think of a name.

“You know everyone was working hard for their money at that time and money was considered gold.

“I was thinking of honey because of its sweetness and it was like liquid gold and bucks for dollars, so I named the band “Honey Bucks”.

He said they became so popular that they were invited to perform in Nausori, Suva and many places around Fiji.

Salacaucau said Christmas and New Year were the busiest times for the Honey Bucks.

He said after the New Year’s Eve gigs, the band would be engaged for one week.

“After a church service every night, we provided entertainment and people from all around would gather in their village.

“It was good, clean, fun and everybody enjoyed the food and kava until morning.”

Salacaucau said the band decided to purchase a carrier from their earnings and after a while they traded in the old carrier for a new one and eventually bought their own instruments.

He said when Kabu ni Delai Kade released their album, Honey Bucks sang most of their songs and made the band even more popular.

Salacaucau said after being on the road for some time, they decided to stay close to home and were the house band at the Viti Night Club in Nausori Town for two years.

He said after performing they would buy cartons of beer and have a party until the early hours.

“One of my dad’s rules was everybody must go to church every Sunday.

“If you didn’t attend church you are not allowed to eat with the family.

“So every Sunday morning after we came back from our drinking party, I would quickly shower and go and sit with the church choir.

“My friends who sat beside me would smell the alcohol on my breath but they would just ignore it.”

He said he decided to quit the group because age was catching up but his brothers continued.

But an unfortunate event brought an end to the band.

He said it happened after a New Year’s Eve gig at a night club in Suva “It was a tradition for the Honey Bucks to entertain at the community hall after New Year’s Eve.

“That year, after the church service, everyone was waiting for the band at the hall when a police car arrived at 1am and told us the band’s carrier had gone off the road at Koronivia.

“He said all the instruments were damaged and the boys had escaped with just had a few scratches to their body.

“We thanked God that none of the band members died that night and just drank grog as a community.

“That was the end of the Honey Bucks because most of our instruments were damaged and also our transport.”

Life continued for Salacaucau until a former school mate turned up at his door and shared scripture with him.

“I told him that I was going to church every Sunday but he did not stop coming around, I finally gave him my lead guitar and mixer and never saw him again.”

When asked of his thoughts about today’s music scene, Salacaucau said there were too many groups using music created on a computer and there was no life in the sounds.

“When you have a live band, all the energy and creativity of the musicians, combined with the harmonies from the voices is what touches people.

“When I see the groups nowadays singing beside a river or in a another setting, it doesn’t mean anything.

“People prefer to listen to live bands like Nabukalou Serenaders, Waikoula Kei Tavua and the others that play on the Sigidrigi program on Fiji One.

“It’s the same with radio, when I relax at home and listened to the Domoi Viti Radio Fiji One station, I feel like I am in heaven because of the lyrics and the musicians who played on those old songs.”

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