ISA LEI

(Fijian song of sad farewell)

 

VERSE ONE

Isa, isa, vulagi lasa dina


Nomu lako au na rarawa kina


Cava beka ko a mai cakava


Nomu lako au na sega ni lasa.

 

CHORUS

Isa lei, na noqu rarawa


Ni ko sana vodo e na mataka

Bau nanuma, na nodatou lasa


Mai Suva nanuma tiko ga.

 

VERSE TWO

Vanua rogo na nomuni vanua


Kena ca ni levu tu na ua


Lomaqu voli me'u bau butuka


Tovolea ke balavu na bula

 

CHORUS

 

VERSE THREE

Domoni dina na nomu yanuyanu


Kena kau wale na salusalu


Mocelolo, bua, na kukuwatu


Lagakali, maba na rosi damu.

 

CHORUS

(Repeat last line slowly and with much feeling).

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I have never seen published anything even approaching an accurate translation of these words — those in the famous Seekers recording are schmaltzy and inadequate.

 

Because I am frequently asked, while I make no great claims for it, what follows is my pretty literal translation of Verse One and Chorus (I make no attempt to turn it into rhyme):  

VERSE ONE:
 

Alas, alas, most welcome guest, Whatever the reason you came, I feel bereft at your leaving.

CHORUS: 

Oh, such sadness! I will feel so forlorn When you sail away tomorrow. Please remember how happy we were— In Suva, you will always be remembered.

NB: Anyone out there who speaks Fijian better than I, please feel free to write to me to correct this, and better still to also translate verses 2-3 for us.

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To anyone who speaks any Fijian it is painful to listen to the Seekers' mangling of the pronunciation and omission of ms and ns etc. from Fijian words, so I can't bring myself to include a link to this version on You-tube. You can find it there for yourself if you must.

For one of the most authentic versions of it readily available, lodged on You-tube by Joan Herrington, I recommend the following:

Sung in 1957

A later very polished version, beautifully sung by women only, is, unfortunately, a bit too up-tempo for the right mood of this sad song of farewell, but still worth a listen for the lovely voices and harmonies:

Teivaka Tonga