SEVEN months after becoming the first Tongan to be inducted into New Zealand Music’s Hall of Fame, Wilfred Jeffs, who went by the stage name Bill Sevesi, passed away, aged 92,,on April 23. When the news trickled out via social media, New Zealanders and Pacific islanders both mourned and celebrated a lifetime of achievement. Known as the ‘Godfather of the Pacific’, Sevesi was a master player of the steel guitar and , who helped to popularise Hawaiian-style music in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
The Tongan-born songwriter also composed more than 200 songs over a career spanning six decades. “He was such a prolific icon,” said New Zealand member of parliament and Labour spokesperson for Pacific affairs, Su’a William Sio. “Though Tongan, we all wanted to own him. May his memory live long in the history of Pacific music.” When the annual Pacific Music Awards are held in Manukau, South Auckland on 9 June, there is no doubt Sevesi will be on the minds of everyone as a founding father for Pacific music who won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
“I was so very lucky to have known him. A true legend amongst us and one of the kindest, most positive, special people of the world,” said Pacific Music Awards event manager, Petrina TogiSa’ena. Sevesi was a stalwart of Auckland’s music scene through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as leader of his band.
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