Noted lyric composer, civil servant and journalist Tau’atevalu remembered

Tongan composer, broadcaster and orator Tauʻatevalu has died, aged 78.

Known for his good voice and composition of lyrics, he had a long involvement with the Tongan media.

He died on May 23 at his Falengameesi residence in ‘Utulau.

He composed many Tongan songs which were played by different string group bands including the Fōfōʻanga, Vākaunahu, Mosimosi Koula and Fotuelongo.

Among his songs played most frequently  by Tonga Broadcasting Commission radio since the 1970s were the songs played by the Vākaunahu, in which the first line of the first verse begins “Tulou mo e Pangai ‘o Ha’a Vavanga by Vākaunahu.” ‘Ōnia, played by Fōfōʻanga club, was also played many times.

In the 1990s he composed several songs for the annual Tongan National Music Competition Week. They were played by the Mosimosi Koula from Maʻufanga and Fotuelongo from Tofoa.

He wrote a paper, ‘Ko e Pule’anga Tonga’ (‘The Tongan Government’) which was published by the Ministry of Education in volume two of the journal Tala ‘o Tonga in  1990.

In the paper, which was written in Tongan, Tauʻatevalu said religion had always had a great influence on how the Tongan governing body formed and operated even before the arrival of Christianity and the establishment of modern government.

Various sources who spoke to Kaniva News about Tauʻatevalu’s composition ‘Ōnia said that he expressed his reaction to an incident which caused him to leave his position at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Tauʻatevalu was one of the first Tongans to be sent to New Zealand to study in this field and there were high hopes he would one day hold one of the top positions in the Ministry. However, this was not the case and he ended up at the media industry for most his life.

The word ‘Ōnia was a Tongan word coined from the English word onyx.

Born as Siosiua Holitei Fonua, he was appointed to the chiefly title Tauʻatevalu in 1988.

His career with the Ministry of Agriculture began with his appointment as an Agricultural Assistant Grade 2 in April 1959, before he was promoted as Senior Agricultural Assistant in 1964.

His competency in translating Tongan and English languages came to light in 1966 after he was appointed as an Interpreter for the Council of Agriculture in Vava’u.

He was appointed as Audio Visual Officer in June 23, 1971 and was the first Tongan to become the editor of the government-sponsored newspaper, the Chronicle from 1973 – 1976.

He started working for the Tonga Broadcasting Commission(TBC) on November 11, 1975.

In the 1980s he was the acting General Manager of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission.

As a member of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga Tau’atevalu worked as a Communication Officer at the church’s office before he became the Public Relations Officer at Tongasat in 1996, a position he held before he retired.

Tau’atevalu was buried on May 26.

He is survived by his four children with grandchildren.

Editor’s note: We have edited this story to change what we said before as the English word used by Tau’atevalu to coin the Tongan word ‘Ōnia. The English word was onyx according to Tauʻatevaluʻs daughter Lākai Fonua. “The black onyx is a powerful spiritual stone that has many meanings and applications. It is known as the “stone of protection” because it wards off negative energy and attracts good luck. It is also believed to be a protective agent against psychic attacks”.

The main points

  • Tongan composer, broadcaster and orator Tau’atevalu has died, aged 78.
  • Known for his good voice and composition of lyrics, he had a long involvement with the Tongan media.
  • He composed many Tongan songs which were played by different string group bands including the Fofo’anga, Vakaunahu, Mosimosi Koula and Fotuelongo.
  • He was the first Tongan to become editor of the government-sponsored newspaper, the Chronicle in 1973.

‘Ōnia by Tauʻatevalu, Siosiua Holitei Fonua

Fale’i fakamatapule ‘a Tau’ate Valu (siosiua fonua)

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