Video: Is it Viola Losehina or Isa Lei? Confusion for singing Tongans at UN causes hilarity online

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A performance by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva and some of his cabinet at the UN was thrown into confusion for a moment when they couldn’t work out whether they were singing the Tongan or Fijian version of one of the Pacific’s most famous songs.

But a video showing a performance by Tonga’s Prime Minister and his ministers singing at the United Nations has been greeted with good humour on social media.

The Tongans were singing at a function hosted by the Papua New Guinea delegation.

Singing for the kingdom were Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, the Minister of Infrastructure, the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister’s PA, Lord Fusitu’a and the Ambassador to the UN.

The Tongan delegation performed the Tongan song Viola Losehina.

Their performance went well until one of the delegates, Po’oi Pohiva, called out “’Ise’isa” to alert the singers to the beginning of the next verse.

However, this confused them into singing the Fijian version of the song, the chorus of which begins with “Isa Lei.”

The Tongan chorus starts with “Fakapo.”

In the confusion the song faltered for a minute because the delegates did not really know the Fijian version of the song or what words after “Isa Lei.”

The Tongan delegation attended the 71st Session of the United Nations in New York which began on September 13.

During the sessions Tonga signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

As part of the farewell programme the Pacific countries were invited to a reception to mark Papua New Guinea’s 41st anniversary of independence.

Each country was given the opportunity to perform an item in a ‘Pacific’s Got Talent’ section during the evening.

Facebook users responded with humour.

One person wrote: “Tulou atu. Mou omi ange heni” This translates as: “Tulou (respect to the delegation). Can you all come here.” This is a Tongan contextual joke intended to show that because the performers failed in their performance they deserve a punishment.

Another commenter jokingly said the most important thing was that the start of the song and its ending were well performed.

“Not bad at all,” another said.

Hon. Pohiva’s daughter Ana Pohiva Koli, who uses the Facebook name ‘Iolani Pohiva Koli, said: “Te u mate he kata”. This translates as: “I will be passing out from laughing.”

The Prime Minister’s son, Kili Ma’ilei Pohiva, asked if somebody could punch the person who was singing on the microphone. A reference to his brother Po’oi.

Viola Losehina

Tongans believe the song Viola Losehina  was composed by the late Tongan chief Tu’ivakano Polutele. The chief and other sources claimed Polutele composed the song while he was one of the late Tungi Mailefihi’s singing group while the Prince Consort was governor of Vava’u in 1915. The song was composed after the Prince asked each member of his group to compose a song for his wife-to-be, the late Queen Salote Tupou III.

However the song is popular with the Fijians as Fijian farewell song and they have claimed it as theirs. However, in an interview with ZCO – now Tonga’s Radio A3Z – the late chief and well known composer and musician said the song arrived in Fiji because of his very close blood connection with the Fijians.

One source claimed the song was taken to Fiji by a Tongan, Taitusi, a well known composer. He and a group in Fiji sang the song and Ratu Tu’ineau or Ratu Tevita of Fiji heard it and he asked Taitusi for the music so he coukd use it with his own Fijian lyrics.

The song also has an English version in which it was recorded by Late King of Rock Elvis Presley in one his tour to Hawai’i.

Fijians believe Isa Lei was composed by the late Turaga Bale na Tui Nayau Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba. He was the father of the late Turaga Tui Nayau and Fiji’s First Prime Minister , Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. He is said to have composed the song at Tubou, Lakeba in 1916 for Adi Litia Tavanavanua.

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