Billy on song 50 years on

BILLY Knight, the champion bodybuilder and the only sportsman to have held the prestigious Mr Australia title three times in a row, jetted into the country on Tuesday with the Brisbane 7s team.

The side is here to participate in the 29th Fiji Bitter Nawaka Sevens competition.

His son, Corey, is the team manager and Billy is here to inspire former Wallaby Radike Samo and his men during the two-day competition.

At 66, Billy is the epitome of how hard work, commitment and sacrifice reaped rewards.

His consecutive Mr Australia title wins is a record yet to be equalled and Billy has more than 20 other awards, accolades and titles under his belt.

While many will be aware of Billy's outstanding success in boxing and bodybuilding, his contribution to local music has always been overshadowed by his achievements in the sporting arena.

Long before he won his first sports title, Billy won the hearts of music lovers with his unique bass guitar skills, stylish dress and wide vocal range.

In 1966, Billy, along with brothers George and Joel, performed as the Falcons.

They rose to become one of the tightest and most popular bands in Suva at that time.

"We always wore suits that my brother George designed," the 66-year-old recalled.

"Things were different in those days, bands did not just play music, they were there to entertain and the highlight was midnight dances that were held in venues across Suva.

"We tried to be as creative as possible and would do things like wear wigs to look like the Beatles and we would also emulate the Shadows dance steps while playing their instruments.

"We even had Manoa Rasigatale featured at times doing Cliff Richard numbers, he was also a great entertainer."

The Falcons spent some time at the Coffee Lounge on Nina St in the mid 60s. It was here, under the tutelage of George Knight, that the band developed its stage techniques and sound.

"George taught us all in respect to our specialised instruments. I got hooked onto the bass guitar and Joel onto the keyboard.

"But in terms of all the arrangements, harmonies and everything else, it was all thanks to George."

Billy has been hailed in local music circles for his unique and percussive bass guitar style.

However, he confessed to not being able to play guitar.

"I have got to be the only bass player from Fiji that can't play guitar," he chuckled.

"Luckily, I have a good ear for music and the only thing I need to know while on stage is what key the song is in and I just kick in and jam."

Billy shrugged off accolades from his musical peers. He said if there was one thing he had learned in life, it was that all musicians had something unique to share with each other and with the world.

"All bass players are good, some play with the music, some alongside the music and so on.

"I have a percussive style and I enjoy playing from underneath the music with the drummer."

In fact, Billy's style is a lot like another Fijian musician of note, Rupeni Davui.

Davui is revered among local musicians and regarded as a living legend alongside jazz guitarist Tom Mawi, fusion player Robert Verma and drummer Ben Rabaka.

Billy's younger brother and mentor, George, said the champion bodybuilder deserved every praise for his commitment and contribution to the local music scene.

"Billy was always different," George said.

"From when he first picked up the bass guitar with the Falcons in the mid-60s, he had a natural and unique style.

"He was a percussive player like Louis from the Brothers Johnson and had great stage presence.

"And something we were all envious about, Billy is gifted with a high range falsetto vocal very similar to Philip Bailey from Earth, Wind & Fire.

"All through the seventies he played in many successful bands like Equinox, Milford Sound and Penthouse Players.

"In 1992, we came back home together with our brother Joel and toured Suva and Nadi as Mataqali Music and closed the Hibiscus Festival.

"If I can remember correctly, the media reported the crowd at the closing to be over 42,000 people.

"It was an awesome experience but sadly most people didn't know who Billy was or remember his outstanding talent and contribution to Fiji music."

The godfather of local music, Ken Janson, hailed Billy's music and sporting ability.

"Billy is unique," he said.

"A musician, boxer, fighter and champion bodybuilder, he packs a wallop in everything he gets into including his punch."

This year marks Billy, Joel and George Knight's 50th anniversary in the music business.

And although the trio now call Australia home, they still consider themselves Fijian.

"I think it's the same for everyone from Fiji, wherever they go and whatever they achieve," Billy shared.

At a time when many people his age are making plans to go off the grid, Billy is doing anything but thinking of retiring or slowing down.

Last year he competed in the National Amateur Body Builders Association International meet in Cebu City in the Philippines where he scooped 1st runner-up in the Grandmasters Over 65 competition.

This year, he was named City of Ipswich Senior Sports Star.

"Who knows what next year might bring?" he laughed.

"Perhaps, a revival of Mataqali Music with the brothers back together and me back on the bass guitar.

"Anything is possible.

"Our success came from being a family, doing things together and helping each other.

"And one thing I have shared during international competitions and in my journey through life is that we come from Fiji, a land where the idea of everything being family is rooted in our ethos."

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