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Story behind the song: Ko ira na vuda (Our Ancestors)

This song relays the general belief of the modern Fijian that their ancestry, origin, journey and settlement in Fiji began in Africa. The surprising fact however, is that this song was never sung by the first Fijians who came into contact with missionaries and the period leading into and after the deed of cession.

Thomas William a missionary-anthropologist who arrived in Fiji in 1839 studied the native Fijians and could not trace an origin even noting ‘that native songs are silent in the matter’.

The story of the journey involving the Kaunitoni was first told to Sir Basil Thompson by a Jonacani Dabeta of Beqa around the early 1890’s. He discusses this journey in his book ‘South Sea Yarns’ published in 1892.

Reverend Ilaitia Tuwere also discussed this in his book ‘Vanua:Towards a Fijian Theology of Place’. He mentions that this belief became widely publicised by Ratu Kitione Vesikula, a chief from Verata (the home of Lutunasobasoba) in a series of radio broadcasts. The methodist church and also the government then helped in the dissemination of this legend which has now become widely believed by native Fijians as the story of their origin.

This is the English translation of the song:

Our ancestors, let me tell you
How they travelled from South Africa Verata their true village
From one side of the lake in Tanganiyika

Lutunasobasoba their leader
In their journey from South Africa With his wife
Lady from Egypt

Lutunasobasoba has five children
They are our chiefs
Only one daughter
O Bui Savulu staying in Bureta (Ovalau)

Roko Moutu staying in Verata
Vela Siga is in Burebasiga
Tui Nayavu in Batiki
Dau ni Sai is in Kabara

The reason they came away
Because of a wasting illness
They crossed the Atlantic Ocean
Looking for a land in the Pacific

A hurricane hit them
They felt unsafe in their canoe
In the Kaunitoni and the Duibana
The Kaunitera is the name of their canoe

Lutunasobasoba was wailing
Oh my descendents, I feel sorry for you
My stone chest has been emptied
And it goes with my book

Whether this legend only written around 1890 in a book called South Sea Yarns is true or not is open to debate. It is true that legends and family ties are close between the villages mentioned in the song. It is difficult to ascertain but it is likely that this ties were present before the book was published.

Something that can be questioned is the chest and a ‘book’ that sank in the ocean during a storm. There are no known writings in ancient Fiji but there are some caves that have inscriptions and carvings and some even claiming that they resemble old Hebrew characters.

But that is all conjecture and we will leave it there.


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15 comments to Story behind the song: Ko ira na vuda (Our Ancestors)

  • nemaia nababa

    Untrue story its just a made up story, the real story only the people of Ra knows it, time will tell the real truth God Bless

  • Ropate Nasau

    The first Fijian migration from Tanganyika occurred during the 10th century but if one has to dig deeper to find how Tanganyika was initially occupied, then the name CUSHITE will appear as the first migrants from Ethopia who first settled there during the first century.

    The well known Ethopian ruler in the Bible was Queen of Sheba. King Solomon’s son with the Quen of Sheba was Menelik whom King Solomon sent all the first born sons of the high priests to accompany him on his return to his mothers land after he visited his father when he was 13 years old.
    The chief priest son later revealed that he had also secretly brought the Ark during this return journey thus Menelik was terrified that it was the most dreadful cargo as of its Bible history.

    Since they have journeyed far from the Temple of King Solomon without any consequence he later decided to continue thinking it must have been approved by the Almighty God of Israel.

    The CUSHITES are the decendants of Cush whose father was Hem a son of Noah (from the great flood). The Cushites settled along the river Nile and their city was called Meroe. Similar to Marou as pronounced in Fijian….read on and search through the net with the enclosed brief and use the Bible as your guide for this could be the missing link of the Fijian race.

  • Jone Seniroqa

    Thank you Nemaia..can you tell me why does Ucunivanua Verata hold a soecial position for the people of Kabara as Mata-i-Kabara.The Ra people are also in Kabara and they hold a position called Mataisau. They arrived in Kabara before Daunisai. Definitely the Ra people were here in Fiji well before the arrival of the Kaunitoni. Lets respect who we are.

  • Truth be said, the voyage was one of utmost secrecy, no trace of origins, no written language(though they had theirs!),they didn’t know where they were heading and as if something or some power led them on, and the traces of their origins are fully revealed in studying the facts.
    Only Lutunasobasoba alone knew the secret and he died with it, however fortunately,we now know why.Why they were there? Where did they come from? What were their occupation? And what cause the dramatic and catastrophic error that otherwise had led us to leave? All this is contained in the book that fell overboard.

  • Vuli

    I very curious about this story but something make really sense to me which is the last Verse: Tagi mate o “Lutunasobasoba,Isa noqu kawa era sa vakaloloma, Noqu kato vatu dina sa mai tasova, Rau lutu vata kei na kena i vola.” Why did Lutunasobasoba cried and mourn for the book? Why is this books so important? The LDS or Mormon believes that Prophets keep records of their people and doing we call Scripture or bible. Satan will never make people keep their geneology or scriptures he tries to destroy it. Moromons believe that the Ten tribes were scattered around the four corner of the world and keeping their records and geneology with them. If you all remember Jesus Christ said John 10:16 “other sheeps which I have not on this fold them also I must bring.” Lutunasobasoba only one that knew the importants of those book and he lost it. He did not mourn and say o well that does not affect our people but he said our FUTURE GENERATION will suffer because no scriptures to help them become good GODLY PEOPLE. Mormon or LDS believes that there was a time call APOSTASY which is means DARK AGES. When god took all the scriptures away from us becasue of so many Sins. I believe we are direct descendant of the ten tribes of Israel that were lost.

  • Asiki

    They all arguing who came here first.Only one man came yesterday to changed and ruled everything on this land.His name is Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

  • Yalewa Ni Niusiladi Lailai

    Im so intrigued by all your comments. Every one seems to be coming from the same point that we did sail from some African location and on the way here something precious fell overboad. I heard it was the ark of the covenant but first time im hearing about a book. Couldn’t it be the bible? Just asking.

    Btw Akisi lol


    The first boat to arrive in fiji was the rogovoka this boat was led by TURA…..tHE boat settled at NAVUNI IVI in Ra… the reason this place of there settled was called NAVUNI IVI cause our first ancestors were named the TOMA NI IVI…..the second boat to reach our shores was the KAU NI TONI …which settled at VUDA which was led by LUTUNASOBASOBA……The third boat to settled was called the Kaunitera which settled at BUROTUKULA …..before Lutunasobasoba and his tribes followed up the TUA LEI TA…..the first people to come across that place was Ratu Doce the son of Degei the second…..the reason i said Degei the second cause Degei the first was are snake ……the reason this place is called TUA LEI TA….cause Degei the second asked his son ratu doce to walk across the land to see if any one has settled here already …and the meaning of tua lei ta …is NA TUA I TAMAQU….
    When Lutunasobasoba lost his pot of mana and the book …..he was so weak … theY traveled inland of vitilevu and build his house with this type of wood called the vadra …..thats why to this day the location of his house is still in the village of Nakauvadra…..Lutunasobasoba was the first king of FIJI and his Mata ni Vanua was Degei the second, Mataisau was Rokola followed up with the rest of his brothers RA KUMILEVU, RA MASILEVU, ROKO MAUTU etc. ……when we trace back history we FIJIAN people have settle many time before we reached our shores…. our place of origin was from TURAKISITANI SOME PLACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST…..we left TURAKISITANI due to a great drought that made our ancestor to move to EGYPT…..cause during that time EGYPT….WAS THE MOST CIVILIZED city in the world ……from EGYPT than we went town to lake taqani ika ……from taqani ika we sail down the pacific with the Malaya people and TUI Toga the first and his daughter her name was called SINA …..THAN Sina got married to the eldest son of Tura….and they stayed back in tonga after the voyage to fiji the rogovoka returned back to the Malaya island including Tonga …..when tui Tonga arrived in Tonga he told the son of tura that his father has found are bigger island ….so the couples than decide to come to Fiji and they brought their boat called the KAUNITERA which settled at BUROTUKULA….TO BE CONTINUED

  • If we are truly God’s people (descendant of the Israelite)then we don’t necessarily need a book nowadays to prove because Blood is our true identity and God who knows everything will lead us to come to know all these things by his own spirit and as long as he is here protecting us. However, what inspired me to think deep in to stories shared above was the same point brought above by Vuli, on the last verse of the song – When he mourned about his generation as the effects of losing that particular stone chest and its document. What so important about losing those item that was mentioned in the story? Perhaps it must have contained something that is very important, identical and vital to us, his future generation, which did sink during their voyage and I believe it could either be something about our ORIGIN or our GOD or BOTH. It was the fear of losing our identity that had him mourned, because they were Nomads who kept moving from place to place but moving with their own identity and origin as well as their belief on which God did they worship? Two causes of that fear are: He was worried that if his people did not know their identity, they might one day turn against their very own descendants which are the Israelite and secondly, one day his people might turn against their true God which was the God of their Forefather and the wrath that comes after that!Who knows, it was the mysterious work of God himself that had those missionaries came our shores few years later to fulfill what has lost by our Forefather! Just my 2 cents! God bless Fiji!

  • Malakai Vatutabu

    Its a made up story, first thing the name Africa was invented by Romans and was used to refer to just north Africa. And the to cross the Atlantic ocean they would have to trek across the width of Africa to west Africa, which reminds me lake tanganyika is in east Africa. They should have crossed from indian ocean.
    Ancient Africans or fijians didn’t know all this names egypt,Africa, Atlantic, egypt was called khmet by native Egyptians egypt is what greeks
    Called it. All invented by white mans lies just so they can say we are not landowners vinaka. P.s always do history research first dont believe everything you hear.

  • That reply though i came, i saw, i conquered BAHAHAHA

  • Whatever the story is only Jonacani Dabeta know it.
    The Roman English ( Bassil) man could have been adding the story.
    About the box & scroll one have to be familiar with ancient Egypt and Africa.
    Our origin in which I strongly believe is based on the word “YADRA ”
    YADRA is our first greetings which also mean YAH BLOOD.
    YAH is the name of the Kalou ni Lomalagi ( Same 68 : 4 ) the same ALOYAHIM of ABARAHAMA ISAKA & YAKOBA
    The book which is mentioned in the song is the Tora ni Vanua or in Hebrew it is the Torah.
    And the box is the replica of the Ark of the Covenant. Because in my knowledge I understand wherever the Hebrew goes they always took with them a copy of the Ark of the Covenant box and copy of the Torah.
    In my research we have similar Hebrew story in Fiji, Japan, and the AVAH ( Igbos ) of Africa, etc. ..this are the scattered tribes of Yisraelite.
    As for us in Fiji, we are the lost Yisraelite tribes without any traces of origin.
    We probably reverse the Hebrew language to confused the Roman people, because they were sent throughout the entire world to kill the people of Yisrael wherever they go.
    That is why they bulldozers all the ancient rocks evidence and destroy all the stones evidence they found.
    This is a very long debate, it will take generation after generations to solve this mystery.
    So I will leave you people with Isaiah 11: 11 & Hosea 1 : 10

  • jay vakanawa iko kila na wati sina o maui sega ni tura iko kauta mai vei na bullshit theory gori

  • Jokatama Qio

    We did not come from Africa, we did not have any written record of our history so where did this theory come from, it seems someone just pulled it out of thin air. Everything is an assumption and make believe. Let me prove these is all a LIE. They say Lutusobasoba had 5 children; Buisavulu who they claimed settled in Bureta, Ro Vela Siga settled in Rewa, Daunisai in Kabara, Rokomoutu in Verata and Tui Nayavu in Batiki, and where did that rest of Fiji come if Lutusobasobas children populated Fiji.
    We were created by the creator and the creator himself led us here, when did that happen only God knows.

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