Speech by Professor Biman Prasad, Leader of the National Federation Party at the launch of “A Musical Journey” by Mr. Sattvik Dass

                                                     Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Shri Vishvas Sapkal, High Commissioner of India, Mr Sattvik
Dass, Mrs Shraddha Dass, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to speak and launch Shri Sattvik Dass’s “A
Musical Journey”. Mr. Dass in many ways is a living musical
legend who has inspired mentored and trained so many
musicians in Fiji. Personally, I marvel at his energy, passion
and continued interest in Hindi music. While this book is written
in English for a broader audience and I am glad Mr. Dass chose
to write it in English. The trials and tribulations of writing a
book and especially an autobiography is not an easy one. This
book therefore is going to be of interest to a broader audience
and not just lovers of Hindi music.

The book is summarised very well by Mr. Vijendra Kumar,
former Editor of the Fiji Times. It is appropriate for me to read
that summary.

Sattvik Dass had a burning passion from his earliest childhood
days. In this engrossing book, he tells of his journey in pursuit
of a dream to study and become an accomplished musician.
This magnificent obsession took him to India, the land of his
ancestors, on a scholarship to a famous music academy where
he mastered the intricacies of Indian music and then learnt at
the feet of an eminent guru to play the sitar, an exotic and
most complex instrument to master. His story is one of
ceaseless struggle, of finding love, of losing a love one, of joy
and sorrows and eventual triumph and fulfilment of his
childhood dream.

The book is well presented with both short and interesting
chapters with stories and details full with passion. From the
hills and rivers of Qeleloa and Vuniyasi the author takes a
breath-taking journey detailing carefully chosen experiences in
the chapters that follow. I note that as a young student Mr.
Dass participated in many musicals contests and he proudly
talks about Swami Rudranandji and A.D Patel as judges in one
of the contests. A.D. Patel who later formed the National
Federation Party became its founding leader in 1964. It is
interesting that Mr Dass had a close association with Swami
Rudranandji through music. Swami ji together with A.D. Patel
was at the forefront of the struggle to bring dignity, respect
and justice to mainly Indian sugar cane farmers as well as our
ordinary people. Therefore, Mr Dass is well versed with the
struggles of Mr Patel who was a giant amongst men and most
importantly, the founding leader of the National Federation
Party which is now 55 years old and the oldest political party in
Fiji.

In the ‘land of music’ chapter Mr Dass explains his encounter
with musicians and religious leaders from India. It is very
interesting to note that unlike other British Colonies where
Indian indentured labourers were sent, Fiji was fortunate to
experience and benefit from the arrival of many religious and
language teachers and musicians. This is probably one of the
significant reasons why even today Indian culture, religion and
language are very much alive and kicking. The preservation of
Hindi as a language has given us a diversity of languages which
include I-taukei and English. Unfortunately, for both Hindi and
I-taukei, the 2013 Constitution, section 31 (3) says that
“Conversational and contemporary iTaukei and Fiji Hindi
Languages shall be taught as compulsory subjects in all
primary schools”. I am not sure if this means that in future
formal Hindi and I-taukei teaching will not be a priority in
primary schools. I believe that a non-focus on formal I-taukei
and formal Hindi in primary schools will in the long-term
destroy the ability of students to read and write both I-taukei
and Hindi languages and could lead to language loss.
This constitutional provision in my view is an example of an
overbearing stench from the 2006 military coup, just as the
stench from 3 other coups since May 1987. I see Mr Dass also
recalls the political struggles after 1987 and the work of our
leaders in the restoration of genuine democracy.

The Dass family has directly or indirectly been associated with
politics for more than 50 years. They have been closely
associated with our former leaders. I am pleased to note the
continuation of this legacy by Mr Dass’s nephew, Bala Dass,
who is a stalwart of NFP and the general secretary of Fiji Cane
Growers Association for the last 17 years. In fact, Mr Satvik
Dass has composed many songs on the life and struggles of
our cane farmers and on NFP.

Mr. Sattvik Dass also talks about his Indian roots and how he
was able to explore that. Many years after he did that, today
we still have large numbers of descendants of Girmitya
searching for their roots in India. Off course it is much easier to
do that now.

Writing about one’s life journey is not an easy task. Professor
Subramani who has been acknowledged by the author for
helping him steer the writing of this book, aptly sums of the
struggle faced by Mr. Dass. I quote “So behind the song is
another story: the struggles to write a book. What started as a
simple chronicle of his achievement gradually became a
searching account of how an artiste finds his identity and
vocation. A Musical Journey is a record of what could have
been a grave loss. The journey in the book will surprise and
give courage to those who dare walk a different path”.
Mr Sattvik Dass remains a living legend. Thousands have gone
through him and have made their mark in Hindi music, tabla
and other instruments. I highly commend his book and
recommend “A Musical Journey” by Savttik Dass to not only
those who are interested in music but all those who are
interested in the history of Hindi music in Fiji and indeed the
History of Fiji.

I thank you all.