Fun, light, and easy, Kavatime is an album full of fun, relaxing tunes in the Polynesian style
Before we start the review proper, it’s worth noting for anyone who looks these boys up on Spotify that the songs are named incorrectly. For example, the song gloriously titled Please Don’t Touch My Papaya is actually played when one clicks on Masese, the following track, and Masese is played on the track named Ele Li Le, and so it goes. The last song on the album, Goodbye Song, actually starts the album, and the first song as stated on their own album artwork is the second track. I don’t know if this is a Spotify-only issue, or a more general problem with Fijian album production in 2005, but it is what it is. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be referring to the songs as they sound, not as they are named.
The Kavaholics are a band from Fiji, and as such their sound is steeped in the musical traditions of their native land and the Polynesian islands as a whole. Their name is a reference to kava, a Fijian drink. They have a very pleasant sound, and their album is mostly musically accomplished, but there are moments where it becomes a bit repetitive. There are attempts to diversify their music, but unfortunately those are mostly unsuccessful, particularly the rather silly song called Family Scandal, a lighthearted reggae-inflected number that didn’t resonate much with me, but it is only just over two minutes long, so I shouldn’t be too critical. That said, the other comedic song, Please Don’t Touch My Papaya works rather nicely. It’s silly, but in a good way, with a nice inuendo in the chorus.
“You can close your eyes, and you’re there, sitting by the sea on a deckchair, drinking a cocktail housed in a coconut, feeling the gentle island breeze on your face.”
Where the album is at its most successful, in my opinion, is in the slower songs, like Ele Li Le and Eleanor. Both sung in Fijian, they have a hypnotically relaxing vibe. You can close your eyes, and you’re there, sitting by the sea on a deckchair, drinking a cocktail housed in a coconut, feeling the gentle island breeze on your face. That, for me, was where the album succeeded most on its own terms, inasmuch as it was able to suggest a calming soothing mood that is distinctly Fijian using mostly traditional music. It’s really wonderful. For many of the tracks, they appear to have been recorded live, and the hubbub of clamouring noises in the background might be distracting initially, after a while I got used to them, and they really do add to the relaxed island setting. The songs Bula Malaya and Paradise Called Fiji is probably most emblematic of this. It’s a song that pays tribute to their home country, and also acts as an advert for the Fiji tourist board. It sounds like a lovely place.
Another thing I rather liked about the album is how sincerely they sing on many of the slower tunes. The faster-paced ones are more throwaway and childish, but on the island ballads, you feel the emotions of longing, sadness, joy, hope. The Goodbye Song, the last on the album is a good example of this, as the lilting vocals of the harmonised voices take the listener on an emotional journey. I don’t think anyone could accuse them of being an innovative or experimental band, and they definitely have a mode in which they’re comfortable, but it’s an album that’s easy to listen to. That said, if you’re looking for musical genius or lyrical complexity, you’ll be disappointed. There’s not a huge amount under the surface in Kavatime, but, to me, that did not matter greatly when the atmosphere their songs create is as chilled out and enjoyable as this.