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An ode to Tu Kini Cama

In my final year of high school I went to 231 Waimanu Rd to audition in the dungeons.

I got my first part time job.

I was honestly in awe that I’d got my dream job right out of high school then cherry cream topping, I was told to report to the mid-morning show, Lenora would train me how to panel and use the wizard (radio peeps if you know, you know).

My first thought that morning ‘Be cool, be cool Neis, it’s only Lenora former Miss Hibiscus and mega celebrity’. Lola disarmed me immediately and was the best cheeeechar. What I didn’t realise was I would also be meeting Tu Kini Cama for the first time, his morning show was immediately before.

As I stood in the narrow hallway and waited for the ON AIR light to go off and enter the studio.( Ashwin from ‘engine-ring’ entering his room and judging the newbie) I was struck by two things as I listened to Tuks.

1. Force of nature - I spied through the little window that he was on the phone, (that grey telephone monstrosity with the multiple flashing lights that gave me deep anxiety) He looked to the screen and said ‘Gotta go’ slams the phone down puts the cans on and turns the music up, pushes up off of his chair and immediately starts dancing and flips open his newspaper, he slams his mic on and says ‘Breakfast with Tuks’ and starts talking about the price of sugar. I had just witnessed for the first time the signature energy of Tukini that is bottled in a studio every morning and sent out to Fijians from 6-9 on air. He was a force of nature. You can’t replicate it.

2. Warmth - When I was finally introduced to him, if you can imagine a timid Neisau saying ‘Hello’, his smile and genuine greeting of ‘Hello Lewa’ and subsequent questions of ‘Which Tuidrak family?’ and ‘What school did you go to?’ had me feeling like he was the cool uncle on the team. I adored him instantly.

After training, mid-dawn shifts were assigned to me because that’s where they sent the newbies to test their mettle because only the drunk/grog doped were listening at that time sooooo if mistakes were made the damage was minimal.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided it would be a great idea to pair me with Tuks for breakfast.

I was a mess, excited yet anxious, trying not to throw up cause I was going on air with the guy I grew up listening to.

FM4 picked me up then Tuks from his home in Nasese at 4.30am and as soon as we got into studio he said to me ‘Right show prep, go across to the shop pick up Fiji Times and Fiji Sun’. I came back to the studio with newspapers in hand, sat down as a song was playing.

Tu Kini Cama and I with Austin Powers just outside the VIP box where he chatted to Chester Williams and the SA team like they were long lost buddies

Tuks all of a sudden yells ‘Open the newspaper Neis, we’re going on air in one minute, you ready, what are we talking about?’ and that was the start of Breakfast with Tuks and Neisau. A real baptism by fire  for me but it was pure Tuks.

Tuks would eventually take me on my first official overseas work trip as a working adult to the Wellington 7s with Akuila Qumi and our GM Ian Jackson. I think William Parkinson only agreed to it on the caveat that Ian come too to babysit us and we were all crashing at William’s mum’s flat in Wellington (keitou budget jiko) along with William’s male cousins from the farm.

On our way to the sidelines we saw Chester Williams, I was official photographer for the trip so I got someone to snap shots

Day 1 - was a blur, I was knocked out in the one room Tuks, Akuila Qumi (voice of Patricee and Mr Bean) and I were sharing cause day drinking was not my friend. Tuks and Akuila wanted to check out a jazz bar. I remember Tuks waking me up before collapsing on the couch to say ‘Neis there is a naked white boy walking around the house, o koya mateni jiko. Wake me up if you have to go to the bathroom’  Said naked boy was still in the kitchen the next morning. We averted eyes as we rushed to the front door.

He was always looking out for me even in our drunken stupor.

Day 2 - I have no idea how he managed to talk his way (with us in tow) into the VIP lounge, the changing rooms and sidelines of the match like we were officials and the after party. Tuks would walk up to the security or person in charge start chatting and wave us in (this is why he was probably sent to interview gang at the parliament during the coup because of his ‘come sit with me and talanoa’ skills)

We had limited access media passes so to this day I am still in awe of Tuks jamuu skills.

I would eventually go on to host the breakfast slot with Merv after he left CFL.

In the players we got in there? Tuks, it was all Tuks

On February 13th, World Radio Day. I acknowledged Tuks, Akuila and Merv my co hosts that spanned my radio career. Tuks and I chatted briefly and a short 5 days later he would be with us no more.

Vinaka Tu Kini for mentoring me during my early radio career and teaching me to ‘question the man’ and ‘you’re only as good as your last show’.

I’ll play your fave filler song ‘Keep it coming love’ one more time.

RIL my guy.


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