By FRANK B TAUNAKEKEI
FOUR days before PNG’s 40th independence anniversary, we lost one of the finest lead guitarists in PNG.
William David was an exceptionally talented lead guitarist, humble and well-respected by fellow musicians and music lovers alike, not only in PNG but in Australia and other Pacific Islands as well.
In his musical career, he entertained people of all walks of life from ordinary folks to a king and his family.
Wills, WD, Simo or simply Willie, as he was commonly known by relatives and friends, was born on April 20, 1958 into a family of 11 siblings (seven boys and four girls), the sixth born of David Kini of Kalo village in the Hula area of the Central and mother, Tegana Varivogo Agarobe of Gabagaba, the eastern-most Motuan village.
Music was absorbed into the Tongia/David family after it was introduced by eldest brother, the late Solo Tongia, the first private medical practicioner who was an accomplished lead guitarist and singer in his own right.
Dr Solo Tongia, whilst a student at the Papuan Medical College between 1964 and 1968, formed a band with fourth born brother, Vali David who was a student at Kilakila High School and Ian Johnson, son of Les Johnson, the administrator of the Territory of Papua.
The three of them would entertain in restaurants and clubs on Friday and Saturday nights for $10 per performance which was a lot of money back then.
Willie David therefore learnt to play the guitar at a very early age, having elder brothers who were semi-professional musicians.
Every piece of music the elder brothers could play, Willie emulated along with other musical pieces he heard over the radio or anywhere. The family were members of the Salvation Army which had a band that regularly performed with wind instruments.
With easy access to these wind-instruments, Willie also learnt to play the trumpet, the cornet and the keyboards. His brothers are also professional musicians and well known in music circles.
Vali, now retired, can play the French horn and trumpet apart from the guitar. Jerry, who is still going strong, was an original member of the famous Sanguma Band.
By the time Dr Solo Tongia died on Nov 22, 1981, Vali, William and Jerry were already professional musicians playing in well-known bands in Port Moresby. Vali was lead guitarist for the Bowstreet Runners in the early 70s and later played the lead guitar for the Purple Haze alongside the late Henry Fabila also with Clockwork Orange, teaming up with the late Jack Clun, Willie Love and Robert Chee.
The year PNG gained independence, Willie entered Sogeri Senior (National) High School and on his free weekends would join his cousins from Kalo village and play the lead guitar with the string band, Voiravetaira (Just like them).
In those days, string band music was very popular and Papuan string bands like the Rockers, Iarowari Drifters, Makohi, Kwikila, Gunai Miros, Samarai Islanders, Calipso, Zeros, Krymus, Kempa Tiarena, Hood Lagoon Brothers and Paramana Strangers ruled the airways.
In his second year at Sogeri Senior High, a young girl from Kinikalana village in the Aroma area of Abau District enrolled at Sogeri and she entered into Willie’s life. They eventually married in 1978.
After leaving school Willie joined the Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation (PNGBC). He worked as a banker in the daytime while most nights, he and the late Kevin Artango, Professor Nao Badu, Nou Pipi, Kevin English and younger brother, Jerry David would perform with the Tonics Band at functions in Port Moresby or anywhere else in the country.
If children do make a difference, Benjamin (Biffy) certainly did, and brought great joy to late Willie and wife Veali. Biffy was born in March 21, 1979 and remained their only child until Kiriana was adopted in 1992.
That same year Willie teamed up with Regley Tokana, Peter Kailap, Jerry David and late Wilson Tokana and created the Undecided Band.
In the meantime, his elder brother, Vali David was the lead guitarist for the Bowstreet Runners while other well-known bands playing with electric instruments were the Gwadu, Delepou, Freebeats, Copycats, Stalemates, Fuzzy Wuzzy and the Rainbow Band.
When the Bowstreet Runners and the Copycats disbanded, Vali David, Henry Fabila, Willie Love and a European teacher at the Hagara Primary School, Keith Stubbins combined and put together the Purple Haze Band. After a year or so, the Purple Haze split up and the late Jack Clun, Willie Love, Robert Chee and Vali David founded the Clockwork Orange Band.
When Vali had to go overseas for a couple of years, the Clockwork Orange didn’t have to look far for a replacement. In 1980 Willie joined Gau Aisi, Hera Morea, late Jack Clun and the late Steve Oala to continue entertaining scores of music lovers for 14 years until the late Jack Clun passed away in 1994 and the band was dismantled.
The 1989 Mini Pacific Games in Tonga brings very special memories to the surviving members of the Clockwork Orange Band as they were part of the opening ceremony. On the way to the Games, the Clockwork Orange responded to a request by the Sakiusa Band to perform at the famous Mocambo Hotel at Suva, Fiji.
Straight after the opening ceremony, the King of Tonga invited Clockwork Orange to perform at his royal palace where they entertained the king and his royal family and subjects till late at night. That apparently was one of the highlights of the Clockwork Orange era.
In 1993 and 1994, Clockwork Orange was the resident band at the Islander Hotel (now Holliday Inn).
Towards the end of 2006, Bougainvillean businessman and music enthusiast, Moses Rake bought a whole set of band instruments but was in dire need for musicians to utilise the instruments. He ran into Willie who quickly rounded up Steve Oala, Gau Aisi, Hera Morea, Terence Parascos and Martin Rawali and so the Freelancers Band was born and existed until Willie suffered a stroke in 2013.
Willie treasured the 2008 Freelancers’ tour of American Samoa.
There are many stories about this humble, sociable and simple man. One such story is when Clockwork Orange were invited to perform in Cairns, Australia. With time to spare, Wille decided to visit the Cairns Music Shop and while he was looking at a Wolfgang (PV) guitar, a salesman approached him and assured him that it was a quality guitar. Willie replied “I have one of the first original four manufactured in my possession.”
The salesman, with disbelief showing all over his face, ambled to his workmate and mockingly stated, “that creep over there is raving about owning one of the four original Wolfgang PVs!” Although he heard everything, he pretended he had not heard, and walked out of the shop while they were laughing at him. That night the salesman got the shock of his life when he walked into the hall where the Clockwork Orange were performing and saw Willie playing the original Wolfgang PV.
When Willie and his family travelled to Washington DC in the United States, he would go and watch the resident blues band every night at the hotel they stayed in. On the third night, the band’s lead guitarist, an elderly black American approached Wille and asked him to jam with the band.
Willie, somewhat shocked replied, “Sorry mate, I cannot play the guitar.” The black man laughed and asserted, “come on mate, I know you are a lead guitarist.”
WD was astounded so he asked, “how did you know I’m a lead guitarist?” The black American astounded him further by saying, “I can tell by the way you walk.”
Just imagine a person recognising your talent by the way you walk!
On Sept 12, 2015, between 8 and 9am at the Port Moresby General Hospital with his beloved wife, Veali by his side, Willie finally succumbed to a massive heart attack. He was buried at his beloved Kalo village alongside elder brother, Dr Solo Tongia.
By FRANK B TAUNAKEKEI