Fijian singer-songwriter makes 1st trip to Steamboat
December 29, 2011
Steamboat Springs — In Wise Katubadrau's native language of Fijian, his last name means "100 doors."
The doors signify opportunity, like the door he walked through when he moved to Vermont seven years ago, where he had to adjust to a new culture and a new climate.
Or like the door he walked through when he finally realized his heart was in musicianship, and when he asked to be let go from his pharmaceutical job and moved to Los Angeles to perform.
"It means there's 100 doors I can go into, not only in Fiji but worldwide," he said this week in his soft-spoken, island inflection. "One door closes and another opens.
"And that's not including the windows," he laughed.
Katubadrau, who now is based out of Los Angeles, where he gigs six nights per week, will make his first trip to Steamboat to perform this weekend as a one-man band.
He plays Saturday night at the Bear River Bar & Grill at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area for the restaurant's New Year's Eve comedy show. He also plays there during the day Sunday, when Yvad from the Wailers will join him.
On Monday, he plays a free show at 5:30 p.m. at Sweetwater Grill.
Katubadrau ends up in Steamboat this weekend because of rugby. The sport — a national pastime and a near-religion in Fiji — was always an integral part of his life. He was recruited to L.A. by the Rugby Club, where he met fellow "rugger" Julian Bristow.
Bristow recently moved to Steamboat and works at the Bear River Bar & Grill.
In Fiji, Katubadrau grew up on the beach, where not only reggae but also country music were major influences on his upbringing. Performing music was engrained in his family, so Katubadrau gravitated the other way. He avoided singing in church as much as he possibly could and rebelled against his family's strict Christian culture by hiding a transistor radio under his pillow so he could secretly listen to top 40 music.
Though he never wanted to be a musician, it was a part of him from which he never could hide.
In Vermont, he began to play a few open mic nights, and he laughed as he recalled being fired from his first paying gig at Mount Ascutney.
But after that first disastrous show, he picked up an acoustic guitar, began playing drums with his feet and singing pop, country and reggae covers from that place in his heart where music never left.
He spent some time in the recording studio this summer, where a few of his heartbreak-inspired original songs were laid out. But he feels more at home in a live setting. It's both welcoming and terrifying at the same time.
"I like to perform now. I love it, but I get stage fright, man. Like, I'm coming out to Steamboat, and I really don't know what type of crowd it is," he said. "But I love ski towns. It's always fun. People, they come up there and they want to have a good time."
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com