Fijian artist crowned winner of Pacific Break 2023

The 2023 Pacific Break winner is Hip hop and reggae artist Peni Tupou Roqara, known as Ju Ben. The Fijian singer won the top prize with his track ‘Sema Mai’, beating a record 366 individual song entries from across the Pacific.

In March of 2024, the 25-year-old sugar cane machine operator from Lomainasau, in Tailevu Province, Fiji, will go on to perform at WOMADelaide Australia’s largest international music festival. 

“Sema Mai has a deep meaning behind it, and it speaks mainly to young individuals like himself, encouraging them to have a positive mindset and to surround themselves with others who motivate and support them”, emphasized Ju Ben. 

The Fijian artist’s music consists of contemporary musical genres with traditional storytelling methods and his lyrics, delivered in iTaukei language, discusses social issues including mental health and politics.

His interest in music began in high school when he started writing poetry and was introduced to hip hop music by his cousin. Ju Ben mentioned famous rapper names like Tupac and Redman as his musical influences. He is also part of the VT1S, a Fijian music collection and movement, and performs regularly in the local music scene. 

WOMADelaide Associate Director Annette Tripodi, PNG-born Australian artist Ngaiire, Australian hip hop artist, producer and host of ABC Radio Australia’s In The Fale Hau Latukefu, host of ABC Radio Australia’s Island Music Rick Howe, and Samoan-Australian music journalist and host of ABC Radio Australia’s On The Record and Pacific Sundays Sosefina Fuamoli, were the Pacific Break 2023 judges on the panel. 

“Ju Ben stood out for his optimism, his natural talent as a performer, and the versatility of his sound and I look forward to seeing him at WOMADelaide next year. However, there were a lot of artists who could have easily owned the stage there and I hope to see them return to the competition next year. If anything, it has proven that music in the Pacific is thriving right now, and this is so exciting.”, said Fuamoli. 

The judges unanimously awarded Ju Ben first place for his musicality, passion and versatility. They also commended the high quality of artists overall this year, which tripled the number of artists entering this year’s competition compared to 2022. 

Papua New Guinean artists who took part this year were, Ragga Siai, TAZ, and Asi Vaname.

Loop Author