By Sandra Kailahi

Music legend Bill Sevesi has produced his sweet Hawaiian Steel Guitar sound for over six decades and has no plans to stop.

Well known for his musical sound, Bill has played all over the country, in America and around the Pacific but it wasn't until April 2002, that he visited Christchurch for the first time. He was asked by a local organiser to go down to the Garden City to play two concerts.

"I've been everywhere else except Christchurch so I thought it would be good to go down and play," says Bill. "On the first night there was a small crowd but on the second night, we had around 300 people turn up. It was great."

In fact, Bill and his band were treated like royalty with Bill even being picked up by a limousine when he arrived off the airplane.

Now in his late seventies, Bill Sevesi, born Wilfred Jeffs in Tonga, started playing the Hawaiian Steel Guitar in 1936.

"I was living on a farm in Manukau where the town centre is now located and was listening to the radio station, IZM when I heard the steel guitar sound for the first time. I fell in love with it." He says it's the closest sound to the human voice and is so smooth and beautiful. Bill was 14 at the time but it wasn't long after that he learnt how to play the steel guitar, formed his own band and started playing gigs. In fact, he recalls his very first one.

"The Belvedere Girls' Basketball team had heard us play and asked us to run a dance for them. Not long after that we moved onto the Orange Hall." 

"We were called Wilfred Jeffs & His Islanders," but he quickly realised that his name didn't blend in with the Polynesian sound so he changed it. It only took five name changes to finally get one that he liked which was Bill Sevesi and His Islanders. It made all the difference.

Bill is widely remembered for his playing days at the Orange Hall in Auckland. He played there for over 19 years and recorded many songs. In fact today, he is on his 55th album and is still going strong.

Throughout the years, Bill has done many recordings for Country, Pop and Polynesian musical artists. He's also helped many artists launch their careers. He did some

Wilfred Jeffs & His Islanders later known as Bill Sevesi and His Islanders.
Bill Sevesi in his home-studio in Mt Roskill.
Bill Sevesi - Pacific music icon still going strong in the 21st century.

early recordings with Annie Crummer and the Yandall Sisters.

Today, he still continues to help young singers from all backgrounds. In 1995, he was rewarded with a Queen's Service Medal for his efforts and service to the music industry.

Then in 1998, he earned the "Jerry Bird Lifetime Achievement Award" at the International Steel Guitar Convention held in St. Louis, Missouri. He was also named Creative New Zealand's Pacific Artist of the Year in 1997.

But if you think that Bill has any plans of slowing down, you're wrong, he recently played in a Variety Concert with New Zealand musicians, Neil Finn and Dave Dobbyn at the end of May.

"Why should I give up, I love it. There are so many beautiful songs and artists around, and that's what keeps me going."


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