BY ALFRED PAGEPITU
LIVING with disability was never seen as a barrier for 52-year-old Tomme Tanisuda, or known in the local music scene as ‘Blind Tome’.
The gifted musician who was born blind, talked with the weekend sun about his experiences in making music as a lead guitarist and vocalist.
He decided to reveal his story when participating in an inclusive three days workshop (from Wednesday the 10th of March 2021 to Friday the 12th of March 2021).
The success behind his musical trade proves that one only needs his heart and not eyes to be a brilliant musician.
Currently he is the President of Blind visually impairment Association of Solomon Islands and hails from Bina, West Kwaio in Malaita province.
Tanisuda has never attended formal education or musical studies for that matter.
He comes from a family of six and has a bigger dream than just being someone living with disability.
Tanisuda said when he was born at his home village, he never knew until he grew up and that he was born blind.
“My mother got the shock of her life and couldn’t believe when she realised that I couldn’t see anything,” he recalled.
“My father died when I was 9 years old and I never learnt to read, write and do things that an able person could do,” he said.
“After some years, some village youths saw that I was not capable of contributing to my community, so I decided to learn how to play music and do my best to practice daily.
“This is my dream that one day I can be a musician,” he said.
He said that his family knew him very well because of his disability and took care of him as he grew older.
“I was inspired by famous artists like Brian Adam, Jimi Henrick, fire house and even Bob Marley as my favorite when I was young. I love those bands because of their styles of music and their lyrics.
This inspired me most that one day I can create my own music,” he said.
“But it was a totally different experience as I was most of the time laughed at and I felt out of place and hopeless,” he said.
“I never give up but I am doing my best. He continued to learn music at his home village, where few boys encouraged him to learn how to play a guitar.
“Only then and by practice he started to recognise the basics, and that he was a special person in learning music despite his inabilities.
“My only hope as a blind person back then is to learn to play a guitar and earn something for a living rather than depend on my mother, brothers, sisters or close relatives.
“I start to feel the surface of the guitar, the sounds of the strings, lovingly and softly at first, getting bolder as I go along.
“The sound of my music got me to paradise, where I can forget my status as a blind person.
He started to take serious interest in music and created his own styles of playing guitar, moving on to star as a lead guitarist where he decided to move to Honiara and engage in bigger shows with other local artists.
“My passion for music started early when I was 12 years old until today,” he said.
He said being a person living with disability the love of music can relieve your stress as you can never see anything around you, only feelings and sound.
His involvement in music helped his community to raise fund for school, church and an exposure to life outside his community.
“My interest in music started to grow so I decide to travel to Honiara in the early 1990’s to reside with my cousins.
“Between 1995 to 1996 I started to record my song and my passion for music gave me hope that music could be the only source of income for me.
He said that most of his songs are gospel songs, cover songs and chorus , his idea was to present the songs with deep meaningful message.
“I played from my heart. It was extremely difficult at first, but the fingers guided me along and I can create something different for my own.
Tanisuda got more feedback from friends and was motivated as he heard his songs being aired through SIBC.
“I don’t think I have had a more life-altering experience than depriving myself of the sense of sight. Such is the power of the specially-abled.
He said in 1997 he was involved with other musicians in Honiara and joined up with the Apprentice Band to travel overseas.
“My eyes hear, and my mind responded. My mind speaks and my heart responds with music when I heard that I will travel with the Band members to Papua New Guinea (PNG).
“I can’t believe that I was in PNG but I can imagine when I we were playing live on stage as thousands screamed,” he recalled.
“It was my first time to travel to PNG to join the South Pacific Musical festival in Port Moresby with other pacific musicians show casing different styles of music.
In 2001, he travelled to Nauru and spent one year six months in Australia. Learning to feel through the mind is also humbling.
“On my trip to Australia, I visited a few states, as I recalled I wondered how someone without the gift of seeing could travel to such amazing place like Australia but because of the love of music I made my own history.
When I returned to my home country, I was involved much with other bands and made money out of my talent.
He said that most of the challenges is that he had no musical instrument but had to borrow from others, and at times found it difficult when it comes to hiring instruments.
“Sometimes the money I raised couldn’t make any profit, but with the little I raise I am satisfied with the help I have given to my family.
Being a dad of two children, he acknowledged his wife, Eve Tomme who he adores so much even though his condition.
Most of his songs can be heard today and from his engagement with young people of Solomon Islands and those living with disability, his advice is to never give up on what talent god has given them.
“Music can provide good income in some ways, but in Solomon Islands, to become a musician is challenging compared with musicians in other countries,” he said.
“Never give up and continue on with your music career but let us not forget to go back to our original music where we first come from.
“Music changed my life as a blind person, so I would like to encourage others like me to never give up on whatever talents they have. I hope this story will be read by someone with disability like me to encourage him or her that you can make a living through music or other areas to earn a living out of darkness.
Tanisuda called the government and other NGO’s to help him provide his instrument and never to look over people with special need in Solomon Islands.