"Isa Lei" is a traditional Fijian farewell song.
The origin of this song is disputed. One versions holds that Turaga Bale na Tui Nayau, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba composed it in 1916 for Adi Litia Tavanavanua (1900–1983), when she visited Tubou, Lakeba, in 1916. The Fiji Museum holds Uluilakeba's manuscript, but according to its description he composed the song in 1918 while he was in training as a civil servant in Suva. Tevita Uluilakeba was the father of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, founding father of the modern nation of Fiji.
Alternatively, "Isa Lei" is the Fijian version of a Tongan love song ("Ise Isa viola lose hina") used to court the then Princess Salote (later Queen Salote). It was written in 1915 and was heard by a visiting Fijian sergeant. From there, the Fijians adopted it to a farewell song, but they kept the Tongan melody.
Lieutenant A. W. Caten, a bandmaster from the Fijian Defence Forces, created a foxtrot arrangement in 1932; he is often credited in modern recordings of the song, including in versions by The Seekers, and Ry Cooder and V. M. Bhatt on their album A Meeting by the River.
Isa Isa vulagi lasa dina
Isa you are my only treasure
Ise isa, viola lose hina,
Oh my! those viola white roses,
- "Classic tribute" by Samuela Kailawadoko, Fiji Times, 29 November 2016
- "Isa Lei (Fijian Farewell Song)" by Wiliame Gucake Nayacatabu, FijianLyrics.com, 25 October 2015
- Fiji Museum manuscripts collection, 1832–1972, reel 4, folder 30, D71, via Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University
- "Video: Is it "Viola Losehina" or "Isa Lei"? Confusion for singing Tongans at UN causes hilarity online" by Kalino Latu, Kaniva Tonga, 26 September 2016
- "The Tongan Contribution to Fiji's Welcoming Spirit" by Dave Langi, Matavuvale Network, 11 August 2011
- "Isa Lei" (music) : song / written and arranged by Lieut. A.W. Caten, National Library of Australia, OCLC 122451476
- Chords and words, tabs.ultimate-guitar.com
- on YouTube