‘Music was his guidance:’ Friends and family remember slain musician Toko Tasi at vigil

More than 100 people gathered at a candlelight vigil on Monday night to remember the life of local reggae and hip-hop artist Toko Tasi.

Tasi, 45, was shot and killed outside the bar P.B.S Pub & Company on Willow Street near Eucalyptus Avenue just around 11:40 p.m. Saturday. The gunman remains at large.

Born in Hawaii, he grew up in Long Beach and collaborated with the bands Sublime and Slightly Stoopid. Known for his melodic singing voice, Tasi at one point was signed to the Long Beach-based Skunk Records.

Tenya Uia,7, left, and her cousin Emma Donaldson during a vigil for their uncle Long Beach musician Toko Tasi Monday, August 12, 2019. Photo by Stephen Carr

Friends and family on Monday remembered him as a passionate musician and loving father to his daughter Liliana, whom he nicknamed “Bubbles.”

“Everybody loved him, everybody wanted to be around him,” said longtime friend Audra Visciti, who had known Tasi since they attended Hughes Middle School together.

Visciti said she was with Tasi and a group of friends at the bar on Saturday night shortly before he was shot. She said Tasi had been laughing and having fun with friends before he stepped outside and was gunned down.

“He was so happy that night,” she recalled. ” He said to me, ‘I feel so spiritual right now.'”

Police have not released suspect details, but multiple people on Monday said the man is known in the area.

Surrounded by flickering candles, mourners sang “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and Sublime’s “What I Got.”

John Taeleifi, chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, didn’t know Tasi but stopped by to lead short prayer service. In the Pacific Islander community, it’s customary for elders to give a prayer when someone has passed, Taeleifi said.

“We all look different, but we feel the same,” he said, before leading prayers in Samoan.

Musician Richard Smith AKA RAS-1,left, formerly of The Long Beach Dub Allstars and the band Long Beach Shortbus, is comforted by friend Billy Jack, During a vigil for musician Toko Tasi Monday, August 12, 2019. Photo by Stephen Carr

Tasi’s first cousin, Sua Uia, said the artist struggled after he lost his brother and parents but had worked to turn his life around in recent years. Tasi independently released his sophomore album “Rise ta Shine” in 2017 after a 10-year hiatus from his first album.

“Music was his guidance,” he said.

Tasi was known for singing reggae and hip-hop at establishments around town. He last performed Iguana Kelley’s in May.

Benefit shows are being organized for a later date to help support his family.

Vigil for Tasi, who was shot and killed Saturday night. Photo by Stephen Carr

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].