Facebook Twitter

Jolly Gali is BYU’s choir boy

SHARE Jolly Gali is BYU’s choir boy

The happiest place in Happy Valley on a recent afternoon was the training room at BYU, where Setema Gali, the Cougars' joyful, defensive end, was providing the entertainment. While teammates were getting taped, iced, rubbed down, whirl-pooled and ultrasounded, Gali walked around the room, strumming his guitar and singing his "mustache song" through a wide smile, his head rolling with the beat. As if on cue, everyone in the room joined in, clapping with the rhythm, singing along, with the Sitaki brothers handling the harmonies.

Grow! Grow! Grow out your mustache! . . .

Was this football, or Broadway?

"We just try to make football fun," says Gali.

Fun and music seem to follow Gali (say it "NAW-lee"). He packs his guitar almost everywhere he goes — to the training room, locker room, hotel rooms, the football office, on airplanes, the team bus, around campus. He'd take his guitar into the training room ice pool if it were waterproof, but instead he and the other "Polys" — as he calls his fellow Polynesian pals — sang a cappella. He took his guitar to Jacksonville last week for the Florida State game, where he sang with his buddies and introduced himself to Chris Weinke, whom he sacked twice.

"He's always singing something," says Tom Ramage, Gali's position coach.

Gali is a bruising 6-foot-4, 245-pound senior who owns half of Provo's supply of charm and charisma. He's polite, outgoing, friendly, happy, and he's got a smile that could light up Cougar Stadium.

"There's a lot of joy to be found in life," says Gali. "Even with the loss to Florida State, there's lots to be happy about."

Someone needs to give this guy some perspective.

Gali and the Poly Boys, as well as other teammates, like to sit in the back of the team bus and sing "free style" — Gali plays a chord progression while everyone takes a turn singing an improvisational song. It might be about Florida State (Those New-Quarterback Blues?). It might be about a teammate. It might be about facial hair.

Music, music, music. The Poly Boys went swimming at the hotel pool last weekend and wound up singing in the water. This was before things got rough and a WWF-style wrestling match ensued. During last week's Florida State trip, they sang "church songs" in their hotel room when they weren't reading scriptures together.

There are probably worse ways for young men to spend their free time.

This week Gali and his buddies recorded a song for Sitaki's answering machine. Basically, these guys are providing a musical score for the background of real life.

"It's part of the Polynesian culture," says Kalani Sitaki, Gali's close friend.

Gali plays piano by ear. He also plays the ukulele and guitar and a little drums, and he sings well. He likes to play slow jazz, rap and island music. On the next road trip he and the Sitake brothers plan to work on some new church songs.

Gali used to play his music at church gatherings as part of a singing group called One Heart. They eventually split and formed new groups "because so many wanted to sing with us." Gali rarely joins them these days, preferring instead to spend his limited free time with his large, extended family during the football season.

Gali collaborated with Kalani and TJ Sitaki to write the unofficial team song, known as The Mustache Song to anyone who has had any contact with the team whatsoever. Inspired by a poster of the 1984 national championship team, in which many of the players are sporting thick mustaches, they took up the cause of facial hair. They changed the words to a catchy, old tune to write their signature song.

Chorus: Line-backers! Grow, out your mustache.

Ohhh-line, grow out your mustache. Traaainers, grow out your mustache. Quar-ter-backs, grow out your mustache . . .

The song inspired a mustache craze on the team, although some have since shaved.

"We sing the mustache song everywhere we go," says Kalani. "We sang it so much the whole team knows the words."

Gali comes by his music naturally. His father, Setema Sr., sang and danced in the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii to pay for his education. Later, he moved the family to Orem, but to preserve their Polynesian heritage he taught his children at a young age to sing and dance in the traditional ways. Gali, who performs a variety of Polynesian dances — fire walk, slap dance, haka — says "I'm a lot better dancer than musician." With 10 brothers and sisters, plus three stepbrothers, he never lacks for company of accompaniment. "We have a lot of good jam sessions," he says.

Life is a jam session for Gali and his friends and family. As he says, "We can have a good time whatever we're doing. We can make it fun. We're happy people."