Sunday, July 31, 2016


The music of Mauritius has traditionally been influenced by the musical styles of other African countries and India, but other Western styles have infiltrated their music as well.  There is also quite a bit of reggae influence. I’m definitely not complaining about that. 

One particular style, however, pretty much dominates Mauritian traditional music: sega (no, not the video game system). Sega music is pretty much only sung in Creole, having its roots from the slave trade brought to the islands. It is largely built on improvisation, and the lyrics talk about life and the struggles of life. It also tends to be very emotionally charged. Sega music is actually played throughout much of the Indian Ocean island countries, each with their own variations. 

There’s also a dance that accompanies sega music. In this dance, the feet stay planted while the rest of the body moves. Sega music is typically seen as dance music because the dance is almost inseparable from the music, but it has also been used for semi-religious ceremonies, like funeral dirges and exorcisms. 

There are a few instruments that are widely heard in sega music as well as in other traditional forms of music. Percussion instruments seem to dominate the accompaniment, and instruments like the ravanne (a type of goat skin drum), the maravanne (a type of rattle), and a type of hand drum called the moutia are often heard in their music. A type of bow called the bobre is also used. Today, however, modern instruments such as keyboards and guitars are often played alongside these much older instruments. 

Another popular style is called seggae, a mix of sega and reggae. A musician known as Kaya is credited to its creation and making this style popular. Kaya often fought for human rights, but he later died in prison in 1999.

There are several other musical styles heard and performed in Mauritius as well. Other genres like zouk, reggae, and soukous are pretty popular among a lot of people. Rock and hip-hop are also growing in popularity, especially among the younger generations. Surprisingly, there are a lot of musicians in this small country. One musician I listened to who performs more traditional styles is Serge Lebrasse. The rhythms were almost syncopated or included triplets; it was kind of hard to tell. (The recordings I listened to was from 1959.) Alain Ramanisum and Désiré François have many of these same elements but uses far more modern instruments. Cassiya and Blakkayo are groups that rely on brass instruments (as do many other bands, I’ve noticed). Although, Blakkayo also has some elements of dancehall and reggae mixed in there as well. ABAIM uses a variety of percussion instruments as the instrumental parts, including several kinds of drums and metallic percussion instruments as well as vocals. Natty Jah incorporates some reggae into his music but also relies on a more traditional sound to his music as well. Zotsa falls into this category, but it sounds like they tend to use a synthesizer, and I’m just not quite a fan of it as I am real instruments. I could be wrong. 

I really liked the music of Zulu. It borrowed from jazz and blues and other traditional styles. I really liked what I heard. The Prophecy is another group who borrows from several styles, like reggae and soul, but what makes them a little different is that they sing in both English and French/Creole. Jah Mike, if you haven’t guessed by the name, also mixes reggae, a little bit of hip-hop, and sega. Don Panik is another reggae artist; he has a few catchy songs. He actually kind of reminds me of Shaggy at times. I wish there were more on Spotify. Otentikk Street Brothers is a reggae group who has quite a bit of melodic vocal lines that add to the drive of the music. I liked what they were doing. Supa Sane crosses over reggae and hip-hop, but probably leans more toward reggae or dancehall. I thought they made some pretty catchy songs.

There are even a few hip-hop artists I came across. Probably the most well known one is Mauritian All Stars who are actually pretty good. Their flows and cadences are nice, and the music underneath is generally pretty catchy. And they mix it up. I hate when I listen to rappers who have 12 songs on an album that all sound the same. So, at least they don’t fall into that category.

Up next: the food

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