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

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Today, Mauritian artists excel in a number of arts, from photography to painting to sculpting. Their art incorporates a mix of African, Asian, European, and Arab styles and influences. 
Galerie du Moulin Cassé
A number of art galleries are spread throughout the island, and some are quite renowned. The Galerie du Moulin Cassé in the town of Péreybère, which houses the works of Malcolm de Chazal and the nature photographs of Diane Henry, is actually in a 130-year-old sugar mill. The Caudan Waterfront is a great place to buy handicrafts, jewelry, glassware, and artwork from local artists.  

art of Vaco Biassac
Some of the more well-known artists and sculptors include Vaco Biassac, Nirveda Alleck, Véronique Leclézio, Nita Treeboobhun, Devanand Bhungsee, Khalid Nazroo, and Amrita Dyalah. There are several photographers and film directors who have made names for themselves, such as Nazim Sookia, Pierre Argo, David Constantin, Selven Naido, and Tibye Sobha. 

art of Amrita Dyalah
Literature in Mauritius is published in several languages: English, French, Mauritian Creole, and some Indian languages. And although most of the people speak Creole, most of the literature is written in French (probably to make it more marketable). 
Dev Virahsawmy
After the country gained its independence, there was a natural push for nationalism. And with this, some writers also pushed the importance of using Mauritian Creole as a national language. Many writers starting writing in Creole (also called Kreol or Kreol Morisyen or sometimes just Morisyen), like Azize Asgarally and playwright Dev Virahsawmy.

Mauritian literature touches on many important themes that a broad scope of readers can identify with. Subjects such as interracial relationships, multiracialism, and exoticism are intertwined in the storylines of their literature. The dichotomy of old and new ways of life is at the heart of their stories: mixing old superstition in with politics or ethnic issues. There have even been new styles come out of their multi-ethnic communities. One style is known as “coolitude,” a a type of poetry that stemmed out of the Indian-Mauritian community. 

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
One writer put Mauritius on the literary map. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (also known as J. M. G. Le Clézio) is a French-Mauritian writer and professor who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008. Mauritius also as its own Le Prince Maurice Prize which awards the best love story, regardless of genre. The award switches every year between literature written in French and English. 

Khal Torabully
Some of the more well-known authors include Ananda Devi (mix of Indian and Creole, she’s an award-winning author), Aqiil Gopee (writer and poet, has published many works and won many awards just since 2011), Marie-Thérèse Humbert (writer, aspiring politician), Malcolm de Chazal (writer, painter), Khal Torabully (poet, first coined the word “coolitude”) and Shenaz Patel (writer, one of the founders of the literary journal Tracés).

Up next: music and dance

Sunday, July 10, 2016


A couple years ago when I started this blog, I joked with my kids about country names that sounded like their names. My son Jabari’s name sounded kind of like the country of Djibouti, and my daughter Marisa’s name sounded a little bit like the island country of Mauritius. And now, we’ve finally come to her “name country.” They were kind of disappointed that I didn’t really have a name country, except if you extended it to cities, I suppose my name city could be Bethlehem, perhaps. 

The Dutch originally named the island Mauritius, after Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of Holland (sort of like a hereditary head of state in the Netherlands during the 16-18th centuries) and Prince of Orange. In fact, the French word for the country today is Maurice, although when the French took it over, they called it Isle de France. When the British took over, they renamed the country Mauritius; it’s known as Moris in Mauritian Creole. 

The islands of Mauritius are located in the Indian Ocean off of the eastern coast of Madagascar. It’s part of a group of islands called the Mascarene Islands, which includes Mauritius and Réunion (a region of France). The main island of Mauritius is where the capital Port Louis is located. But there are many other islands that are part of this nation, including a few disputed islands. The Chagos Archipelago used to be part of the Mauritius Islands under France, but when the British took over, they split it off from the country to form the British Indian Ocean Territory, along with a few islands from Seychelles. The Seychellois Islands have since returned, but the Chagos Archipelago remains. The British removed the people from the islands and leased out part of it to the US to form Diego Garcia Military Base (which, by the way, their 50-year contract ends this year). Where did all these Chagoans go? Mauritius, of course. There’s also a dispute with France over the island of Tromelin, north of Réunion. 
Mauritius has a tropical climate and is known for its clean air. They have warm, humid summers with cooler, drier winters. The islands also suffer cyclones that destroy their crops and land and bring a lot of rain. Although it’s a little cooler in the mountains, their tropical climate gives the islands a fairly large biodiversity, despite its small size.  

The islands were most likely first visited by the Arabs, but also possibly by the Greeks or Phoenicians. The Portuguese were the next to arrive, but they didn’t stay long. Then the Dutch arrived, giving the islands its name. They introduced some animals and sugar cane, while using up much of its ebony trees. It was from these islands that the famous explorer Abel Tasman set sail from before “finding” Australia (and the namesake of the island of Tasmania). They ended up abandoning the islands in 1710, and five years later, France, who was already controlling neighboring Réunion, took control of the islands, renaming them Isle de France. The French established a naval port at Port Louis and built a number of buildings that are still standing today. They were also responsible for bringing in slaves from Madagascar and other areas of Africa to work the plantations. The port served as a strategic location for the French navy during the Napoleonic Wars in regards to raiding British commercial ships, even though they couldn’t stop the British in the end. And the British then took over, renaming it Mauritius again. Not long after the British moved in, there were some uprisings, leading to the abolition of slavery in 1835. This had a direct impact on their agricultural economy, which caused the planters, who had already been compensated for their slaves, to bring in indentured servants from India to work their fields. The British also brought over 8700 Indian soldiers to the island as well. There was also little opportunity for Mauritians, Indo-Mauritians, and mixed race people to advance and/or take active roles in politics. Men like Rémy Ollier, Adolph von Plevitz, and even Mahatma Ghandi demanded the government for better treatment of the people. After WWII, they held their first elections, and in 1968, they were finally granted their independence from the UK. Much of the 1970s and 1980s brought periods of civil unrest as the government began figuring out where it was going to stand on issues and how it was going to be set up. In 1992, it was finally declared as a republic. Of course, there would be more civil unrest, but they would also be represented well by Bruno Julie for winning the country’s first Olympic medal and by Jean-Marie Gustave le Clézio for receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Port Louis is the largest city in this island nation with about 148,000 people. The capital city is located on the northwest coast of the main island of Mauritius. Historically, it served as a major port (and the largest port in the Indian Ocean region) and has seen considerable growth since the 1990s as a tourist destination. The city also serves as a financial hub and one of the largest financial districts in Africa. Port Louis has many secondary schools and a few universities. The city is also known for its European-style buildings still in use today, its highly developed Caudan Waterfront area as well as its own Chinatown. Of course, it’s not without its theatres, cinemas, museums, and sports arenas. 

The Mauritius Commercial Bank building. Very cool.
In regards to economic competitiveness, Mauritius ranks fairly high. It also ranks high in the Ease of Doing Business, ranking first among African countries (for the fifth year in a row according to a 2013 report by World Bank). Lacking in natural resources, they depend on imported petroleum but also the use of wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. Much of their economic drivers include textiles, sugar, fishing, tourism, and financial services.  

Mauritius is the only African country to list Hindu as a majority religion (with a little less than half the population). Christianity comes in next with about a third of the population; Islam makes up about 18%. There is a very small Buddhist following and a small number of non-religious people as well. Technically, Maritius is a secular country but offers the freedom of religious practice as a constitutional right. 

Like the United States, there is no official language in Mauritius. However, for practical purposes, it is both an English-speaking and French-speaking nation and both are generally used as the language of government, education, and commerce. Most Mauritians speak a certain amount of both languages, along with the vernacular Mauritian Creole, which is based on French but with significant borrowings from other languages including English and various African and Asian languages. Other islands have their own Creoles but are similar to Mauritian Creole. A number of other languages are spoken in the islands including Arabic, Chinese, Bhojpuri, Hindi, and several other Indian languages. 

Mauritius also stands famous for one thing I didn’t know: it was the only home of the extinct dodo bird. After centuries of not having any true natural predators, it eventually lost its ability to fly. So when Portuguese and Arab sailors stopped by the islands, they thought it was a great bird to serve for dinner. And then the Dutch came. When they introduced animals to the island, these animals thought dodo eggs were tasty, and the Dutch killed off the rest of the birds for themselves. The last dodo was killed in 1681. Way to go, Dutch. Thanks a lot. But I found some much better dishes to make. 

BY THE WAY -- this is my 500th blog post for Worldly Rise, so thanks for reading!

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, July 3, 2016


Well, luck of all luck, I got me a JOB. Yes, I must’ve done well at my interview, and I accepted a position in advertising sales for a large media company. So, at least my blog will go on, and all my bills will get paid up (eventually). We might even be able to take one those–what do you call it–a vacation? Anyway, it’s also Independence Day weekend here in the US, or in other words, celebrating our own Brexit. But it’s rainy and cool, so there are probably not going to be any fireworks displays going on. Bummer. 

Although it looks kind of yellowish in this photo, it actually is a light green color. It's rather tasty.
But to make it all better, I’m making food from Mauritania today. The first thing I made today was Pudim d’Avocat, or avocado pudding. I used two ripe avocados (mine were slightly over ripe, but the other two I bought weren’t ripe enough), and mixed it with 2 c of milk and 3 Tbsp of sugar. Then I took a small bag of slivered almonds (the package said it equaled ½ c) and ground them up, adding them to the avocado mixture. When I picked this recipe, I forgot that my blender went kaput, so I pulled out my hand mixer and mixed it in the bowl. It took a while for it to thicken, but it did eventually start to thicken up. A little. It still wasn’t quite as thick as I would’ve liked it, but it thickened slightly as it chilled. I really liked the flavor of this. It was smooth and light, although there were a few fragments of almonds that didn’t ground up all the way. Definitely good for summer, though. I think it would be good with some added blueberries maybe? Or maybe garnished with a dollop of lemon curd? Hmm, I’ll work on this. I think this recipe is easily adjustable to make a smoothie out of this. 

Must be good. I caught the cat sniffing at the skillet. Although I really should start reading my directions better. 
This meal has two stews today. The first one is called Leksour. It’s supposed to be made with lamb, but since money is tight right now, I made it with stew beef instead. I browned my beef, and then added in some chopped carrots, potatoes, and bell peppers. I accidentally left out the diced tomatoes here. But my husband has a hard time with tomatoes, so I’m sure he appreciated at least one non-tomato dish. Then I covered it with 4 c of water, added a little salt and pepper, and let it simmer for an hour. 

Quite a surprise. The wheat/all-purpose/millet combination was actually pretty good.
To go with the Leksour, it’s supposed to be served on top of pancakes. However, it’s not like pancakes Americans are used to. These pancakes were made using 2 c of wheat flour (or in my case, 1 ½ c white wheat flour, and ½ c of all-purpose), 1 c millet flour (which I was so grateful I had exactly 1 c left over from the last time I used millet flour), and 5 pinches of salt. Then I used about 2 c of water to make it a fluid batter and let it sit for about 30 minutes. When it came time to cook them, I added another 2 Tbsp of water since it looked like it had started to thicken up again. I heated up a griddle with oil and made pancakes like I normally do. The flavor was good, not too earthy, albeit slightly tough. (Probably user error.) I served the Leksour stew on top of the pancakes. Together, even without the tomatoes, it was quite tasty. At first, it did seem like it was lacking in something (um, most definitely the tomatoes as I discovered later), but I liked how it tasted with the pancakes overall. 

Quite a surprise. My son said he might eat it if I added some sriracha in it. Whatever it takes, little dude.
The second stew I made is often considered their national dish: Thieboudiene (pronounced che-boo-jen, or something like that). My directions weren’t the greatest, but I didn’t realize that until I got started. So, I had to make up some of the amounts. It all worked out, though. I started off by mixing 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp salt, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp dried parsley, and 1 Tbsp diced onion in a bowl and pounded it with a pestle. Then I rubbed this mix on some whiting filets (not sure what kind of fish is actually used, but whiting is what I had in the freezer) and adding it to my pot to fry. When they had fried up, I took out the fish and put it on a plate. Then I mixed a little bit of water with about 3 Tbsp of tomato paste and put this in the same pot that I just took the fish out of. While heating this up, I added in some diced potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and some shredded cabbage (I just bought a bag of angel hair cole slaw mix). I put about 4 c of water in the pot and let it simmer for a while. At this time, I got my rice started and cooked it like I normally cook rice. Once that was set, I added my fish back in, laying it in with the simmering vegetables. I added in 2-3 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp black pepper, about a ¼ c of onion, a little bit of chicken broth, and let it simmer. When the rice was done, I added it into the pot as well, stirring it in to mix well. I don’t think this is exactly how it’s done, but it worked out well for me. I just made sure the fish was on top when I served it. This was a very good dish. The fish wasn’t overpowering and mixed in quite well. Whether the rice was supposed be added to the entire dish or not, it was still rather tasty. My daughter thought it was the best dish I made today. My son, of course, didn’t like anything I made. 

This was quite a tasty dinner. And for the most part, none of it was quite that difficult to make.
I have to say that I learned so much about Mauritania that I didn’t know before, which wasn’t much before I started this I hate to admit. But now maybe others know more as well. There are so many unique things about this country that made me smile and some that made me sad. The food was good, different than what I expected. I expected more spices, but it tended to be simply spiced, yet it was flavorful. Maybe that’s Mauritania’s secret: it doesn’t need a lot to be wonderful. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. From some of the stories I’ve read, they are an incredibly resourceful people, perhaps out of the necessity that comes with high rates of abject poverty, but there’s a certain respect for their surroundings because of it as well. There is more than one lesson to be learned here.

Up next: Mauritius


Traditional music in Mauritania is built around social lines. In their caste system, musicians fell toward the bottom, but they often sang of great warriors and those in the ruling classes. Music was also used as a way of spreading information and news. Although Mauritania is made of many ethnic groups, traditional music tends to be in the style of the largest group, the Berbers (or Moors, which is based on the same root as the ancient kingdom of Mauretania and modern-day Morocco). 

There are three main categories that traditional music is written in. There’s the al-bayda, or the white way (fine and dainty, elegant, based on northern African styles); the al-kayla, or the black way (masculine, based on sub-Saharan African styles); or the l’gnaydiya, or the mixed way. There are also modes and submodes based on the Arabic modes that their music also utilizes, introduced by the Arabs when they moved into the area. Most of the musicians are men, although there are a few women musicians. Women musicians do not utilize the same modes as the men do. 

While the instruments used in much of Mauritanian music are similar to either African or Arab music, a few of the instruments that are commonly heard in Mauritanian music include a type of kettle drum called the tbal, a rattle called daghumma, a type of kora that women utilize called the ardin, and four-stringed lute called the tidinit

In Mauritania these days, anyone with money can pay a musician to perform. And if they like what they hear, they can pay to record them. But unlike in much of the world where the musician owns the rights to their own music, whoever pays the musician to record their music owns the rights to the recording. 

Mauritanians enjoy games and dance. One type of common game that is commonly played is called anigur. Essentially, two people play fight with sticks as in a pretend sword fight. Others who watch this game clap along. A type of flute known as the nifara is important to Mauritanian culture, and it’s instrumental in dance. Many dancers dance to this instrument, and they like to use their skills to match the melody lines. 

And I looked high and low, but it seems that although most of the musicians in Mauritania are men, the two most world-famous musicians are women. Probably the most well-known musician is Dimi Mint Abba. Both of her parents were musicians, so it makes sense that she would go into music as well. The music I listened to was based on stringed instruments, probably the ardin and/or the tidinit, with the vocals on top. It tended to be driven by quick rhythms. 

Another well-known musician is Malouma. She was a social activist and politician. Her music has more of a slight Western appeal but still maintaining its roots in Berber and Arab music. Accompanied by flutes, various percussion instruments and stringed instruments, the vocals are all women. At times, it almost sounded like deep Delta blues, but perhaps it’s these roots that emerged itself in the blues. I listened to the album Noir, and I really liked what I heard. 

Another musician I came across is Ooleya Mint Amartichitt. She utilizes the ardin and tidinit quite a bit, and she has a broad range in her vocals. From what I listened to, her vocal styles are characterized by singing in the upper portion of her range. It almost sounds like she’s singing from her chest, but that’s probably from a Western music point-of-view; I would be interested in learning how they teach these singing techniques.

Up next: the food