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Mauritius Australia Connection

Sega at Harbourfront,
Lake Ontario, Canada

Madeleine et Clancy Philippe,
Un petit compte rendu abrege de la contribution Mauricienne....(Jean Mario Tanyan)

"The festival took place over 2 days, at Harbourfront, Toronto, Canada. For those not knowing, Harbourfront in the summer is a busy place its on the shores of Lake Ontario, at the bottom of Toronto, it is a very trendy place with the wannabes, but really it's a popular place for Torontonians, except maybe the burbs people who never venture south of the 401 which is a major highway north of the city n cuts the city in half...back to the Harbourfront, the cultural arm of Harbourfront, is as active as can be promoting all forms of culture, we have had Tibetan monks, Voodoo rituals, African art's a hit n miss proposition often, it can sometimes bomb or be a
scintillating success as in the case of the Creole week end. They have several concert areas, four to be precise, the only one with dancing space is where the Mauritian Group Tropical Temptations played two sets, and it was packed and people were dancing, pictures were being taken, and the Harbourfront committee wants them again for another show in the fall....

As well as Mauritians which were minimal during the festival, there were Haitians, St Lucians, Dominicans, Guadeloupeens, Martiniquais, Congolese etc. We were the only ones from the Indian Ocean, Air Mauritius had rented a booth, which was fortuitous, as few of the people who attended
had any clue that Mauritius was actually a country...MAlO did not show up as he had promised, while our esteemed friend Emmerdeur embodied 'La Farniente' at Lake Joseph on that week end.... despite numerous phone calls, posting on the web and inserts in the arts papers, few Mauritians
were there.  But the band had its groupies who came bearing larak....yeeeeesssss....even a transplanted Aussie came, while ex-Mauritians from South Africa, enjoyed the music and uncontrollably had their feet and their hips moving in rhythm to the beat of Tropical

Their first set was lukewarm in attendance, but by the second word had gotten out, only standing room and at that, outside the room...I took all the pictures during the first set, because I was too busy casse les reins during the second one and there was no room to move....excellent work
by the band who went beyond the call of duty and energised everyone there with their
spontaneity and their free spirit...Motou should have been there as I understand he dables in music as well....There were creole food demos from various countries, n dances, creole puppets, Basket weaving, bongo drum making making, story telling etc...all part of the festival...great day all told...n the larak was Goodwill...n Romme Charette when we ran out...."

Jean Mario Tanyan

Segas from Ti Frere and his Troupe

ballrot.gif (924 bytes)Anita by A. Ravaton (Ti Frere)

ballrot.gif (924 bytes)Roseda by A. Ravaton (Ti Frere)

ballrot.gif (924 bytes)Colere Prend Moi by A. Ravaton (Ti Frere)

ballrot.gif (924 bytes)Ti Pierre Ti Paul by M. Ravaton

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The Sega

Wherever she came into contact with the outside world, Africa’s influence was profound. When the slaves left, they went empty-handed with nothing but their memories, voices, bodies, so initially this influence was an oral one: it was song, rhythm and dance. And these traces of Africa grew, despite their new masters’ world. This was how the sega evolved into the traditional song and dance of the people of Mauritius and Rodrigues, and other Indian Ocean islands too, like Seychelles and Reunion Island.

Sega is music of exiles. Slaves would get together at night after a long days work and tell stories. They would make up "sirandanes" ( Creole riddles) and sing for their lives, of their feelings, dancing all the while to those rhythms which had been their own on African soil. Ancient sega also had magical, sacred function and was inseparable from life’s most important moments from birth to death. The "Death Sega", for example, accompanied funeral rites. This was danced around the coffin as certain rhythms were played on all sorts of resonant objects to chase away the spirit of the death. Eight days following a death would be consecrated to the memory of the deceased and the occasion for vigils during which all was done to encourage the dead man’s spirit to depart. On the eighth day a sega should be organised with theatrical performance of fables and fairy-tales done by masked, fancifully dressed actors. All this is a thing of the past.

Sega seems to have lost its ritual character around the turn of the century , remaining pure entertainment. Sega is a kind of improvised, and often rather juicy account of life’s ups and downs, the Creole language being perfectly suited to this art form with its great plasticity, its plays on words , double-barrelled meanings and onomatopoeia., all dispensable to a sega performance. With a past closely linked to magic, its highly erotic dancing and its overt on words often aimed no doubt at the powers that be, the sega found no favour, with the Church and civil authority and was frowned upon, often even banned. After the abolition of slavery, Blacks left the sugarcane plantations, forming settlements on the banks of the Rivere Noire, in Mahebourg and a few other sites. Ancient classical sega, kept alive and thriving in these Afro-Mauritian communities, took the form of a drum call followed by a presentation of the main theme, generally improvised by a woman and repeated incessantly by a chorus until they had created an obsessional atmosphere stimulating to the dancers (cf. Ocora C 590005, Mauritius: Mauritian ravanne sega and Rodrigues drum sega.) This sega, the so called "Ravanne sega" named after the ravanne which was the main percussion instrument used, remained close to the original art form and was in some respect the prototype of the "real thing". But along side this, the Blacks and Metis who lived in closer contact with their former masters, developed a more "civilised" form of sega. They would put on segas at parties or to honour guests. Yet it was in some form the first rehashed sega, rather subdued and inoffensive. They called this the " dans la cour grand’case" sega and it was later followed by even more Europeanised sega one even more toned down and adapted to urban culture, the so-called "drawing-room sega". Jacques Cantin was the first, back in the fifties, to get the sega on the air. He was soon followed by Serge Lebrasse  and others, which led to today’s modern sega with its hit tunes and its stars. This kind of sega can be heard in homes or in public places likes disco’s or tourist hotels. Between this type of sega which could be classified as urban- some would say commercial- with its electric guitars, synthetiser and drums, and the traditional sega of Afro-Mauritian commuities like those of Riviere Noire and Mahebourg (of which the most notable exponent is the group Z’enfants Ti Riviere (Ocora C 590005), another type of sega has sprung up. Although steeped in tradition , it has been strongly influenced by Western popular music, a sega that could have evolved only through men with their feet in both worlds, an amalgam of the cultures of Africa and European land-owners. Men who, through their particular work, were called to move in the circles of White land owners while continuing to live in their villages. The sega artistry of Ti Frere is just that, a product of the assimilation of these two models.

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The Instruments

The ravanne: a goat skin drawn taut over a circle of wood to form a flat drum.
The maravane: a kind of hanging rattle; branches of sugarcane flowers or a metal leaf perforated with tiny holes are fixed to a wooden rectangular frame. Grains or little pebbles are placed inside the rattle and sounded by moving it from side to side.
The triangle: the classical instrument, a little iron rod which strikes the three sides of the triangle.

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The Dance
The rules of sega dancing are quite specific. The dancers take short lateral steps with a suggestive swaying of the hips. They dance in couples, the man facing the woman. Sometimes, he turns around her or moves off seeming to have lost her, only to come close together again, brushing against one another without ever touching. Sometimes another man moves in between the dancer and his partner: this is called "cutting". The woman goes on to dance with him until it is her turn to be cut. The couple periodically crouch down before each other with a constant "shimmy of the pelvis": their bust meet and they lean over onto each other, taking it in turn to dip over backwards, until they touch the ground only to come back up to lean over their partner. This step, called "en bas en bas" ( down low), symbolises the sexual act. An act sublimated and transcended since the bodies never actually touch. Musicians and dancers communicate all the time, intense excitement being highlighted by the rhythm, onomatopoeia and short, snappy interjections ( alaila, mo vini, bouze to le reins, en bas et toi, bouze..... move it, get down there, go for it, your turn....)

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Extract on TiFrere are from the booklet accompanying the CD Homage a Ti Frere.
Certain descriptions have been borrowed from Jean Erenne, Alain Desmarais and Jean-Claude Deojee who devoted his maters thesis to the sega: < The Origins and Evolution of the Sega>, Universite-Paris III.

Lucien Putz, Translated by Jeffrey Grice.

Designed and compiled by Madeleine and Clancy Philippe

Information contained in this homepage is given as supplied and in good faith. No responsibility is taken for any losses or misgivings which may arise from the use of any supplied information. We welcome emails bringing to our attention any inaccuracies or suggestions for improvement.

Copyright Clancy J Philippe - Compiled May 1997

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