Mauritian Sega

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A Taste of the Mauritian Sega
(pronounced Saygah)

As far back as 1768, travellers to Mauritius were bringing back tales of slaves' singing and dancing which seemed to their entranced eyes so different and special.

Bernardin de St Pierre then, spoke of the slaves' passion for music and of the soft harmony of unknown instruments to match songs with every present love themes. Milber, in 1803, spoke of sensual dance steps that clearly show their warm intentions, and Rousselin, in 1860, was one of the many to be inspired to attempt the capture of the atmosphere of slave dancing in drawings. They had all witnessed the magic of the the black shega dance or music, or as it soon came to be known; the sega. They had all heard the music born of African souls soothed in their lost homelands on rapid drumbeats and pounding rhythms. African souls now caught in an island's fragrance and soft beauty. From this unison came the sega. The travellers had heard the bobre, the ravane, the maravane and the triangle. New ingenuous instruments never heard before. The bobre is a long wooden bow kept arched over a large gourd-like, rough skinned, hollow fruit (the calebasse) by a vegetal string, this being hit by a stout wooden rod. Its mournful twang has however, sadly, been lost over the years and it is no longer part of a sega music team. The ravane is a hide, pulled taught over a wooden circular frame. Tightened even more to a vibrant limit over a fire-wood flame, and sometimes ringed with bells, it is at the heart of the sega's beat. Its thrilling husky bark is the beginning of the dance. The maravane used to be a calebasse filled with small stones or dried nuts. The stones or dried nuts have remained but are now shaken in a wooden frame to send dancers on along their catchy beat.The triangle is ever the same metal frame on which a metal rod is beaten, for a high pitched tingling note. The blending of these sounds causes an irrepressible urge to get up and dance.

The original instruments are fast disappearing, making way for the more conventional orchestra ensemble. However, all along the coastal fishing villages the traditional instruments are still being used: The Ravane, which is a wooden hoop over which has been stretched a piece of goat skin; the Coco, (Maracas) which represents the percussion section; the Triangle, a triangular piece of metal which tinkles when tapped with an iron rod.

The traditional guitar which was a single string instrument with an arc attached to an empty "Calebasse", has been replaced by the more sophisticated Hawaiian and electric guitar. Stimulated and inspired by local rum, the fishing folks gather around a camp fire and give full vent to their emotions. Very often they dance without any music at all and are accompanied only by the sound of the Ravane, the tinkling of spoons, the rattling of seeds in a tin, and the clapping of hands of spectators who eventually join in the melee.

The dance itself is the rhythmic swaying of the hips to the pulsating rhythm of the Ravane. It starts with a gentle swaying, to a slow and solemn tune, which gradually rises, consuming the dancers and setting their bodies jerking, stretching and swaying with animated movements to keep pace with the ever-increasing tempo.

The beat creeps inside you and as your body responds to the rhythm, you are carried to heights of ecstasy, generating a vibrating force that shakes the "lead" off your feet and inspires you to a high-spirited and unrestrained way of dancing. Tiring perhaps, but ex-hilarating! Never mind if your movement does not follow the rhythm ... just carry on dancing and you will be amazed how rhythm and movement synchronize afterwards.

Click on the title to play

Sega bello by Alain Permal
Alouda limonade by Cyril Labonne
Anglais ranne mo mari by Marie Josee Clency
Content mo to content toi by Jacques Cantin
Mo jouer mo sega by Cyril Labonne
Paul eque Virginie by Jacques Cantin
Reprends mo mari Anglais by Marie Josee Clency


In MP3 format

Labourdonnais - Cassambo
400 canons 300 révolvers - FanFan
Mo Lamizik - Kaya
Charlie O - TiFrere




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