Traditional Music of Mauritius
May 24 2019
May 24 2019
Mauritius is a destination filled with extraordinary natural beauty and enchanting island appeal. But the allure of this destination is definitely not purely “skin deep” - with an extraordinary history, exotic blend of cultures and visible signs of influences from Asia, India, Africa and Europe, it’s a veritable treasure trove of wonders. An eclectic and multi-faceted destination, Mauritius is unlike any other destination in the world and for those who crave the unusual and the surprising, it is the ultimate choice for your memorable island holiday.
The evidence of Mauritius’ colourful array of influences is seen in its unique (and utterly delicious) culinary scene, the mix of languages that exist here, the array of religions observed, the vibrant festivals and of course, the sublime, and totally unforgettable traditional music of Mauritius.
If you are enamoured by all things Mauritius, then this is what you need to know about the traditional music of Mauritius:
All things Sega
As with many things that have become an intrinsic part of the country, the traditional music of Mauritius is definitely an amalgamation of styles. And this certainly culminates in the Sega (pronounced Saygah) genre. This unbelievably festive music holds a very significant place in the country’s tradition, having evolved over time as it was passed from generation to generation. It’s also influenced other Mauritian musical genres, such as the seggae (the fusion of reggae and Sega) and an array of more modern interpretations.
The quintessential traditional music of Mauritius, no festive evening is complete without Sega. Heavily inspired by African music, the Sega follows a three count rhythm created by a drum, rattlebox and triangle which is then accompanied by the often improvised words in Creole performed by a soloist.
Ti Frère, Menwar, Fanfan are some of the artists at the heart of the Sega genre and have popularised it. They provide a great taste of the music and give you a glimpse into the country’s phenomenal zest, vibrancy, culture and history. These days, you can also find influences of Sega in the Mauritian house music, jazz, R&B, hip hop, soul, dubstep and techno among many others, popular with the youths and often played in the nightclubs.
The traditional version of “Sega” isn’t just about the music, however, it actually encompasses the entire symbolic Creole performing art; Sega music is often accompanied by female dancers, dressed in dazzling and wonderfully vibrant floral skirts, who move their hips, twirl and raise their hands as they dance around each other. This spectacle is typically performed on special occasions or during festivals and is enjoyed by all members of the community.
The origins of the Sega are not clear
While the Sega is said by many to be linked to the culture of the African slaves, ‘Sega’ does not exist in Africa itself. The most probable origin of this wonderful and exciting art form is that, as is the case with much of what is found in Mauritius, it is an amalgamation of influences, where it was probably originally used as a form of communication amongst the slaves, where language, culture and religion were not important.
The Sega that exits in Mauritius today is said to be quite different from its original form which was more forlorn in nature. Today, it’s filled with life, joy and liveliness. Another major difference in the Sega today is that the instruments used are the modernised versions of those used in the past.
Today you will see Sega performers playing the bass, electric guitar and the drums whereas previously they would use mainly the ravanne (a wooden hoop with a piece of goatskin stretched over it which would act as a drum), the triangle (which is still occasionally used) and the maravanne (a rattle-type instrument) and sometimes the moutia (or hand drum) and the bobre (which is a bow-like guitar) would make an appearance.
The Bhojpuri Traditional Music and Dance
Having such an incredible mix of cultures and people, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that there is another type of traditional music of Mauritius all linked to Bhojpuri, a language spoken by descendants of indentured labourers who came from southern India, which has taken on a new life in the Mauritian music scene. The Bhojpuri Boys, as an example, who have garnered international and national fame, have managed to fuse the language with oriental melodies that have been inspired by the Sega to create their own unique sound. Having said that, this unusual traditional music of Mauritius is often seen as a version of the Sega.
Bhojpuri music is hugely popular in pre-wedding ceremonies, particularly Indian-style weddings, where during the music ceremony, known as “Geet Gawai”, Bhojpuri songs are played, sung and danced to. This ceremony (which centres on the collective cultural memory and serves to ensure a united community) blends traditional rituals, prayers to gods and goddesses and, as already mentioned, different songs and dances. It’s traditionally performed by the female family members and guests at either the bride’s or the groom’s home. In 2016, the important ritual of “Geet Gawai” (also known as “Singing Songs”) was added to the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
The Bhojpuri songs are often are seen as folk songs and form part of some other important ceremonies and rights of passage, from wedding ceremonies and the Holi celebration to godna, which is traditional body tattooing.
Sega, the associated dance and the incredible Bhojpuri songs can be enjoyed along the beaches at any of the four Mauritian Sun Resorts hotels, where locals share the marvellous spectacle with guests from all over the world for a truly memorable and authentic experience.