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Feb 16/08

Last Maurice: Serge Lebrasse

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 09:31

Serge LebrasseWow, now that’s an amazing photo. Serge is definitely in margaritaville.

I’m going to devote the last post in this Mauritius series to Serge Lebrasse. Once again this music comes from the collection of Benn loxo listener, DR. Thanks again, DR, for all the music.

Serge Lebrasse brings us, in DR’s words, “standard hotel entertainment sega, made charming by the passage of the years and an extremely competent band.” He also has an amazing collection of colourful shirts.. just Google Images the guy if you don’t believe me.

I positively love the first track you’ll hear today, Maurice Mo Pays. The second is more of that “standard sega” sound, albeit in an old school way that gives it a nice feel. Makes me want to blend-up a daiquiri. Maybe I will…

The last track, Cyclone Carol, is based on real events – Carol was the worst weather ever to hit the island.

ps- Before we sign-off Mauritius Week #2 I’d like to give a shout-out to Caroline, without whom DR never would have traveled to Mauritius. We can thank her by extension for much of the great music we’ve heard this week!

Serge Lebrasse – Maurice Mo Pays
Serge Lebrasse – Madame Euzene
Serge Lebrasse – Cyclone Carol

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Feb 15/08

More Maurice: Drums for the weekend

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 19:43

Mauritius Coat of ArmsHow would you characterize this music? Rootsy sega? “Traditional Mauritian”? Who knows.. but whatever, I like the rhythm.

Two tracks today with a similar beat. We’ll call it roots sega until someone educates me.

The title of the first by Ras Mayul, Ras Carosin and Zotsa translates into “the heritage of our ancestors”. Say no more.

The second by Cassombo. This is one of these tracks that I could see easily folded into a hiphop track by Madlib, or maybe a wide-angle opening shot in a movie set in a stereotypical tropical African locale…

I have to admit that I’m only half into Mauritius tonight because I just received a copy of Analog Africa’s African Scream Contest in the mail. I can’t wait to give it a listen. All Benn loxo fans with even the faintest interest in African popular music should get over to Analog Africa and buy a copy when it’s released in March.

Ras Mayul, Ras Carosin ek Zotsa – Leritaz nu Ancet
Cassambo – Mo zeneration dan sega

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Feb 14/08

More Maurice: Blakkayo

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 08:11

BlakkayoToday we’ll hear some more reggae-ragga urban island music from Mauritius, courtesy of DR.

Jean Clario Cateaux, a.k.a. Blakkayo, is now a member of the Otentikk Street Brothers who I featured a couple posts ago.

Today’s tracks come from another cassette submitted by Benn loxo reader, DR: Blakkayo’s 2000 release, Tcheck To Life.

I love the description of Blakkayo given on OSB’s MySpace page: “In everyday life a rather calm appearance, with the first notes of the first riddim on stage Blakkayo transforms into a beast.”

As for the music, well, I wouldn’t characterize it as “beastly”, but I have to say that I find it pretty catchy. Seriously, next time you’re making breakfast on a Sunday morning, play today’s two tracks. They’ll make your girlfriend dance – I promise.

You can see Blakkayo live with Monaster over at YouTube.

Blakkayo – Man dir mwa
Blakkayo – To Bam Bam

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Feb 13/08

More Maurice: MonAster

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 01:49

MonasterBenn loxo reader, DR, came through huge with a collection of cassettes that he picked up in Mauritius a few years ago.

The first music we’ll hear from his collection is by another leading Mauritian rap group, MonAster.

Today’s second track, Bikini, is more your standard tropical hiphop outing, while the first, Pour Toi, has them rapping over a sega-esque beat. Nice stuff.

Also, in DR’s own words,

“here’s a slightly surreal YouTube video of them rapping about telecommunications over a ‘zoukous’ soundtrack, with footage of some ladies in very short skirts…”

Amazing. But personally I prefer their Japanese samarai work. Plenty more vidoes over here, too.

DR warned me that some of the tracks are a little heavy on tape hiss since they were dubbed without “Dolby”. Man, if there’s one reason to keep collecting African music it’s gotta be that I get to keep using terms like Dolby A, B and C. Ah, the mixtape memories…

MonAster – Pour Toi
MonAster – Bikini

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Feb 12/08

More Maurice: Otentikk Street Brothers

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 09:56

Mauritian musicYou see that picture to the left? All Mauritian. Aside from the dozen albums I’ve received digitally, those are the tapes and CDs that people have lent me or that I’ve picked-up over the last couple weeks. Obviously I can’t afford to buy 30 albums for every X country week, so these kinds of contributions are invaluable for Benn loxo. Thank you!

On that note we’ll start Benn loxo’s second Mauritius Week with an album I got in a little Amazon envelope yesterday: Otentikk Street Brothers‘ 2007 release, Revey Twa.

OSB Crew, as they’re known, are easily the most popular group amongst Mauritius’ younger generation. Their reggae-hiphop-ragga-sega fusion is wildly popular on the island.

Unfortunately I missed their live show in Paris a few months ago but I’ll try to catch them next time they’re in town. Were any of you at that show?

You can grab the album at emusic or over at Amazon.

The title of the first track, Ki Si Sa Sa, reminds me of a bit of African popular music history: did you know that the name of the dance, “kwassa kwassa”, came from the French, “c’est quoi ça ?” In English that means “what’s that?”, as in, “what are you doing with your feet?” So obvious, but I wonder if Vampire Weekend, who are directing tons of traffic to this site lately, knew that..

Otentikk Street Brothers – Ki Si Sa Sa
Otentikk Street Brothers – Kreolite (Dub version)

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Feb 6/08

Mauritius Week: Ti Frere

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 09:00

Ti FrereWe’ll take it down a notch today.. something older, more “traditional”. Old-school sega from one of the genres early revivalists.

Jean Alphonse Ravaton, a.k.a. Ti Frere, is known in Mauritius as the “king of sega”.

Ti Frere was born in 1900 to a Madagascan father who was also a sega musician. He spent much of his life working as a wood cutter, cane-cutter, boulder breaker, bus conductor and forester while playing music on the side.

His musical break came in 1964, by which time he was nearly at retirement age, when he won an important sega contest, thus crowning him as the genre’s king.

If your French is a little rusty the name “Ti Frere” is short for “petit frère”, which means “little brother”.

To hear and learn more check-out the information and music samples available here.

Ti Frere – Charlie o

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Feb 5/08

Mauritius Week: Bhojpuri Boys

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 23:10

Bhojpuri BoysI said yesterday that today we’d “Indian.. ocean”. Music from the African side of the Indian Ocean usually doesn’t sound too (typically) Indian, but today we’ll hear the Mauritian exception.

So far we’ve only heard music from Mauritius’ creole population. However, the majority of Mauritius’ population are descendants of people from the Indian subcontinent. It then comes as no surprise that music with heavy Indian influences is quite popular on the island.

The Bhojpuri Boys are one of the more popular Hindi-singing, Indian-fusion groups from Mauritius. They blend tabla’d sega beats with a distinctly Indian à-la-Bollywood sound. The result is, well, interesting.. and amazing.. especially for people like myself on the look-out for surprising sounds from Africa.

If you want to hear and see more they’re all over YouTube. Today’s track is off their 1996 release, Conquest Bhojpuri Chutkaar.

Bhojpuri Boys – Doolha

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Feb 4/08

Mauritius Week: Kaya

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 23:58

KayaYeah, well, it happened. Hey from Vienna. I’ve managed to line-up some music for this week afterall.

The more I read about Mauritius and listen to music by its musicians the more interesting it becomes. Indian Ocean sega meets reggae meets island’ed bhangra. What a wild mix of influences. I guess it’s to be expected given its location. I can’t say it enough: African island music. Amazing.

Yesterday I mentioned a style of Mauritian music called “seggae”. As the name suggests it’s a mix of sega and reggae. Joseph Reginald Topize, otherwise known as “Kaya”, was easily Mauritius’ most famous seggae musician. He basically invented the stuff from what I can tell and remains (posthumously) one of the islands most famous musicians.

Like Menwar yesterday, Kaya is a minority Mauritian creole… with a big thing for Bob Marley. Admittedly the tracks I’ll post today aren’t his reggae’est, but I’m over it. It’s what I like best, hope you do too.

Much of his other material is a lot like the Jamaican, post-rocksteady Bob Marley reggae that our ears are used to. While that’s fine, what really grabs me are his other tunes that mix a little reggae chant with some acoustic guitar and heavy southern African rhythm. Great stuff.

In 1999 Kaya was picked-up by the police on a drug charge. Like many of his reggae contemporaries and heroes, Kaya wanted to get marijuana decriminalized. While in police custody he died under mysterious circumstances.

No one knows for sure what happened, but the creole population of Mauritius cried foul and started rioting. In the confusion that followed another famous creole musician, Berger Agathe, was shot dead. In just a few days Mauritius lost two of its best contemporary musicians.

I picked-up a couple Kaya albums from FNACMusic.com (of all places) since I couldn’t find them in the local record shops. They’re worth a listen, particularly Zistwar Revoltan. Both of today’s tracks are off this release.

Tommorow we Indian.. ocean.

Kaya – Gran Ter
Kaya – Allelujah

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Feb 3/08

Mauritius Week… maybe

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 12:07

MenwarYou may have already heard a few tracks from Réunion, Rodrigues and other Indian Ocean hot spots on Benn loxo, but never Mauritius.

During Eritrea week Benn loxo listener, DJ Earball, suggested we have a Mauritius week here at Benn loxo. I think he was probably joking, but I’m always up for a challenge.

Finding (good) sega and seggae, two forms of music very popular in Mauritius, is difficult. I’ve been trying to find a recording by Ti Frère, the supposed “king of sega”, but it’s sold-out everywhere online that will take a French credit card and I’m not sure where to look in Paris. I’ll keep digging…

The multitude of seggae and sega moderne mixes out there, most often on casettes or CDs most likely made-up of pirated music, are a mixed bag to say the least. I need some guidance and some more time to dig through and find some gems. I think I’ve found a spot to buy some music by Kaya (Joseph Reginald Topize), the creator of seggae, plus some other Mauritian musicians so stay posted.

To kick things off on what may or may not be Mauritius week we’re going to hear some music by Menwar. His 2006 release of jazzed-up sega, Ay ay lolo, was recorded in Mauritius. It’s not something I’d listen to every day but it’s easy on the ears and certainely a good place to start before we move into more obscure corners of sega… if we can get there.

Menwar comes from the minority creole population on Mauritius. It seems that Mauritian creole music dominates the market, at least when briefly explored from outside the country. Sega, while not originally from Mauritius, is the musical root that other genres have grown from, most notably seggae. But more on that later.

You can find Menwar’s album on Calabash. You can also check-out a good reportage on Menwar and his music posted by Trace TV over at YouTube (in French).

ps- I’ve been traveling this week and next so my reluctance to commit to Mauritius week is admittedly due to work at the moment. If anyone knows any good Mauritian record shops in Vienna I’m all ears!

Menwar – Ay ay lolo

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Apr 21/06

Island Accordimania

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 08:17

René LacailleI mentioned a couple posts ago about how I’ve been feelin the accordian sounds from the Indian Ocean islands off south-eastern Africa. You thought I was joking? René Lacaille plays a seriously mean accordian, and the musicians of the tiny Île Rodrigues bust it like today is their last.

Lacaille is a talented artist from the island of Réunion who has helped to spread the séga sound outside of the region. He sings and plays accordian, guitar and other instruments. I picked-up his 2004 release, Mapou, last week. Mapou translates into sugarcane, the most important crop on La Réunion.

The other two tracks on today’s post come from Rodrigues musicians who are featured on the Takamba compilation, Île Rodrigues Vol. 2. The recordings and tunes may be a bit primitive, but just imagine these guys sitting around in the sweaty heat, stomping their feet and working their accordians. I picture a cute Rodrigues local lifting her skirt just a touch as she pounds out a dance on a dusty floor.

In case you’re wondering where Rodrigues is (I was, anyway), it’s a small island many hundreds of kilometers east of Mauritius. It’s only 18km by 9km and is officially part of Mauritius, but it’s so far off my bet is that the inhabitants pretty much do their own thing.

Spring is here so kick off your shoes, get outside and bust-out that accordian.

René Lacaille – Titep
Le Groupe Kaskavel – Laval
Benoit Samoisy – Laval

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