The biggest celebration of Mauritian culture in Europe returns, with confirmation of the 2012 Mauritian Open Air Festival this summer. Now in its fourth year, and having gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2008, this year’s event will be the biggest yet.
Marking the high point of the summer party season, the Mauritian Open Air Festival will take place on Sunday 26th August, falling on the August Bank Holiday weekend, and providing the perfect end to the summer holidays. As in previous years, the event will be held at Down Lane Park located in the heart of North London’s Mauritian community.
The festival offers visitors a wonderful glimpse of the party atmosphere that Mauritians are so famous for, with a heavy mix of freshly prepared traditional cuisine, popular Mauritian drinks and a host of performances from some of the biggest names in Mauritian music and entertainment. There is also a huge fun fair running all day long, making this the perfect event for the entire family.
Last year’s line-up is testament to the quality of performer that the show attracts. Alain Ramanisum, a veritable living legend in Mauritian circles, was joined by his wife, Laura Beg on stage for a very rare and very special UK performance. Reflecting on 2011, Alain had this to say:
“It feels like I am back home in Mauritius! I feel really emotional. I’m very proud to see so many people from the Mauritian community here and people from all over the world.”
Other performers included top urban DJs CLK, Vish and Masta G, girl group Serese and the Sega Troupe “Jalsa Des Iles” showcasing Mauritius’ famous musical style.
Popular London eateries Chez Liline and Mauritius Paradise, as well as bar/club hotspot, Port Louis Bar were on hand to keep festivalgoers well-fed and topped up with the very best of Mauritian food and drink. And there was also a wide array of Mauritian businesses and charities exhibiting.
Over 10,000 people attended last year’s event – a simply phenomenal number for a one-day celebration – and this year’s figure promises to be even bigger. The festival’s organisers had this to say to everyone planning to attend this year:
“We are looking forward to this year’s Festival. Year after year we have strived to push the boundaries and attract the biggest names to Europe’s biggest Mauritian Festival. We will continue to work hard to ensure that we meet your expectations and our own high standards. We look forward to seeing you all at MOAF 2012. A bientot….”
There are approximately 47,000 people of Mauritian descent living in and around the London area, according to a 2010 Office of National Statistics estimate.
Down Lane Recreation Ground is situated between two residential roads – Park View and Ashley Road – in Tottenham Hale, North London. It comprises a large area of sports fields, which make the ideal location for large-scale events.
Getting there – Parking is free on the surrounding streets but there is no guarantee of the availability of spaces. Down Lane Park is a short walk from Tottenham Hale Station, and easily accessible by tube or train. Buy your tickets in advance. The queues to gain entry to the Festival are famous for being huge on the day. Avoid the queues and make sure you don’t miss any of the acts. Mauritian Open Air Festival, Sunday 26h August 2012 from 12pm.
Ticket prices: £6.50 Adults, Children under 10: Free.
Down Lane Park Park View Road, N17 9EY
(Introduction to the Mauritian Open Air Festival 2012 from the official MOAF Facebook page)
The Mauritian Open Air Festival would have to be the highlight of any proud Mauritian’s diary. An event that is probably one of the biggest events especially devised for the Mauritian community in south-east England, MOAF is the perfect get-together for the sons and daughters of one of the world’s most unique and beautiful islands. A showcase of some of the finest jewels in the crown of Mauritian cuisine, where side-to-side stores serve up food that could rival your mother’s home cooking. Add to that a selection of traditional fairground rides to appeal to the young in age and at heart, and a concert stage with V Festival quality sound system delivering the best in sega (the national music of Mauritius) teamed with the sensuous and stunning dances that accompany it.
I started my day in earnest, with a surprisingly easy 9:30 am start, as today was my turn on the house cleaning rota. Once all the wiping, mopping and sweeping was dealt with, done and dusted, I waited for my sister to text me to link up at Stratford with the rest of my family group. I was quite excited to say the least, as I had not been to a Mauritian festival since I was a child. Even now I remember with fondness meeting so many fellow festival-goers from my mum’s country, of hearing a thousand conversations in Kreol (a French-based creole language, spoken by all Mauritian communities regardless of ethnic or religious background) – a language I unfortunately had very little working knowledge of. I was fascinated by seeing all of the different dishes and snacks whose aromas tugged at my nostrils from every stall and their attendant ‘ti bhai’(little brother) or ‘gros lakaz mama’ (great mother with enviable cooking skills), of trying to figure out the French-language articles in the copies of the L’Express newspaper left lying about by other patrons. And the memories of coming home with shopping bags full of trinkets, shells, crystals, and the obligatory LKS or manioc biscuits. Would it still be the same now?
Due to a change in logistics, I ended up taking a bus to Stratford Tube station and soon found myself gliding through the hipster heartland of Hackney, then Canonbury, then Highbury & Islington, on a spacious Overground metro train. After a jaunt on the dreaded Victoria line, Tottenham Hale drew me into its bosom. Once I left the station and got onto the main road, I found myself lost. I consulted my smartphone to do a GPS self-location on Google Maps. The smartphone decided to be a pain in the backside. To think that technology would make our lives easier. I put the mobile back in my pocket and made use of my tracking skills. Just follow a Mauritian-looking family and see where they head – without being mistaken for a stalker. The smell of a thousand snacks and the boom of the sega speakers caught me and locked me like a bloodhound on the scent trail. Just follow the music. That helped a little, as well as a few ‘where are you?’ calls to the rest of my party and some assistance from my phone’s mapping software when it finally decided to play ball.
The music got louder and more bass as I walked down Ashley Road and found myself at the business end of Down Lane Park, a modest inner city green space which for this Sunday only had been transformed into a little grassy piece of Mauritius.
After finding my family, we had our tickets ready and passed through security without a hitch. These guys do their job properly. Even my bag got searched.
The MOAF is essentially a ring of stalls selling not only Mauritian snacks, meals and sweets, but also Indian cuisine, jerk chicken and being an August bank holiday, and a sweaty one at that, numerous servings of soft drinks. There are also stalls for kids’ face painting and ones for various companies to exhibit their services. On one side of the festival ground were the funfair rides for the families. Opposite the rides was a massive concert stage where the music and performances were in full swing.
The food on offer was delectable and freshly cooked. From one stall I picked up a simple lunch. First of all there was the dhal puri (also spelt dol puri). This is a flat unleavened bread like a chapatti or a tortilla which has a crumbly filling of ground lentils. Add to that a spoonful of mild green chilli sauce, and a tomato-ey bouillon of butter beans and it was a winning combination. Fresh, soft and not too spicy. I ended up regretting not making it a double dhal puri. For a pound, I also got three tiny vegetable samosas which were well-cooked, and did not overpower me with their heat. I followed with dessert; Lapolitan cake – it at first impression seems like a cake that went stale, but that is how it is supposed to be. It is dry, and crumbly to the point of messing up your jeans/top/t-shirt, but it is a deliriously sweet piece of heaven. The cakes are traditionally coated in a thick layer of pink icing, ensuring that my dessert was probably the most flamboyant bakery item in the whole of north London. My sister had a Turkish style kebab-and-rice, fitting in nicely with the North London vibe, while niece and nephew had ice creams. Sadly for the niece, her ice cream had to be trashed after an errant fly took an interest and decided to drown in the strawberry sauce (!). The toddlers loved the fairground ride we put them on, even if the niece hogged the driver’s seat.
The concert was probably the best part of the festival. The dance troupe Jalsa de l’Iles, wowed the crowd with their sexy and swivelling dance moves, emulating perfectly the rhythmic movement of sega, whose moves and the tunes were developed by slaves brought to Mauritius by the French colonials. Sega was an escape for them from the drudgery of their existence, and watching Jalsa certainly helped me to escape from the bland routine of my life. No surprise that the compere described them as the UK’s best sega dance troupe. Also appearing on stage was someone who sang a perfect rendition of classical sega songs and the Bhojpuri Boys’ hit ‘Langaro’ (Most Mauritians speak the Bhojpuri language, which originates from eastern central India). A great and energetic backing group of musicians performing with traditional instruments like the ‘ravanne’ and conga drums gave the feeling of a party on the Mauritian seaside. I was very happy at the effort the organisers put into the musical authenticity. The music had very good acoustics and the beat made everyone dance and wave their flags, especially an enthusiastic middle-aged man in a denim jacket who had one ‘Phoenix’ beer too many. There were a few celebrities thrown in for good measure as well. Big B, of the Mauritian comedy troupe Trioco flew in especially to perform his well-loved stand-up routine. Miss Mauritius UK also made a guest appearance after wandering up and down the grounds a few times, and unexpectedly, actor Nitin Ganatra (Masood Ahmed of the UK soap opera ‘EastEnders’) took the mike to tell everyone how much he loved Mauritius and Mauritians. Also of note, the old-school sega master Wilson Felix, famed for his calmer interpretation of sega and his soothing voice. He gave a quite powerful performance, perhaps better than his offerings on compact disc. The crowd was suitably fired up and everyone was having a good time, with some help from the presenters on stage.
Overall, I found MOAF 2012 a great and fun experience, but it could have been livelier, which is what should be expected in a significant event in the UK Mauritian cultural calendar. It did feel too much like just another funfair or village fete. Most funfairs do not normally charge a £8.00 ticket entrance fee too. We honestly were bored at times, and ended up leaving early, due to the lack of engaging side events. Hopefully MOAF 2013 will build upon that and make it more than just a festival in the park.
THE OFFICIAL HalfEatenMind MOAF 2012 GALLERY:
HalfEatenMind Blog editor/blogger Vijay Shah visited the Mauritian Open Air Festival 2012 – Down Lane Park, Tottenham Hale on the Sunday 26th August.
0843 289 4421
ADDITIONAL SOURCES: MOAF Facebook Fan Page