Louis Gabriel Joseph, one of the pioneers of the national music of Mauritius, has passed away aged 88 yesterday, local news site Mo Ti News reports. Known among his peers and generations of listeners as ‘Fanfan’, Joseph passed on from age-related issues at the Hospice Saint Jean de Dieu in the town of Pamplemousses, in the island’s north.
Fanfan was widely revered as one of the signature personalities behind the development of sega music as a popular genre from the 1940s until fairly recently. Sega is a musical style peculiar to Mauritius, sung in Mauritian Creole (Kreol, or simply Mauritian) to the beat of drums, triangles and more recently, keyboards and synthesizers. It was developed by people of mixed African and French origins, most descendants of slaves who used their heritage of African music to get over the drudgery of their lives and enjoy what little spare time they could get.
Joseph was a stalwart and proponent of ‘sega tipik’ (typical or traditional sega), which was in vogue until around the 1980s before it was usurped by other genres, many from outside the island.
During his career, which began after the Second World War, Joseph recorded fifty songs. He cut his first record, titled “Ma Bolema”, in 1949, and released his last production, “Kito Lev Néné”, fifty years later under the Ballerina Music label. Joseph considered himself a guardian of the traditional form of sega, a dying art now, and with contemporaries such as Serge Lebrasse and Ti Frère, tried to actively promote the cultural values of his country.
For the second time and after a two-year gap, the blog editor in his capacity as the official representative of the Half-Eaten Mind took a trip to Down Lane Park, in north London to visit the Mauritian Open Air Festival, the biggest outdoor celebration of Mauritian culture, music and food outside of the island itself. This is my first return visit since 2012, and what can I say, it is even better than back then.
While I made my own journey there through London’s tricky weekend commuting lines, I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my sisters (Anjali), my Mum, two of my aunts (Aunties Fifi and Fareeda), and my cousins Shaun and Soraya. We first did a tour of the stalls, sampling authentic food from our country, such as dhol puri (flat bread with a filling of lentils and with a curry sauce containing butter beans), napolitaine (cake-like biscuit with a covering of icing, usually pink), pudin vermicel (dry pudding made with vermicelli pasta) and the usual soft drinks, as the temperature was hitting 25 degrees Celsius. The youngers ones went off to get Mauritian flags painted on their cheeks, before my family managed to deftly secure themselves ringside seats near a pair of deafening woofers.
Occupying the stage was local Mauritian talent DJ Vish who played a succession of classic and new sega and soca hits in between acts. We also got to see live performances by Synergy, Belgian rapper Supershane, Mauritian singers and husband-and-wife team Laura Beg and Alain Ramanisum, who are like chalk and cheese in looks and personalities, but actually compliment each other very well in their mission to keep Mauritian musical culture as relevant as ever. Alongside them was Jean-Claude Gaspard. His longevity and back catalogue could easily make him the Mauritian equivalent of James Brown, but with less of the exuberant shouting and booty-shaking. He and Alain spellbound the hundreds-strong crowd with faithful and peppy renditions of the kind of classic songs like ‘Bhai Abou’ that my mother grew up listening to. Other highlights were the gorgeous and very elastic members of the Jalsa des Iles sega dance troupe (a reliable MOAF fixture) and the superbly breathtaking Omaz Sega Band, as well as a meet-and-greet with Mr. and Miss England. All of this plus a funfair amidst the serenity and tranquility of a inner London park. Just like myself, MOAF is a diverse and awe-inspiring amalgamation of the best of England and Mauritius. Well maybe not so much myself.
There were some funny and downright strange moments. The distinctive smell of cannabis wafting through the air at a couple of points, a malfunctioning turntable, unicorn balloons floating off into the stratosphere, crazy family dance-offs, arms stacked to the top with plates of food and a drunken fat concertgoer in a red t-shirt and Switzerland cap who couldn’t help but invade people’s personal space with his inebriated attempts at the sensuality of sega dancing. All this while a drone armed with cameras hovered across the ecstatic flag-waving crowd. It is probably no coincidence that ‘Mauritian’ and ‘madness’ both begin with the same two letters. I kid, I kid!!.
Though I nearly lost my hearing because of standing too close to the speakers, it was a great day to be had. It’s not often that I get chance to really involve myself in Mauritian culture but MOAF is the perfect time to do so. Us Mauritians certainly know how to party. This event is the latest reincarnation in a long tradition of outdoors cultural events for the UK’s Mauritian community, and I would say it is the best such event yet, that really makes me glad to have Mauritian heritage and to be a part of a very unique and positive-minded people and island. Plus you get tonnes of freebies. Everyone loves freebies.
To celebrate MOAF and all good things Mauritian, we have brought you exclusive and perfected photos of the event, taken by myself and Anjali and edited/improved using our reliable fixture, the pizap website. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to be at this spectacular festival, this will give you an idea of what it is like to be right there.
Nissa la monte!!!
The special MOAF flyer and CD of sega songs sent to me via post. This was a free thank you gift for ordering a couple of tickets online for this event.
A stylised view of apartment blocks near Tottenham Hale station on my way to Down Lane Park. Tottenham, in north London is home to many Mauritians and is the venue for MOAF every year in August.
My lunch – Mauritian style. Dhol puri (like a tortilla stuffed slightly with dried lentils), a can of soft drink and ‘napolitaines’ bought from a stall run by ‘Mauritian Temple’ volunteers.
Me and my younger sister waving the four-colour flag proudly.
All smiles at MOAF 2014!!
Selfie of my sister with my cousin – with obligatory Instagram filter. So sweet these family snaps!
What is life without some random Mauritians to rub shoulders with.
An infographic explaining the meanings of the colours in the Mauritian flag.
We were fortunate to meet one of the guest singers from Mauritius backstage. Jean-Claude Gaspard has been in the industry for decades and is highly respected on the island.
Sega dancers from the group “Jalsa des Iles” strutting their stuff on the purpose built stage.
Popular modern sega singer Alain Ramanisum speaks to the audience.
Mr. Ramanisum was quite the talker and really got the spectators fired up!
Laura Beg, romantic chanteuse and dearly beloved of Alain, also got her chance to warm up the audience.
Jean-Claude Gaspard – an old-school sega stalwart made two appearances on stage, singing several classic songs beloved of my mum’s and aunts’ generation.
Bright and sensual, the swirling dresses and fluid movements of the sega dancers brightened up the stage. All eyes were on their story in motion.
Even the singer was an explosion of tropical hues, like a million Hawai’ian flowers had clustered together to lend a burst of riotous colour to his vibrant vocals.
The singer owns the stage while young men with the distinctive and hefty Mauritian drum or ‘ravanne’ tap out some percussion beats. The ravanne is a signature instrument in the sega tradition.
He belts out a classic while the accompanying singers take to the ‘catwalk’ promenade of the stage. No, they are not doing zombie impressions!
A closer look at the ravanne quartet. The drumming was incredibly intense in that way that Mauritians know how to be.
The lead singer from a band, Synergy. He sang soulful English numbers over a Mauri-style backing beat. I remarked to my sister that he did look rather like a Mauritian Bruno Mars. Also reminds me of that unfortunate sergeant from the Police Academy films.
Two of the Jalsa dancers in a sort of sega ‘waltz’.
A traditional singer with a modern twist.
Mr. and Miss. England 2014 also put in an appearance. They had recently visited Mauritius and the Miss even spoke some accented but good French.
A wide-view of the attendees at MOAF 2014 looking towards the Ashley Road end of the park. The crowd was several hundred by around 5:00 pm.
The Half-Eaten Mind visited the Mauritian Open Air Festival, in Down Lane Park, Tottenham on the Sunday 3rd August 2014.
The Mauritian Open Air Festival (MOAF) is a yearly cultural festival held in Tottenham, north London. With food stalls, live concerts, kids’ area and a convivial ‘party-in-the-park’ atmosphere you would expect of an open air public event, MOAF is a celebration of Mauritian culture, people and music and is a must-visit event for my community in the United Kingdom.
I was very fortunate to have been able to attend MOAF in 2012. You can see my take on the festival plus some photos I took of the venue and activities at the link below.
The Half-Eaten Mind today features a selection of official flyers of MOAF 2014, including the event’s pre-party. I decided to share these with all of you partly to honour and celebrate my Mauritian heritage, partly to illustrate the graphical intricacy and beauty of the design work used to make these images really stand out. In their quest to popularise their events, and boost their tickets sales and attendances, designers and event promoters will use contemporary cutting-edge graphic design technology, such as Photoshop to infuse the party atmosphere into their promotional materials. The format of the flyers you are about to see is very similar to that used to promote music events, such as dancehall, garage and R&B, but what sets them apart is their homage to Mauritian culture and identity generally, especially in relation to those Mauritians who were born and raised in the UK and are at a crossroads of different cultural influences.
Please note that this article is not intended as a promotion of the event itself. This is just simply to display an aspect of culture unique to the British Mauritian community and as an appreciation of the designers’ handiwork which you may well find pleasing to the eye.
Back2Reality official Mauritian Open Air Festival Pre-Party and talent search auditions being held in central London over the late May bank holiday weekend. This is the front of the official flyer.
Back2Reality official Mauritian Open Air Festival Pre-Party and talent search auditions being held in central London over the late May bank holiday weekend. This is the back of the official flyer.
MOAF 2014 official talent search invitational flyer – the obverse. The event, which takes place in central London, coincides with the pre-party shown above.
The official event flyer for MOAF 2014. The front of the flyer has photo vignettes of leading sega singers who will be performing at the concerts in Tottenham, north London.
“Mauritian Open Air Festival Pre-Party and Talent Search – 25th May” – Mauritian Open Air Festival, Outlook (5 May 2014) – private email