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The origins of the ‘’Sega“ : African rhythm turned into rhythm of the Islands

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Commonly known as the ‘’sega tipik, maloya, moutia, sega tambour ou segakordeon“. It is the uniting link between the islands in the region of the Indian Ocean. The sega was born in the 18th Century during the period of slavery. It is the ultimate form of musical expression of this part of the world, which can be compared to the mother tongue of all the nations that have in common, slavery and the confluence of different cultures.

The sensuality of the sega and the bewitching swaying of the hips make it more comparable to a courtship ritual. At night, after having toiled all day, the slaves had as only entertainment music and dance to express themselves and to get relief from their hard work. Singing and dancing was a way to feel free. This method of expression has evolved with the emergence of the creole language and the sega as we know it today, was born.

As from 1768, the travellers coming from Mauritius talked about the music and dance of the slaves. Milbert, in 1803, mentions dance steps and sultry women who did not hide their true intentions. The term sega originates from the coast of Africa. The Swahili word sega designates the act of rolling up one’s garments which is indeed a typical gesture of sega dancers. 

In the mid 19th century, the Black musicians of the islands were initiated to European music which they transformed into a rhythmic standard. These ‘’jouars“ added a touch of creole to the quadrille. The rhythm of the dance progressed from binary to ternary. It became the popular music of Reunion Island. In Rodrigues, the sega, music of the black people and that of the Metis, played on the accordion, were fused together.    

The ‘’ravanne“ and its original tones

The ‘’sega typique“ has, on the other hand, kept its original tones. It is played with three ravannes, a drum made of goat skin which needs to be heated up before playing. Each instrument has its role to play: the ‘’sizoner“, the one which adds flavour, or ‘’piker”, the soloist which its ‘’ravanne” measuring 18 inches in diameter, the rhythmic ‘’ravanne” of 20 inches and the bass ‘’ravanne” of 22 inches. The depth of the music is in the rhythm obtained by tuning the ‘’ravanne“ of the soloist in re, the rhythmic in do and the bass in sol.

Various instruments add to the sound of the ‘’ravanne“which is the main instrument of the sega namely the ‘’maravane” or the ‘’kayamb”, the ‘triangle”, the ‘’bobre”, the ‘’makalapo”, the ‘serpe”, the ‘’bloc”, the ‘’crapeau”, ‘’banc”, ”claves”, ‘’mayoches”, the ‘’katchia katchia, ‘’cocos, ‘’coco lamok”, ‘’jerry-can” or ‘’sati”.

Created through modern or traditional instruments, deriving its inspiration from its own rhythms or from the musical fusions and the diversity that follows, the sega remains the artistic and corporal language of the islands. It preserves and at the same time, gives off a festive mood which is unique to the people of the Indian Ocean.

The sega is a genuine enchantment, with its boisterous rhythms and the sensuality of its dancers dressed in colourful outfits.