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Linzy Bacbotte: Amazing grace

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One of the great voices in Sega, spearhead of everything Creole and defender of women’s rights, Linzy Bacbotte celebrates life “above all else.”

In the shade of the screw pines, on the deserted bay outside the village of Tamarin, Linzy takes up her story again, interspersed with her outbursts of laughter and the chanting of her musicians.  

Where there's singing, there's life

She talks of her modest childhood in Quatre Bornes, Mauritius; the family home, full of love and music; the choir of the church of Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire; her paternal grandfather, violinist, militant, and pioneer of the group Latanier; her mother, pupil of the great Sega musician Serge Lebrasse, constantly singing; the “father whose incessant clowning around couldn’t hide his dark thoughts”; her guitar-playing godfather and the TV singing contests when she was eight; the college she gave up to perform on stage and improve her daily lot; the meteoric rise that took her to the continent, to Paris, where she recorded a single, but then became disillusioned. The return to her homeland, a new album, a first marriage, and a first child, Solena. Divorce and the revival album that she composed in full, Breathe Again. Recognition in her homeland when she was made Member of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (MSK). Her meeting with the great Seggae singer, Bruno Raya, and the birth of their son, Zion. Her group “Mauravann” – initiated by the producer Percy Yip Tong, with her musician “brothers”, Samuel Dubois, Kerwyn Castel and Emmanuel Desroches – which revived the ancestral beat of the ravanne drums and raised Sega to the heights of great music styles of the world.

 

The breath of life

As author and composer, Linzy drew her inspiration from all the Afro beats – Sega, Reggae, Seggae and Soul – that lined the slave route, only to return to the birth of Sega, in the 17th century, with the African and Madagascan slaves.

On the smooth goatskin of her ravanne, she beats a 6/8 ternary rhythm. Kerwyn’s maravanne joins the dance and surfs the waves. “It’s the rhythm of the heartbeat, says Linzy with a smile. Mama Mauritius has brought forth her children in pain. We are the heirs to a violent and powerful story. Only the strongest have survived.”

She hums the legendary Amazing Grace. Eyes closed, face uplifted, a huge smile. Right now, Linzy is singing not for us alone.

“Can you hear the noise of the slaves in the hold of the slave ships? It’s a song that tells of strife, breath, and above all of life. Singing, dancing, playing music, it’s all one movement to share in the beauty and joy of life.”

 

Who are you?


“We commemorate the end of slavery, we know all the important dates, yet we never speak of the wounds. We do not delve into the depths of our memory to discover the hidden story. If I have always sung, it’s to find the answer to one question only: who are you? Who are you really?”

Guided by the need to know in order to forgive, her luminous rise to fame is also a return to her beginnings. “I have plunged into the womb of Mauritius and unearthed my deepest roots. My maternal great-grandmother was a Muslim from Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. Before changing to Bacbotte, my grandfather’s name was Bhagwat, which is Indian… Blood, sweat and lives are mixed. We are neither Afro nor Indi nor Chinese Mauritians, nor Muslims... we are all that and more.” Being Creole is not just a question of mixed race. It’s “something more”: it’s a way of taking completely opposing rhythms, languages and cultures and bringing them together as one inside you. “It’s our wealth, entirely contained in our Creole culture, our mother tongue. That is what breaks the chains,” says Linzy opening wide her arms to welcome the golden day.

 

 

By Virginie Luc
Photographs Pierre Perrin