Music: maloya, by and for women

“I balance and say loud and clear what I think, in particular of the place of women in our society certainly matrifocal but oh so macho, of the place of women in the music industry trusted in my island by a few very concentric networks and self-centered. “ In the presentation text of her concert at Point Ephémère within the framework of the festival “Les Femmes s”mingle”, at the end of October in Paris, Maya Kamaty does not mince words. And on stage, the 36-year-old artist, dressed in a golden jacket over a semi-transparent top, recalls, if it was still needed, that this outfit is in no way an invitation to anything. that is.

The one who connects with a great natural hip-hop, electropop under Indian influences and song nourished with maloya is one of the most prominent artists of Reunion. Daughter of Gilbert Pounia, leader of the group Ziskakan who, in the 1980s, contributed to the “revivalism” of this music inherited from slavery, Maya Kamaty does not intend to be locked in a box. “It is not because I come from Reunion that I do maloya, even if there is some in my music because it is my blood, my roots. We are already on an island, we are not also going to be locked into music ”, she says when we find her on the Sakifo Musik Festival site, Sunday December 12 in Saint-Pierre (south), as she is about to present her next EP on stage, Sovaz.

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After the albums Santié Papang (2014) and Pandiyé (2019), this new project is that of a woman who was “Confronted with remarks, criticisms, questions”, but who has “Large” and did ” more afraid “, she explains: “When I started, I did not ask myself the question of being a woman, which is more racialized. For me, music was a big, fabulous world, the land of Care Bears, even though my father warned me against certain faults. We have butterflies in our stomachs when we start, then we are confronted with behaviors that make us reposition ourselves, like this programmer who looks at you and says to you: “Oh if I were ten years younger…” C ‘ is a bit of all that I talk about in Sovaz. »

Evidenced by the first single, Alibi, in which Maya Kamaty calls for breaking free from toxic relationships and not conforming to what others expect of you. “To seek their approval too much, you get lost. Either you go crazy, or you free yourself. For this EP, I wanted more spontaneity, letting go, a raw and raw language. I’m not here to “be beautiful and shut up” ”, concludes the one in which the family HQ of Zinzin, a restaurant-cabaret located in Grand-Bois, overlooks the “wild South”, a region renowned for its lava flows which cut through the landscape from the Piton de la Fournaise to the ocean Indian… but also for the beauty of his women, well represented among the winners of the Miss Reunion contest.

“Especially not the ride, because the legs are apart”

Are they also in music? If, as the researcher Carpanin Marimoutou writes in The universe of maloya: history, ethnography, literature (co-written with Guillaume Samson and Benjamin Lagarde, 2008, out of print), “The mother is the symbol and the guardian of memory, of filiation, of transmission”, the role of women in traditional groups has long been confined to that of choristers or dancers. They could possibly play the triangle or the kayamb, but “Especially not rolling”, this big drum on which we sit, “Because the legs are apart”, observe Maya Kamaty.

“When maloya was forbidden [dans les années 1960 et au début des années 1970, du fait de sa proximité avec le Parti communiste réunionnais], it was really a music reserved for men, because it was played in secret ”, confirms Nadège Nagès, production manager at the Regional Pole of Contemporary Music (PRMA): “The women arrived later, with very strong arguments to claim, on the condition of women but not only. “ And to quote Françoise Guimbert, whose first 45-rpm came out in 1978, then, much later, Nathalie Natiembé and Christine Salem.

The latter started maloya in the 1990s. “As a teenager, I was a real tomboy. I was part of a soccer team for ten years. I was so rebellious, I imposed myself ”, she confides, relighting a cigarette. Born in 1971 into a family of sportsmen and accountants in the popular district of Camélias, in Saint-Denis (north), she discovered maloya at the age of 8, in the street. “We hung out at the bottom of the building, we gathered, we organized oxen… At the time, apart from Françoise Guimbert, there were no women who sang maloya as a leader. But if I got down to it, it was mainly because I was tired of hearing people, especially politicians, say that it was not music, that it was not exportable. “ Since then, Christine Salem has proven the opposite, playing her blues-maloya on stages in many countries.

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In his seventh album, Thanks, released in January 2021, it devotes a magnificent song, Tyinbo, domestic violence. “You call her my darling / She embellishes and blesses your life / At a time when you no longer understand her / You tear her life away from her”, she sings in her deep, almost masculine voice. For one who worked in the social support of young adults before devoting herself fully to music, this violence is the fruit of education. “In Réunion, when you raise a boy, you nickname him ‘my little rooster’, she notes. It refers to cockfighting, they are not allowed to cry, to show their emotions. So it ends up coming out in another way, through gestures. “

Three times more domestic violence than in metropolitan France

According to a survey carried out by the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) in 2018, 15% of women living in couples claim to be victims of domestic violence in Réunion, i.e. three times more than in mainland France. Figures that also appealed to the Bonbon Vodou duo, formed by percussionist Oriane Lacaille and guitarist Jérémie Boucris alias “JereM”, both based in France. In their second album, Creole cemetery, released in September, they tackle this theme on the song Of anger, whose clip was ” godmother “ by the association Figures of totem women from overseas. “Out of fury he committed the man / The act of little pride, threatening / Violent, the one he calls his half”, they sing in their soft and jostled poetry, tinged, as it should be, with maloya.

If Jérémie Boucris has Tunisian origins – to which he pays homage through the use of a saz made from a small oil container – Oriane Lacaille is the daughter of René Lacaille, a musician from Reunion Island who trained with Alain Péters and others the famous group of Chameleons, in the 1970s, and whom she accompanied on tour from the age of 13. Musically, she remembers: “As a child, I noticed that there were few women in the groups that came from Reunion, so when some played percussion, it attracted me a lot. In my father’s generation, women did not make music. My uncles played at balls, my aunts stayed at home. Things are much better today, things are moving, but it’s true that women are still too rare on stage. “ At the Sakifo Musik Festival this year, they represented about a third of the artists programmed.

Summary of the series “Maloya in all its states”

Reunionese music inherited from slavery, maloya was banned from public space in the 1960s, before being rehabilitated in 1981 and even inscribed on the list of intangible cultural heritage of Unesco in 2009. Forty years later its “liberation”, and while the French island commemorates on December 20 the 173 years of the abolition of slavery, this music is more alive than ever, whether in its traditional form or through multiple mergers with genres from elsewhere. On the occasion of the Indian Ocean Music Market (Iomma) and the Sakifo Musik Festival, two successive events in Saint-Pierre (south) from December 6 to 12, The world went to meet artists of different generations who pass on the torch of this tradition and constantly renew it.

Episode 1 Maloya, from underground to fame
Episode 2 Maloya, an inexhaustible source of crossbreeding
Episode 3 Maloya, by and for women

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Music: maloya, by and for women

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