Dubbed in French
A band from Reunion Island, which plays world dub, will present human emotions in a musical context at a gig in the city
International acts visiting Mumbai are a dime a dozen these days. Some of them play music with an electronic bent, others are rock stars capitalising on faded popularity, a few are contemporary giants such as Coldplay, and the rest are niche acts that fit into an experimental mould. This weekend, though, will feature a band from a rather unusual destination — Reunion Island — play a brand of music — world dub — that Mumbaikars rarely get to experience. The outfit sings in French and Creole, and its name is Grèn Sémé.
We catch up with the vocalist and front man, Carlo De Sacco, over email to find out more about the music from the island, which is still controlled by the French. He explains that traditional Reunionese songs owe their origins to the period in the 19th century when France abolished slavery. "This music has its roots in many cultures including African, Malagasy and Indian. Indians arrived on Reunion Island (located in the Indian Ocean) through a voluntary movement called 'engagisme' to work after the slavery period.
Carlo De Sacco performs live
Maloya music, as it is called, was earlier about revolution, a hard life due to oppression and the difficulties of oppressed people. But it's now opening up to the world, and also talking about love and happy things," De Sacco writes. That last fact is reflected in Grèn Sémé's own music, which encompasses modern electric guitar-based rhythms, and drums and a keyboard as well. "The band has various influences. We mix our maloya music with electro, jazz, rock and reggae. Our lyrics are in French and the Creole language," the musician continues.
De Sacco adds that the members are familiar with Indian classical music, too. He cites Ravi and Anoushka Shankar as people he admires, adding that he would have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with indigenous Indian musicians on a tour of the country that Grèn Sémé is undertaking at present. But given the packed schedule, with shows in Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Mumbai, it seems unlikely that this hope will materialise.
Having said that, he also feels that there are cultural common grounds that Indians and the Reunionese people share. "India is a lively place that gives us an opportunity to question our western way of thinking about life and death. And I think that the people here are very welcoming because, maybe, they hear or see a part of their own culture in our music," De Sacco says.
You can now find out the truth in those words if you head to their gig in the city. In it, the band will express a whole range of human emotions through the medium of their music. "We want to share a moment of music and universal love. Happiness, sadness, melancholy and art are beautiful therapy for human beings. Art, in fact, heals the pains of the soul," the singer says, voicing a sentiment we wholeheartedly agree with.
Going back to the roots
Christine Salem — one of the most recognisable artistes from Reunion Island to make maloya music — will play a set before Grèn Sémé. She has Malagasy roots, has no formal training, can't read music and plays by the ear, which goes to show what a naturally gifted performer she is. The sort of melodies Salem embodies are a direct reflection of her culture, and will give listeners a true window into the sounds of Reunion Island.
On October 25, 7.30 pm
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