A vocalist from Reunion Island with Indian roots will perform native jazz art forms at a music festival
Valerie Chane Tef plays the keyboard in a music video. PIC COURTESY/YOUTUBE
When Valerie Chane Tef performs outside her native island of Reunion, a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean, the audience often finds it a challenge to gauge her music. The vocalist and pianist, who sings in Reunion Creole, assures us that it’s barely a barrier — “Music is a conduit of words and emotions; it speaks for itself. Instead of erecting barriers, it acts as a bridge for emotions to flow freely.” Ahead of her performance at Mumbai Jazz Festival with her newly formed band Ter Laba consisting of pianist Flo Vincenot and percussionist Arjuna Mariapin, the artiste offers a glimpse of her musical journey.
Arjuna Mariapin in performance
Shaped by various waves of immigration and colonization over time, Reunion Island is home to a multicultural population. Reunionese Creole, the native language of 90 per cent of the islanders, primarily originates from French, but incorporates vocabulary from Malagasy, Portuguese, Hindi and Tamil. Speaking about the influence of this diverse environment in her music, Tef shares, “My journey started from singing in musicals in school. The music around me was a crossbreed of European, Indian and African styles. As I grew older, I realised I have inherited a profoundly rich heritage and as an artist I had the prerogative to take it to the world.”
The artiste tells us the audience can expect performances in Maloya, a native jazz style that has origins in the music of African slaves and Indian indentured workers on the island. Coloured in themes of revolt and rebellion, it will be paired with Sega, a musical style native to the neighbouring island of Mauritius. “While these styles have political undertones, they embody the experience and the joy of being Reunionese. We infuse these styles with jazz standards and traditional jazz instruments to create a distinctive experience,” Tef reveals.
Over a short chat with the musician, we learn that there’s more to her arrival in India than what meets the eye. “My maternal grandmother was born in Pondicherry!” she shares excitedly, adding, “It is fascinating to me that I will be navigating the same route my ancestors took while migrating to the island generations ago. As I prepare to perform in the beautiful city of Mumbai, I realise that this trip is much more than a musical tour for me. In a way, it’s me tracing my roots back to my origins while doing what I love the most, playing music.”
On: December 10; 6 pm
At: Mumbai Jazz Festival, Phoenix Palladium, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
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