Island artistes out to revive a genre

Touring the country this month are singer Christine Salem and band Grèn Sémé -- musicians from the French country in the Indian Ocean.
It was once a banned musical genre in their home country. Now, a group of Reunion Island artists are playing it loud for the whole world to hear.

Their style of music - Maloya - has had something of a revival over the past 30 years, having been banned until the 1980s because of its political themes.

The percussion-heavy genre is now the forefront of their artistry and they’re showcasing that on their tour of India, which included concerts in Bengaluru.

For Grèn Sémé‘s De Sacco Carlo, he’s really proud to play Maloya. He sees it as a revolution for his culture and he wants to keep the traditional style alive. 
“Music is a powerful thing, it can touch people through its emotions. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics it can make you cry, or make you laugh,” he says. Grèn Sémé, singer and percussionist in the band, draws inspiration from reggae and hip hop.

A passionate writer, he uses his music as an opportunity to tell stories on stage. “I’m hoping that through music the world can be a slightly better place. Even if it’s just one drop in the ocean I’m hoping to do something good for people.”

With a large Hindu population on Reunion Island, there’s an existing connection between the rhythms of his music and their Indian audiences, he says.

It’s the first time travelling to India, and while he describes it as “organised chaos”, he’s finding it to be a positive and inspirational trip. “People here have a different connection with things like death and it makes me feel better because people accept it as a part of life, much easier than people do in Western culture.”

While it might be Grèn Sémé’s first visit to India, Christine Salem has been touring internationally for years, with a drive to help people discover new music. “I’ve been singing since I was in my mum’s belly,” Christine says. She adds, “It’s always been great to perform in other countries. People don’t know the music at first but then they relate to it.”
Performing Maloya is her way of feeling connected to her ancestors and it brings out a positive energy for her on stage. “It’s emotional because it was forbidden, and it became a challenge to promote the music because it wasn’t played at home.”

However, while progress has been made, she says there’s still a lot of work to be done to get Maloya recognised and promoted worldwide.

Performing as part of the “Musical Greeting from Reunion Island”, the two artists are in India until October 27, courtesy the French Institute and French Embassy in India.

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Island artistes out to revive a genre

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