The Mauritian musical landscape has drastically changed since 2014. Many festivals have been organised and new distribution companies have emerged, despite the lack of financial support given the country’s difficult economic situation.
In Mauritius in 2015, seven music festivals were organized, against one in 2014. This was an attempt from music entrepreneurs, to revitalize the musical sector, and bring a fresh impetus to the live music scene.
Mauritius has been suffering from a lack of venues for years. In the 90s, the tourist village and pubs of Grand Baie, in the north of the island, was the nerve centre of live music. Some of these pubs closed down in the early 2000s for economic reasons, affecting performing musicians.
While there were festivals being organised in the past, namely Samemsa and Reggae Donn Sa, there was a relatively calm two-year period. In 2015, everything unexpectedly changed.
Seven large-scale events, with solid structures, but different budgets were organized. A number of cultural businessesstood up, offering qualityequipment and a stellar line-up of artists from diverse music genres.
Series of musical events
2015 proved to be a milestone year for culture in Mauritius.
The Ernest Wiehe Jazz Festival was organised in memory of the great Mauritian saxophonist Ernest Wiehe, who passed away in 2010. The festival, an unmissable jazz event in Mauritius, is now at its fourth season and has hosted local and international artists such as AfrikaMhkize, François Jeanneau, and L’Orkès Pei d' Olivier Ker Ourio.
The objective of the Bridge Eco-Art Festival was “to symbolically bridge art and ecology, to connect Mauritians to the concept of ecology, and to promote creativity and openness.”The first edition was a success, with a line-up of 30 artists, including the Germanreggaeman Patrice. The green event was held in the village of Tamarin,situated on the west coast of the island.
The Dombeya Music Festival aimed to be more of a street and roots festival, with a 100% Mauritianline-up. The stage welcomed local celebrities likeZulu, Menwar, Hans Nayna, The Prophecy, Ras Natty Baby, Damien Elisa, Philippe Thomas Syndicate,Blakkayo, Ras Nininn… as well as new talents.
In 2013, Kaz’Out Music Festival was hosting its second editionwhen the organizer Lively Up postponed the next edition to 2015 due to the economic situation. Baster band from Reunion Island headlined the latest editionin the magnificent gardens of the Labourdonnais Castle.
Porlwi by light, an initiative of Move For Art, gathered more than 300,000 peoplein three days in Port-Louis, the capital city. The cultural and artistic project showcased art through music, street art, original performances, gigantic art installations, art exhibitions andlight installations.
The first edition of One Live Muzik Festivalwas held at the Café du Vieux Conseil in Port Louis. Its engaging and warm atmosphere will remain in the memory of many. The festival was organized on the Indian Ocean theme and showcasedlocal bands as well as bands from Reunion, Rodrigues and Agalega Islands.
The first edition of Labourdonnais Music Festival, launched by Angelo Gopee, a Mauritian established in France, hosted international artists. In 2015, the festival welcomed Christophe Willem, Marina Kaye and the trio L.E.J as well as local artists namely Yoan Catherine and DJ Assad.
Music needs to survive outside festivals and venues are a key element in promoting the current music scene.
This sector is recently undergoing resurgence in popularity, thanks to better line-ups of artists.While the Sapin Café Culture was once the temple of live music, Lakaz Cascavellenow stands out as the place to discover the latest Mauritian songs. Situated on the west coast of the island, not far from Flic-en-Flac beach, live concerts are hosted every Wednesday.
The electric sessions of Jam dan Lakazhave become legendary. Lakaz Cascavelle also gives the opportunity to young artists to perform and promote their music.
Hennessy Parkoffre, situated in Ebony in the central region of the island, hosts musical events every Friday evening. The venue offers happy hours and a selective live musical line-up to start the weekend.
The charming Enso, nested in the heart of La Gaulette village, not far from the Morne, is more ‘roots’ and modest while Kenzi Bar situated in Flic-en-Flac, opens its garden every Sunday afternoonfor musical sessions with local groups, ina carefree hippie-like atmosphere.
The small Apocalypse pub, situated in the city centre of Curepipe, is the place where the urban culture warms up to reggae, hip hop, dancehall, blues and soul vibes.
Baz' Art, situated at the entrance of Mahebourg village, in the southern part of the island, is lined up with sugar cane stalks. The venue offers a warm setting, a beautiful hall in a stone building as well as open air concerts according to a seasonal calendar.
The emergence of festivals and availability of venues in Mauritius allow local artists to survive in a country where musical piracy rages. Live music is today the only means to fight plunder, and music resounds louder than ever on the plains and beaches of the island.