by Sabrina Quirin
This text presents an overview of the recording music industry in Mauritius.
A discussion of the recording history of Mauritius wouldbe incomplete without mentioning artists like Ti Frère, Fanfan and Serge Lebrasse.
Ti Frère, one of the pioneers of sega music, recorded the first 45rpm in 1948. The song was recorded by the Studio Damoo, established in 1919, in Port Louis, the Mauritian capital.
The year 1948 marks the debut of the recording industry in Mauritius.
In 1949, Fanfan, who wrote around fifty songs, released his first record entitled ‘Ma Bolema’. Fifty years later, Fanfan released ‘Kito Lev Néné’ under the Ballerina Music label.
Guardian of the traditional music, the sega, Fanfan dedicated his career to promoting the cultural values of his country. In an interview given in 2008 to lexpress.mu, the artist declared that Mauritius Island "is dictated by the law of the jungle."
Serge Lebrasse, an admirer of Ti Frère, became popular in the 1970s with thesong‘Madame Eugène’. In 1995, in London, the artist republishedhis most popular old classics. At the age of 86, Serge declared, in an interview published on lexpress.mu, that he is retiring from the stage: “I’ve got 55 years of career behind me. I met so many people. I need to rest a little now.”
Menwar and Kaya, managed to revolutionize Mauritian music by merging the Sega with other musical styles. Menwar created the Segaï; a sega form dominated by the blues and accompanied by instruments made of pistachio shells and sugar cane stalks. The album ‘Leko Rivyer Nwar’released in 2002 featured Segaï songs.
Kaya, the protest singer nicknamed "the Bob Marley of the Mascarene Islands", created the seggae: a fusion of sega and reggae. The album Seggae nu la mizik was released in 1989, featuring beautiful songs, which according to his author, would bring with it change so long-awaited by the Mauritian people. Kaya was found dead in prison (under obscure circumstances) in1999.
Record and music distribution companies
The Internetreshaped the musical industry worldwide. There are only a few record companies and recording studios left in Mauritius today, namely Geda Records, Kapricorn and Grace Records.
These labels ensure music distribution through stores and record dealers. Ten years ago, a record company distributed 2000 CDs after releasing an album. Today, this number has decreased.
"In the old days, CDs were not manufactured in Mauritius. We could only order a minimum of a thousand CDs from Singapore. Today, CDs are made locally. A thousand holograms are required per record by the copyright association but we can only afford to sell 100 CDs at a time,” explained Gérard Louis, a musician and artist."We can’t take the risk of distributing more than 100 CDs when we know they won’t sell.”
Music distribution throughonline platforms like YouTube, Deezer, and Spotify, has been a terrible blow to the Mauritian record market. People prefer to listen to music online and free of charge rather than buy a CD.
Today, many artists prefer to release singles, free of charge on the Internet and earn money through concerts and other live performances.
"We are witnessing a paradoxical situation. While the recording industry is stalled, due to the drastic decline in CD production, concerts and other musical releases are doing fine. Mauritian artists are forced to find alternatives to releasing an album to ensure their musical career and make a living,” said Gérard Louis, singer and promoter.
In the 1990s, a period during which music piracy was not an issue, Mauritian music was doing well. The famous Ras Natty Baby and Kaya, sold CDs without worrying about piracy.
Today, the recording industry is not profitable any more. The purchasing power has decreased and a Mauritian thinks twice before buying a CD of local songs which costs Rs250 ($7) while songs are available on the Internet, free of charge.
The Right Management Society (RMS) does its best to collect and distribute royalties to artists. In 2015, the organization registered 250 musical works. ButAfrican collectingsocieties lackthe technical tools to fight music piracy. Someartists turn to specialized companies to protect their music on the Web.
Although the industry is going through a turbulent period, (combating music piracy and free listening online), Mauritian artists manage to producemusic.
Mauritians continue to dance to Alain Ramanisum’s (former member of Cassiya) famous song ‘Li Tourner’ (released in 2012, with the cooperation of DJ Assad).
Clarel Armel’s ‘Lipie Gris’, ‘Ti Pocket’, and ‘Mo Bourzoi’ have been delighting audiences since 2007. His songs are still played on Mauritian radios.
In 2013, Mr Love, nicknamed ‘the local lover boy’ released the album Pou Twa and proved to be a success. The album featured ‘Ti Pocket’, ‘Kado Lavi’, ‘Lambians Hot’, and ‘Twa To Mama’.
Laura Beg, the diva of Mauritian music, known for her ‘Zouk loves’ charmed the public with songs like ‘L’immensité L’amour', from the Mon Ti Kèr album released in 2014; and ‘Ki Toi L’amour’, released from the 2012 Tik Tiker album.
Veteran sega singers, include the King Jean-Claude Gaspard known for ‘Dhobi de Classe’, ‘Problème Cari’ and ‘Pilé Pilé’.
Last but not least, Mario Armelle, over the course of his 45-year career, produced many hits such as ‘Anita my Love’, ‘Cari Posson’ and ‘Séga Tabla’.