La Reunion Island

Maloya : safeguarding a pillar of our culture

33 years after "Peuple de La Réunion - Peuple du Maloya"

Té / 2 October 2009

According the nomination form, «for several years, the Regional Council has been promoting and supporting maloya in various ways».

The revitalization of maloya over the past 30-odd years has ensured its current visibility within the island and internationally. Many people practise maloya and contribute to maintaining its stylistic diversity. The methods of production of traditional instruments have been passed on to younger generations, and pupils learn these methods in arts and culture classes in primary, lower and upper secondary schools. Maloya thus plays an important role in the fields of music and culture in Reunion.


However, the social and cultural shifts that have occurred in Reunion in the past 30 years (including the decline of the plantation economy and the emergence of a middle class) have undermined the historical basis of maloya music. The leading members of the “maloya families” have almost all passed on. The involvement of young people in maloya and its rearrangement by them fits into the context of “world music” although it sometimes also reflects a desire to revitalize the Malagasy component of this Creole form of maloya peculiar to Reunion. The safeguarding of certain forms of maloya – particularly its more ancient forms – is thus necessary.

For several years, the Regional Council has been promoting and supporting maloya in various ways.

In 1987, the National Regional Conservatoire held its first class on the music of Reunion (sèga and maloya). Furthermore, the regional authority set up several frameworks for action to enable artists to export maloya throughout the world; it supports multidisciplinary events and activities (research, production of recordings, photographs and audiovisual works); lastly, it helps artists to purchase or renew their musical instruments. Since 1997, the Pôle Régional des Musiques Actuelles de la Réunion (PRMA) has been conducting, inter alia, a development initiative on the musical heritage of Reunion and the other islands in the south-west of the eastern Indian Ocean. In addition to assisting the collection of items by ethnomusicologists, PRMA reissues, for the general public, the works of deceased artists and artists forgotten by the music industry, who have nonetheless marked the history of local music.

Zarboutan nout kiltir : pillar of our culture

It is thus for the purpose of preservation and promotion that the Takamba record label – specializing in this musical heritage – was established. The albums produced by the label aim to preserve the country’s music heritage. Each album is accompanied by an exhaustive booklet that provides extensive information (lyrics and their translation; biography; social, historical and stylistic context, and instruments) and illustrations (archive photographs, record sleeves, musical scores) to interested persons. With regard to the restoration of vinyl recordings (78, 45 and 33 rpm) and old tape recordings, this is done solely to eliminate scratches due to wear and tear, thus ensuring that the original music remains unaltered, so as to enable listeners to discover or rediscover original recordings that have become unavailable or inaudible. To ensure their authenticity, but also out of respect for the practices and beliefs related to the repertoires performed, “live” recordings are made in the usual environment of the musician(s) to avoid inhibiting their spontaneity as might be the case in a studio environment, taking into account its technical constraints. In the context of its mission, PRMA has produced several maloya CDs.

Moreover, the Regional Council, through the Maison des Civilisations et de l’Unité Réunionnaise, has created the title Zarboutan nout kiltir (pillar of our culture) which, each year, pays tribute to people from Reunion who have contributed to creating, preserving and transmitting the island’s culture. In 2004, when it was established, it was awarded posthumously to Rwa Kaf, a leading figure in maloya and an eminent storyteller; in 2005, it was awarded to representatives of the leading families of maloya – Firmin Viry, Gramoun Baba, Gramoun Bébé and Granmoun Lélé. On that occasion, the Maison des Civilisations et de l’Unité Réunionnaise produced a CD entitled “Viry 1976” which was accompanied by a booklet. The CD included the songs and speeches that featured in the first 33 rpm maloya record, recorded in public in 1976.

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