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THE SEGA – OUR NATIONAL DANCE

THE SEGA – OUR NATIONAL DANCE

Over the last decade or so, the Sega, as a performing art, has found itself in a state of flux, where it has been constantly developing, embracing different styles of music. But some people have expressed concern, that the sega tipik or traditional version of this song and dance is being undermined. Is the art of the traditional Sega maintaining its original style? Can the development of the Sega – a vital part of the folklore of the island – take place without doing any damage to the original tradition; and to what extent should we intervene to ensure the maintenance and upkeep of the sega tipik? Should society contribute to the upkeep and perpetuation of our folkloric heritage, or should we stand by and let the Sega adapt itself to social changes?

Traditional Sega was once important as a tool, in the process of adaptation. Through it early African slaves brought to the island articulated their sorrow, their yearning for home and their means of adapting to a new environment. Like other forms of cultural expression, the Sega functioned as a pressure valve, at times of great tension, distress and oppression. Moreover, it has been, and still is, an outlet or medium to convey stories and myths.

What makes the Sega even more interesting is the set of instruments used in a folkloric band; most originate from mainland Africa or Madagascar, brought over by the slaves. Traditional instruments like the maravane, ravanne, drums, triangle and so on, used in a Sega tipik band, are non electronic, handmade musical tools which are themselves living historical and cultural artefacts.

Despite its African origins, the Sega tipik has nevertheless evolved a distinctive Mauritian characteristic. As different groups of Africans – and other ethnic groups – came together on the island, speaking various languages, creole songs and stories, together with melodies originating from diverse regions were all incorporated into the sega. As a result we managed to create our own unique rhythm and island style.

As the Sega developed different styles evolved, each with a distinctive sound, depending on types of instruments and rhythms. But in addition to all these gradual changes, we have recently experienced a revolution in the sega industry. With have new Sega sounds emerging, be it with modern electric instruments or from a combination of two styles like the Seggae. New developments, like Rap Sega are taking us further and further away from the original concept. Some might like to view this as proof that we have been very creative over the last two or three decades, and do not believe that these new trends are likely to harm the old traditional Sega of the island. The Seggae style, for example, is seen as extending from the Sega-root, it is merely a new interpretation with a new name. It is impossible for Seggae to subjugate or conquer the space occupied by, or to overshadow, the Sega. For it is different from the Sega tipik itself; and the same applies to the modern Sega with electric instruments.

Although Sega was probably originally a derivative of the musical traditions of the African slaves, it has undergone cultural modifications throughout its existence, and it is for all to enjoy and to continue to adapt according to changing tastes and inventions. We have all contributed to it in different ways, be it linguistically, artistically, or ethnically. It is a product of the Mauritian society, the folklore of the island, it is as popular and enjoyable as the language itself. And whilst sega tipik will no doubt continue to be performed for the delight of tourist audiences, they, along with the islanders themselves, can be exposed to the newer variants of our national song.

Of course, there are ways in which we can help to make sure that the traditional Sega survives, alongside other styles. Our cultural institutions should make better provision for the promotion of the traditional Sega. Funds and energy should be invested appropriately, and the work should be aimed at the upliftment and refinement of this, our national art form. Ultimately we cannot and should not impede the emerging variants of sega, but we have to make sure that the original traditional performance style of Sega is preserved and perpetuated. We should work towards maintaining the originality of this unique style of performing art that is the island’s pride and joy.

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© CCuniah

One Response to “THE SEGA – OUR NATIONAL DANCE”

  1. Vani says:

    Great aticle…tnx

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