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Story of a Métis music in Mauritius, Indian chutney and Sega Bollywood

In many countries that were sent workers “engaged” Indians in the second half of the XIX th  century appeared the original genres for entertainment, called chutney . From directories and forms practiced in Bhojpuri language areas (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, northeast of present-day India), emigrants invented by melting and appropriation of elements encountered in their country of installation, new music that were sold and have gained great popularity in the second half of the XX th century: Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, South Africa and Mauritius all have their own todaychutney . These songs, which provide fascinating examples of mixing and creation, frankly creolisation, have not so far been studied so far, with the exception of the work of Peter Manuel on the Caribbean (Manuel 1998, 1999, 2000a 2000b, 2002) 1 .

  • 2 See, inter alia, Servan-Schreiber 1989, 1991, 1996, 2001.

This is why the study of Catherine Servan-Schreiber is of great importance: it provides a detailed history of chutney Mauritius, accompanied by a careful review of its social roles and meanings. Based on a deep knowledge of the culture and music of India bhojpuris 2 , it tells the story of immigrants bhojpuris Mauritius, analyzes the conditions under which they recompose and reinvent culture in the Diaspora, details the meetings musical, mergers and creations derived therefrom, to highlight the conditions of the emergence of a chutney modern creolized and aspiring to further open up to the world. The analysis of song lyrics and interviews with many actors in the scene chutney Mauritian provide insight into the mechanisms of creolization, but also its limits, and to specify its place in Mauritian society, particularly through its relationship the sega , Mauritius considered fully but whose roots plunge in Africa. The book by Catherine Servan-Schreiber therefore an amount of information on the history of chutney Mauritius and what consideration can make to the understanding of Mauritian society as a whole; from this point of view, already, it is a pioneering work. But he is not content to be descriptive, it also has tracks extremely stimulating reflections on creolization process and the uses of music in the construction of identity.

  • 3 Drum on flat and round frame covered with goat skin.

Emigration, especially in terms of “commitment,” obviously led to radical changes in the social organization and cultural practices bhojpuries. The caste system softens; gender relationships evolve. The Bhojpuris in the countryside as in the cities, are in contact with other immigrants: descendants of African slaves, European settlers and, increasingly, those that are described as Creole. They retain their language but also learn important skills in Creole and Hindi. They hear the music being played next door to them: European dances, lyrical tunes sega where ravanne 3accompanying voice on particular rhythms. It is in the countryside that bhojpuris songs are the best preserved but they do not operate under. The men originally directories are partly taken up by women who play a central role in weddings, transmission privileged moments of musical repertoires;Indian opposition chants large landowners become expression of revolt against the colonial power channels.

Despite a maintained contact with the Indian tradition bearers, frequently invited to Mauritius, the Indo-Mauritian song is slowly moving away from them: the chutney opens with modern practices rooted in rural life, without however denature brutally. Exchanges with European and African music that are initiated from the XIX th  century will accelerate after World War II and rhythms chutney incorporate African and European formulas. The crosses Sega Indian -music multiply on the occasion of the wedding, but also parish fairs and dances. For Indo-Mauritians, the Sega externalizes sensuality, emotion appropriate to transform the atmosphere of marriages where women sing, when couples adopt suggestive movements to musicchutney buttressed with rhythms Sega . The marriage appears as an intense creolisation home: the moment nuptials involves the body, especially women, and fertility; he was once in the inter se of women, the opportunity to affirm the female sexuality and identify with men; it provides the place where young people will play changing propriety codes dancing girls and boys mixed without inhibition; it is the stage on which will be heard modernization of Indian song efforts. Marriage refers to the shared values of Creole, while remaining strictly Hindu: here, says Catherine Servan-Schreiber, emerges the mauricianité, embodied in the new languages of the body that inventing it and show (p . 154). In the other direction, although to a lesser degree, chutney also influences the sega , where we hear the instruments or Indian instrumentalists. In total, the author notes: “[…] creolisation the village Bhojpuri music goes with a orientalization Creole composition modes” (p. 316).

  • 4 The descendants of bhojpuris immigrants now constitute 31% of the population of mauritius villa rental (…)
  • 5 Mahatma Gandhi Institute, established in 1976, and Mauritius Bhojpuri Institute of Port-Louis, founded(…)

The chutney is seen as an instrument of both construction and identity projection. It is undeniably Indian, mainly Bhojpuri 4 , and comes to be considered a heritage institutions undertake to defend, like language bhojpurie 5 . But it also reflected a desire for inclusion in mauricianité, complete with a desire for openness to the world, Europe, the Caribbean (reggae), the US (rap) and South Africa where Mauritian artists find a welcoming audience among South Africans of Indian origin. The chutney is born of the vitality of a contemporary form of Indianness where we perceive an “echo of a move towards the other margin communalist attempts” (p. 25). The type of identity configuration that emerges symbolically in thechutney Mauritius seems to be cumulative: Indianness is not antagonistic to the mauricianité not, itself, exclusive of broader identifications. Yet if the musical symbols seem to indicate a desire of the other, embodied by multiple appropriations and an insertion in shared broadcast networks, the lyrics indicate a relationship to the Other more restrictive. “In a situation of diaspora, music is one of the first identity markers. […] However, globalization and the meeting of musical forms do not necessarily lead to the recognition of the other. More than by a genuine quest for identity, Mauritians are absorbed by a discourse on identity. More than in the past itself, they are interested in a discourse on the past. But in this speech, and the least at the song chutney Mauritian, a lack strangely remark: that of Creole “(p. 326). The relationship with the Other Creole is indeed ever staged in the lyrics, while the Indian himself is present in ségas , which, according to Catherine Servan-Schreiber, could mark the limits of creolization .

The Indo-Mauritian musical invention as described and analyzed in this book raises general questions that open all avenues for further research and to invite such comparative work on different chutneys . Through the creation and development of these genres derived from the same strain can indeed better understand the mechanisms of musical creolization, even in its most recent dynamics. The different degrees of fusion with other local genres (interactions sega-chutney in Mauritius; fusion chutney-socadedicated as full competition repertoire in the carnival of Trinidad), variable levels of recognition and identity instrumentalisations could cast new light on community relations in Creole societies in history and different demographics. In this perspective, the discrepancies between the interpretation of musical and symbolic content analysis of the words that the author notes about Mauritius must become a subject of systematic investigation, completed by a careful review of speeches on music . It is appropriate to ask whether, and how, the unveiling (in education, in the media) and blends Creole créolisants, whose music bears traces, can be a factor exceeded the limits of Creole rated at Maurice. This is not the least of the merits of this remarkable work that incite ask.