I took this photo of Sega dancers on the beach at a small island off Grande Baie in the Northeast of Mauritius. It was a special event for international journalists as part of the annual Kreol Festival of music and dance in December.
Sega Dancing forms a strong part of Mauritian national identity and when you visit Mauritius you must try and see a performance, although the hotel offerings tend to be rather touristy. Families love to relax and picnic by the beach on the weekends and you will often see people dancing Sega together. If you are lucky to see some of this dancing it will offer a much more authentic experience.
In her book on Mauritius entitled Culture Shock!: Mauritius, Roseline NgCheong-Lum describes the Mauritian Sega in the following terms:
“It is both song and dance. Accompanied by distinct instruments such as the ravane (a thin, wide drum covered with a goat’s skin), the maravane (a pebble-filled box that makes a rattling sound when shaken) and the triangle, the singer sings about the tribulations of love or the humorous side of life. The instruments provide a rhythm only, no melody. The dance is a series of shuffling steps with no set pattern, with hips swinging and arms outstretched. The dancers shuffle around each other before facing each other and sitting down on the floor, bending their torsos forward and backward, much like a courtship dance. Commercial performances in hotels and nightclubs accentuate this suggestiveness and try to lend an air of eroticism to the dance.
The Sega is extremely versatile. It can be played with full set of guitar, drums and trumpet or with no instruments at all. Anything that can make noise will do – an old jerry-can, two sticks, or a bottle and a coin, and that’s the way a Sega party gets under way at the beach. And, despite the sensuality of swaying hips and torsos, the Sega is a family dance as well. Young children dance the Sega with their grandparents at weddings, friends dance it when they meet in the village square.
To start with, the Sega is African in origin, brought to Mauritius by slaves in colonial times. During those days of slavery, the Sega provided a form of relief to the hard-working slaves who yearned for the land they were cruelly snatched from.
In the beginning, Mauritians in general view the Sega as a Creole song and dance. The word ‘Creole’ in the Mauritian context has two meanings. Firstly, it means the mother tongue of most Mauritians, which is Creole Patois. Secondly, it means the black community of Mauritius. But today the Sega is a national song and dance enjoyed by all the communities of Mauritius. Click Sega Dance to view pictures of the Sega dance.”
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