Sega Mauritius is quite simply an art form, something that seen once is sure to live vividly in your memory for years to come. Behind the brilliantly coloured costumes and lively music lies a rich history, significant meaning and an interesting evolution. Here are the reasons why Sega in Mauritius is so wonderfully unique:
The sega or ‘tchega’ has its origins in East Africa as it appears in the island around the seventeenth century, through the slaves who were bought for force labors in the plantations. They brought with them African’s tam-tam and drums which were then mix with hand-made instruments built with goat skins, small stones and wood.
Sega was not only a spellbinding dance but also a way for the slaves to express the pain associated with their uprooting. This sacred dance rhythm accompanied the slaves during the important moments of their slavery. It brought together different people and slaves in joy and harmony into a magical dance-trance (the Babani). The songs were then made in creole, a mix of languages, symbol of sharing and bringing people together.
Typically, the rhythmic essence of Sega in Mauritius is created through wonderfully inventive instruments that have an unbelievable impact. The ravanne, maravanne, traditional guitar and triangle are used to create the wonderfully upbeat sounds of Sega. For those who are unfamiliar with these handmade instruments, the “ravanne” is a large, drum-like object, made with a wooden hoop which is then covered with stretched goatskin. The “maravanne” is a type of rattle made up of a wooden box which is then filled with sand or seeds. The “triangle”, as the name suggests, is a metal instrument made in the shape of a triangle and it makes a tinkling sound when struck with a small metal rod.
Accompanying the sounds of the wonderful and unusual traditional instruments, the songs are usually sung in Creole, which evolved from the French language in the 18th century (and is widely spoken throughout the island) and center on tales of the heart or the depiction of daily Mauritian life.
When you see a performance of Sega in Mauritius, two things will occur to you. One that it’s unbelievably difficult to resist the urge to join in, and two, that the spectacle is so exquisitely vibrant and colourful. Typically, women would wear long skirts boarded by petticoats, while men would wear comfortable trousers, straw hats and shirts. Today, the women’s ensembles are gorgeously vivid and come in a variety of patterns and colours, and the men’s shirts are equally vibrant, adding an extra element of festivity to the extravaganza already so thrilling.
Sega is typically danced by couples without contact between the men and women. Hips swing, arms are raised and feet sweep the floor as they take lateral steps. Often in the middle of the dance, the couple crouch down on their knees. Their busts meet and they lean over onto each other, taking it in turns to dip over backwards in an erotic manner, a step called the ‘en bas en bas’ (‘down low’).
Nowadays, mainly on weekends, Mauritians often get together around a beach fire to play, sing and dance sega. This involves dancing with the two feet close to each other, echoing the origins of the sega dance during the days of slavery when dancers couldn’t lift their feet from the ground because of the chains they wore.
Here is a video clip that features Ti-Frère, one of the most famous Sega Tipik singers and showcases the traditional sega mauritius dance and music, including the traditional sega instruments: the ravann, the maravann and the triangle.
The Sega perfectly represent Mauritius, as it is not just a dance but a heritage. Its dance and songs are an emancipation of the soul that pushes the miseries of life away while celebrating the joy and happiness that every human being is seeking. Sega is a story and a sharing, a way to bring all people together in harmony and peace by taking down all the boundaries.
Let yourself groove to the sega music during your stay in Mauritius. Foreigners are often welcomed to join in and learn the dance steps. Enjoy the Sega!