Soul Sok Sega: Sega Sounds From Mauritius 1973-1979

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Soul Sok Sega: Sega Sounds From Mauritius 1973-1979
Strut Records (

Further proof that not only did colonization's incessant need for control, worker exploitation, and outright slavery force the planet into a crazy quilt of languages, ethnic hybrids, distinctive cuisines, and rhythms, it also culminated in dancefloor, electric ensemble, and DJ explosions in so much of the world. Like Nigerian Afro-Beat, Ghanaian Highlife, Haitian Kompas, Martiniquais tumbele, Garifuna paranda, or Dominican merengue, just to mention a few, sega, the local rhythm played by slaves imported from Madagascar and the African mainland on the French-controlled island of what is now Mauritius, found itself mutating in the wave of funk, rock, and jazz imported from the West as its role transformed from ritual music featuring the Ravanne drum to yet another folk/pop mutt in the 1960's and 70's. And once again, Strut, with the ass-moving expertise of a couple of Mauritian DJs specializing in keeping 70s-era sega heating up dancefloors, has curated another finely distilled compilation.

Listen "Manuel Bitor" (excerpt)

Coming mostly from singles on the local Disques Illa, Jackman, and Capricorne labels, this collection no doubt serves as an introduction to artists such as Harold Berty, Christophe, Yoyo, Marie Josee and others. And yes, it goes down like Achard Bilimbi and Rum. John Kenneth Nelson's “Manuel Bitor” staggers over a minor key chorus similar in melody to music found from Guadalupe to Trinidad. Marie Josee and Roger Clency's “La Vie en Badinage” percolates in a similar fashion to Nelson's track, but the percussion is glass shard sharp, the melody peppered with a hint of the sinister. In fact, any first-time listener trying to place this stuff will observe that, no matter how familiar it seems, no matter that it's sung, like Haitian kompas, in a distinct French-derived Creole, that there is something unique about this music.

Listen "La Vie en Badinage" (excerpt)

That is the sega, a rhythm that holds back before slamming forward, creating a kind of hesitation in every track here. It is also this rhythm, which made its way from Mauritius to other French-controlled area islands such as Reunion, Rodrigues, and Chagos, that locks a culture composed of Africans, Chinese, Indians, and others together as a cultural and musical force. Ultimately, Soul Sok Sega, continues to show that the 1970s, far from being a wasteland of vapid, cocaine-fueled narcissism and musical bloat, was actually the accumulation of a remarkable mixture of experimental hybrids, analogue production, and sheer rhythmic joy! - Bruce Miller

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