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Soul Makassar
Triloka (

cd cover Around 1500 years ago, some historians believe, a hardy group of seafarers sailed out of Indonesia in out-rigger canoes and ended up thousands of miles away, on an island off the coast of Africa now known as Madagascar. In September, 1999, Tarika's lead singer and composer, Hanitra Rasoanaivo, embarked upon an equivalent voyage of discovery, but in reverse, traveling from Madagascar to Indonesia. She spent a month on the isle of Sulawesi as a pilgrim among the Makassar, Bugis and Torajan peoples, searching for her ancestral Malayo-Polynesian roots. It soon became clear that, despite the long sundering and much of the population's lack of interest in their native arts and history, the two groups still shared strikingly similar religious beliefs, superstitions, funerary customs, languages, types of attire and musical instruments.

Hanitra shares her epiphanies throughout Tarika's latest album, Soul Makassar, and even brought her London production team to Indonesia to record with local musicians. Appropriately enough, given Madagascar's Polynesian/African heritage, the title refers to both the Makassar of Sulawesi, and the Cameroonian maestro Manu Dibango's seventies hit, "Soul Makossa." The songs also reflect this duality, as island-born Indonesian and Malagasy traditions mix it up with grooves from the African continent and diaspora. Soft-edged zouk from the French Caribbean flirts with playful and deceptively facile Congolese rumba. Deep-throated Zulu jive chants rise from the depths and soar high, while macho Afrobeat bass lines are sometimes doubled with Senegalese talking drums. However, the Polynesian sources hold their own, and what could have been a foolhardy if natural juxtaposition of influences is knit together by Hanitra's hard-won and confident self-awareness.

composed by Hanitra Rasoanaivo
Among the stand-out tracks, "Allo Cherie," is a light-hearted excursion into the bright primary colors of Congolese soukous, complete with suave, wooing Francophone vocals, carillon-like guitars, and lyrics about the joys of dining alfresco on fish, chilies and rice. "Aretina," deals with Hanitra's dismayed discovery that many Indonesians prefer empty-headed Western-style pop tunes to the vital outpourings of their own folklore. Paradoxically, there is an unexpectedly perfect, fiddle-laced cover of one of Hanitra's childhood favorites, "Be My Baby," the Ronettes' classic girl-group ode to overheated teen romance. "Ela," by the esteemed Malagasy songwriter Levelo, is a florid Polynesian ballad, almost painfully sweet in its open-faced and guileless major key loveliness. Club kids and DJs should immediately cue in the final cut, "Mandindo," a topical, multi-layered rap relating Hanitra's manifold encounters with the vagaries of Indonesian cuisine, instruments, and political factions. - Christina Roden

(p) ©2001 Triloka / Rogue Productions
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Audio may not be duplicated or distributed.
Sulawesi photo (top) by Hanitra
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