Various ‘Soul Sok Séga: Sega Sounds From Mauritius 1973 – 1979’ CD/2LP/Dig (Strut) 4/5

soul-sok-ségaStrut have over recent years made a regular incursion into the danceable world beats rhythms from parts of the globe that larger labels would otherwise not touch with a barge pole such as the excellent, ‘Haiti Direct’. It is with this open-minded approach in mind that one should view the latest compilation from the former French colony of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, formerly known as Ile-de-France. African slaves were brought to the island against their will, but, as with other small islands, a new Creole culture emerged that took on board the vestiges of their ancestors African homeland from places as far apart as West Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique and Zanzibar. A new indigenous music and accompanying dance thus began to take shape during the 1960s and by the middle of that decade had become a source of national pride and identity for the inhabitants of the island, not dissimilar to the origins of samba in Brazil.
This identity cut across a multitude of religions and ethnic groups as Mauritians of African, Chinese, European and Indian heritage enjoyed the séga rhythms that are extremely varied and difficult to compare with other musical styles elsewhere. It is this multitude of musical styles that is celebrated on this new anthology, the first on modern Mauritius music to be compiled from an English-language label to this writer’s knowledge. The sheer diversity of the artist names and rhythms are testimony to the inclusiveness of séga and this is typified by the shuffling Afro-Latin beat of ‘Eliza’ by Georgie Joe, or the high tempo and repetitive groove of ‘Bonom Chinois’ by Claudio. For some old-school 1970s organ beats, ‘Ségar Lenoir’ by the evocatively named Les Stardust (no relation 1970s UK pop idol Alvin, one presumes). In parts, the sound effects are bizarre and take a little time to come to terms with, but underpinning much of the compilation are the funk beats and both coincide on the album title track performed by Ti L’Afrique. Soul music from the United States clearly made an impact on the island and the soulful intro combined African guitar riffs combine well on ‘Mademoiselle’ by Jean-Claude with the catchiest of choruses, ‘Mademoiselle, donnez-moi la permission’. A love of English language musicians seems to be reflected in the names chosen by musicians on the island and this proves to be the case for the percussive and funk guitar riffs of ‘Manuel Bitor’ by John Kenneth Nelson. Perhaps not as immediate as some of the previous compilations, but definitely worthy of your attention.

Tim Stenhouse