Gwendoline Absalon: Vangasay

Roots & Routes

Listening Post 272. The name of Réunion, France’s Indian Ocean department, commemorates the union of radical and bourgeois forces during the French Revolution. So it’s ironic that for much of the twentieth century authorities in Paris prohibited maloya, the island’s iconic music form, on the grounds that it was revolutionary. Maloya itself represents union, the fruit of a blended culture with contributions from descendants of African and Malagasy slaves and Indian indentured laborers that included Gwendoline Absalon’s ancestors. One of the preeminent young singer-songwriters from the island long shaped by events on distant shores, Absalon is doing her own beach hopping these days, using her gently swaying maloya to communicate with kindred cultures. Vangasay, her second album, is about roots and routes, linking identity with healing, tradition with innovation. As she couples maloya with Cape Verdean morna, bélé from Martinique, jazz, bossa nova and blues, her warm, natural voice paints scenes in Réunion Creole with light touches in French and Portuguese. She uses floral metaphors for human activity, as in Filao, a declaration of independence as stunning as it is mellow (video 1). The title track honors a tropical lemon known for its medicinal properties, which the artist applies to healing history as well as body and soul (video 2). In the maloya-chanson Ti fi la (This Little Girl, video 3), Absalon describes a crying child who finds her inner strength in song, while in Modernité (Modernity, video 4) she warns a wired society not to take “virtual” too far. La Diva de la Morna (The Diva of Morna, video 5), an homage to the Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora, is a breathtaking encounter of two Creole traditions. Thanks to artists like Absalon, music once banned has become not only revered but a form of diplomacy. On Réunion, in Metropolitan France and across all seas, that’s a revolution worth singing. (Ting Bang)

Gwendoline Absalon: Vangasay
Gwendoline Absalon: Vocals, sanza
Hervé Celcal: Piano, keyboards, backing vocals
Rija Randrianivosoa: Guitars
Fabrice Thompson: Percussions
Vincent Philéas: Percussions
Fabrice Legros: Guitar
Caroline Faber: Backing vocals, percussions

Related posts. Maya Kamaty: Pandiyé, Listening Post 219, September 8, 2019
https://worldlisteningpost.com/2019/09/18/maya-kamaty-pandiye/
Ann O’aro: Listening Post 184, January 16, 2019
https://worldlisteningpost.com/2019/01/16/ann-oaro/

 

Filao
Lyrics: Gwendoline Absalon/Music: Renaud Hervé Celcal
From the album notes: The song takes its name from the lao tree, which originated in Southeast Asia and can be found across the Indian Ocean and in the West Indies. On Martinique the expression “monter lao” (literally, climbing the lao) means reaching heaven’s door.

(From the Réunion Creole lyrics)
Today you ask me who I am/Tomorrow you’ll ask me what I do
As if identity for you is a way of speaking/As if identity for you is to be like you

Then look me in the eye/See what’s inside me
Because I’m the one you can’t see

You’re fooling yourself, you’ve lost your head
You’re fooling yourself, you’ll reach heaven’s door, like all of us
Your story, you know it/Your story, you created it
Your story, you know it/Your story, I’m not the author

This is who I am/I am a committed woman
What I advocate is that/Each of us has our own place

I look at you to see what’s inside
I see hatred and fear/For those and what you don’t know

You’re fooling yourself, you’ve lost your head
Whether it’s today or tomorrow
You’re fooling yourself, you will reach heaven’s door, like all of us
I am who I am/Do whatever you want, I’ll be me

 

Vangasay
Lyrics & music: Gwendoline Absalon
Album notes: Like the vangasay, a precious fruit with medicinal virtues, history and tradition are rich and precious: Let us pass them on and the gramoun (ancestors) will be reassured.

If the scent of lime from Tahiti/Wraps the soul, like a rum you drink in the morning
Tell the ancestors that they no longer need/To hide their misery like the screwpine fruit

This boiling pot of pipingaille (sponge gourd) broth is like a little sister
That frees the tormented souls within us/That charms time to move on with strength

Pipingaille like a little sister, hey/Pipingaille like a little sister, ho
Pipingaille like a little sister, hey/To awaken our soul

We all have this Monbreita-red blood in our veins/But let us remain humble
Let us be ready, have the confidence of the betelnut tree/Without imposing upon others

See! I am a committed woman/Whose mission is to listen with respect and wisdom

 

Ti fi la / This Little Girl
Lyrics: Gwendoline Absalon/Music: Renaud Hervé Celcal

A little girl was crying/No one consoled her
Even if deep down/There was this urge to caress life

On her skin/Layers of dust
This little being/Lived in a slum

Only when she sang/Did her heart open up
Only then did she discover joy/With a little ray of sunshine

Her eyes filled with pain/and her beautiful curly hair
She was drowning/And fell into her own cries

She got up and started to walk/To fight the darkness
She was killing her rage/In music

 

Modernité / Modernity
Lyrics & music: Fabrice Legros

Imagine life in pixels/For two, “I love”
To live together virtually/Everyone has their responsibilities

In our hands we have an entire world/We live with our heads down
Wofo wifi/Losing the thread of life

In reality/On this earth we are honey
And modernity is rotting us away/Without our even realizing it
In reality/On this earth we are honey
And modernity is rotting us away
We must not lose our way/In the infinite

Today we no longer watch/We digitize
Our reality, shared/Linked hashtags

We’re losing track of the notion of “real”/Our thoughts bewitched
We’re losing track of the notion of “real”/Everything is our imagination

In reality/On this earth we are honey
Modernity is rotting us away/Without our even realizing it
In reality/On this earth we are honey
Modernity is rotting us away
We must not lose our way/In the infinite

Come on, sit down so we can see/What’s in front of us
I’m telling you my love/Look into my two eyes

My love is real/No one can monopolize it
Come to the web in my heart/Surf by my side

We arrived by boat/To browse the networks
For a text language/To speak in flavored water

 

La Diva de la morna / The Diva of Morna
Lyrics: Gwendoline Absalon/Music: Renaud Hervé Celcal

Shrouded in wisdom, wisdom born of sadness/She sang morna to tell her life story
Her only dress was a veil of beauty, that of her country/She had the moon under her feet

With a little sandalwood fragrance on her face/Fruit of her culture
Barefoot, to feel her earth
Ila hey, ila hey, ila hey, the beauty of her country/She had the moon under her feet

On her native island, São Vicente/She died before us all on December 17th
In her eyes you could see the rays of the sun/The sun of her country, Cape Verde
With sandalwood fragrance on her coffin/Barefoot, she felt her earth, for one last time

Fauna and flora in harmony
In tune with her body

 

 

 


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