Ann O’aro: Longoz

August 25, 2021

Like Flora, Like Fauna

Listening Post 315. The longose is an invasive species that suffocates other vegetation. On her second album, Ann O’aro likens the tree—which flourishes on Réunion, her home island—to traumatic memories that smother the spirit. Symbolism is the latest step in O’aro’s personal-artistic arc: Her 2018 debut album was a stunning exercise—and exorcism—in scorched-earth blues, confronting childhood rape by her alcoholic father, who committed suicide when she was 15. Her initial catharsis took the form of flight—she spent four years in Québec and metropolitan France—followed by dance-martial arts choreography, therapeutic screaming, poetry, and finally singing. Now 30, she examines her life through a wider lens, the brutality still visible but also the ecosystem from which it emerged: French colonial rule with slaves, then indentured servants (from Africa, India, Madagascar), working Réunion’s sugar plantations and rum factories, often paid in quarters of liquor, fostering alcoholism, family dysfunction, a population too docile for revolution—and ultimately democratization efforts, paternalistic at best, that left wounds unhealed. On Longoz, O’aro’s voice caresses with shattering beauty, her lyrics sharp, illuminating and surreal, minimal trombone-percussion accompaniment a perfect match for her revolving tones. Her delivery embodies history: Style, maloya (once prohibited), with touches of jazz, zouk and Mauritian séga; language, Réunion Creole (long marginalized), along with French. In the title track she weaves an epic of ecological destruction with soft, mesmerizing wordplay (video 1). Sobatkor (Body to Body, video 2) envisions love as a combative force of liberation. A message to society, Les Carillons (Militants, video 3) warns the oppressed against becoming oppressors. Rumination borders condemnation in Aswar (Tonight, video 4) a reflection on communal blindness to sexual violence within reach. Eyes wide open, Ann O’aro turns trauma outward, defines herself through music and creation, and sends a powerful message. But the miracle of Longoz is that she’s having fun. (Buda Musique/Cobalt)

Ann O’aro: Longoz
Ann O’aro: Vocals
Teddy Doris: Trombone, backing vocals
Bino Waro: Roulér, sati, pikér, other percussions, vocals

Related post. Ann O’aro (eponymous debut album), Listening Post 184, January 16, 2019.


Longoz / Les Longoses / Longoses
Lyrics & music: Ann O’aro (Anne Gaëlle-Hoarau)

From the album notes: “Longoz are aggressive invasive plants that are steadily replacing the native vegetation of Réunion’s primary forests. They spread rapidly, smothering indigenous species and giving off a powerful scent. Flashbacks, gossip, and things left unsaid about a traumatic memory act like longoz on our psyche and end up smothering and obliterating its essence.”

The symbolism of the song goes beyond the parallel between invasive plants and  traumas. It was from the branch of a longan tree (devoured by the longose in the lyrics) that Ann O’aro’s father hanged himself. The two species, neither indigenous to Réunion, can also be read as a metaphor for the multicultural population of an island that was uninhabited when first discovered.

Also, O’aro plays with the consonances of the words in Réunion Creole, which is why the translation to English is loose…

(From the Réunion Creole lyrics)
Longoses go long, they dig in and hollow out… longoses
their long throats even swallow the long loins of others
long throats, longoses have very long throats,
long throats that vomit…

from long latency in suppressed memory, longoses encircle
the others languish alone in the long throats
the longan trees wither there, their grains engulf themselves
in those long, long gorges, tumbling down on
the long black hearse of the languid forest

far from the longan tree, their caps in withers, jumbled up in a long neck
the longoses vanish into a single long throat
under the pits of longans like rolling eyes
their exorbitant gossip, which screams

the little miseries on the radio, long suites, chattering
caused, still causes
this intoxicated chatter full of menacing darts, prepared with daggers to slit your back


Sobatkor / Corps à corps / Body to Body
Lyrics & music: Ann O’aro (Anne Gaëlle-Hoarau)

Album notes: “Sometimes love allows us to destroy things that seemed fixed, defining and identifying us, in order to accept ourselves for what we are, unalterable but at the same time moving on.”

The impact of your trembling,the beats of your exploded ribs
what is a universe?

You extract the salt from my doubts/Our body-to-body encounter at sea
Scuttling of the butterfly on the lamp/Love dying to live

multitude in me carried away, crazy beauty
as you destroy me

now I’m just waiting for fate/where you go without memory
the dawn crumbles from its minefields/black anchors
Get there standing on your own two feet/you will go far, a long time

All over, where we only speak languages without words
cleanse your water in the sea

Choirs of banged sticks, flat fields, battered bodies, skulls on the ground


Les Carillons / Militants
Lyrics & music: Ann O’aro (Anne Gaëlle-Hoarau) 

Beware of militants, the too militant/those whose slogan is “Z’oreilles out!”*
those who say the Creole has became a colonist/that he is more colonist than the colonist

Beware of men, of women, of their benevolence, of their fancy words
beware of their respect, their respect fails if what you have to say challenges their ideas
their passionate ideas about misery, their want of blood, their bad faith

Beware of militants, those who defend their language
without seeing that they use it to lie
beware of their respect for those who posture
when racism festers

Beware of extremists, those who play with values and numbers
Beware of the man, the woman
beware of me, of my fight, my fight as a victim
too pleased to scream
this is my identity!

*Z’oreilles (“ears”) is a slang term used in French overseas departments to refer to people from metropolitan France.


Aswar / Ce Soir / Tonight
Lyrics & music: Ann O’aro (Anne Gaëlle-Hoarau)

Blue lagoon, blue sky, the boxes under the spiders
do you remember the dust balls of the fishermen banned
from the exalted sound of their kabar?

Play all that percussion
in which amplified melodies whisper

Some shaking bottoms, young girls
to the rhythm of one evening’s thrusts
she is far away, as far away as the moon
that lights up only drunkards, flowered in all their leper bands
under the rubble of the asylum’s collapsed arcades

keep your share of villainy, that of child rapists
hide under the skirts of virgins/those same who make their rollers beat

blue lagoon, blue sky, the sheets removed
the flanked verandas/of their mites
instead of a criminal sentence, the culprits leave their bodies there
the vile buildings imagine it
-those, they’re really not wrong




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