Tarika, Son Egal, 1997, aka Avelo?
Tsy Kivy (Don't Be Discouraged)
Voandalana (Fruit of the trip)
Raha Tiany (Things we like)
Diso Be (Very Wrong)
Aza Misy Nitenitney (Don't Say Anything)
Tarika's 1997 album Son Egal was a further helping of the exuberant, infectious, buoyant music of Madagascar's internationally popular roots music adventurers, brought to a new peak by sought-after producers Simon Emmerson (Baaba Maal/Afro Celt Sound System) and Martin Russell. But it also had powerful central themes about historic reconciliation and current political corruption.
In the 19th century, the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar was already a highly developed civilisation, rich in human as well as natural resources - a desirable prize for European powers. In the mid 1890s, the French forcibly colonised the country, exiling their last queen in 1897. 50 years later there was a huge uprising which the colonial power put down. To do so, they used 'Tirailleur Sénegalais', African troops trained in Senegal. To the Malagasy, they were all simply 'Senegalese', and to this day the Senegalese are demonised because of terrible atrocities which took place.
Tarika's leader Hanitrarivo Rasoanaivo (Hanitra) realised that 1997 significantly marked both the 100th anniversary of the last queen's exile and the 50th of the 1947 uprising. It's a period of history that has almost been taboo, because of course some influential Malagasy co-operated with the colonial power and the affair coloured the rest of the indepence struggle up to its granting in 1960 and beyond. So while Tarika took a well-earned break in 1996 after 4 years non-stop touring, she set about researching what really happened in 1947. She made exhausting field trips deep into the Malagasy countryside to interview now-elderly first-hand witnesses, talked to historians and combed archives. She learned the true stories about the 'Senegalese'.
Surely, she reasoned, after 50 years it was time for healing the wounds of history, for the sake of younger generations. But the lessons of history have been trampled by corrupt politicians and businessmen who have driven the country to its knees: it's now one of the poorest on the planet. So Son Egal was inspired by all of this. It's a plea for reconciliation that even had Senegalese musicians from Baaba Maal's band guesting on it. It's strongly critical of the men in suits. To say the least, it was a hot potato in Madagascar, gaining saturation airplay for quite a while after its release.
But being Tarika it was also business as usual. Even their songs that go for the political jugular make you want to dance like crazy. Those unmatchable harmonies piled on top of the energised sounds of updated Malagasy traditional instruments continue to make this one of world music's most accessible bands.
Son Egal was a No.1 album on the European and U.S. World Music charts (the 3rd most airplayed for the whole of 1997), and received rave reviews all over, from The Times to Playboy, Billboard to Wired. It received the 1998 AFIM Indie award for contemporary world music album.
Son Egal is on Xenophile Records (XENO 4042). Order it here.
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