Select Page

Madagascar News Forums The Transformation of Antananarivo Reply To: The Transformation of Antananarivo


The third period of musical evolution in Imerina goes from the end of monarchy to independence. It thus began at the time of the French occupation. Organist Marie-Robert Rason, a chapel master of the catholic cathedral of Antananarivo in the 1950s, evokes three elements that are inseparable from music, voices, instruments and dances. Concerning the first element, nothing else is to be noted except that the completion of the evolution really damages the purely Malagasy music.
However, despite the progress made, “Madagascan blood is bubbling and tears come to the eye” as soon as the Malagasy hears some old tunes, well preserved and sung in great circumstances. But not being legion, they become real objects of curiosity.
“Nature seems to have been miserly towards the Malagasy in the distribution of votes. In general, their stamp is rather common. Instead of those low bass which make the hearts vibrate, you have only lean and petty baritones. And instead of those tenors that go up to the la, feel happy to find intermediate voices, between light baritone and second tenor, but dull and flabby, which climb with difficulty up to the mid or fa at most … En The real soloists do not exist, so to speak, among the Malagasy. “
The organist adds that the Malagasy also ignore the different resources of nuances offered by the voices exercised. “They sing only of throat, mouth and nose. The voices of chest, head and falsetto are hardly known. According to him, women and children imagine themselves singing marvelously, clenching their teeth and shouting from the throat and nose: the effect is disastrous. Nevertheless, with an artistic training of which they are capable, these disadvantages are remedied.
In a previous note, we are talking about the instruments used by Malagasy people (sodina, sea conch, lokanga voatavo, valiha, lamako, hozolahy, langoraony, ampongabe …). They are “poor” instruments, so they quickly adopt those of the Europeans. Thus the wind and string instruments, some of which are known under Radama II, are spreading thanks to Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony and, for a long time, the cornets à piston, clarinets with brilliant timbre have the favor of the Malagasy.
The organization of the military bands and that of the Music of the General Government in Antananarivo provide pleasant concerts, the last one obtaining success with the European public, during the exhibition of Paris in 1900. In Antananarivo, a society of amateur musicians , The Philharmonic Society, which has European and Malagasy members, gives interesting performances.
“Needless to say, the airs of European and American dances are welcomed with eagerness by the youth. “

The favorite authors of Malagasy instrumentalists are the Hawaiians by “their tunes and sixts balancing and nonchalant, sad and nostalgic”, the Italians by the captivating charm of their serenades of love, the Spaniards especially by their tunes sometimes
“Languidly colored” sometimes vividly syncopated. “It seems that the musical soul of these races comes across the oceans striking Malagasy inspiration. “
The Malagasy have a great deal of facility and disposition, but most of them lack a spirit of follow-up in the work which makes the real artists, and rather than persevere, they content themselves with a little more which, For them, would be perfection. However, an elite has managed, thanks to a sustained will, to a higher musical degree. The Great Island produces some artists who have success in France. The most famous in the fifties is Gilbert Raony-Lalao, who obtains the flute prize at the Paris Conservatoire.
It is especially in dance that the most change is discovered. The Malagasy quickly abandon their national dances. Especially the elite of the population who, at the same time that it adopts the customs and customs of Europe, engages modern dances. Only the popular mass retains the cult of the Mpilalao.
In conclusion, Marie-Robert Rason wonders why the Malagasy composers, instead of approaching European music of medium value, the elite practicing the classics, would not seek to draw more often the subjects of their inspirations In the old melodies they neglect.