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


“The airs and popular songs of a charming rusticity which in the first period had quickly spread throughout the whole island were subsequently abandoned in the Imerina. The organist Marie-Robert Rason, the chapel master of the catholic cathedral of Antananarivo in the 1950s, is responsible for the cause in Ranavalona I. After a few years of calm, he said, “she became sanguinary and persecuted those of her subjects who would not follow the practices of ancestral religion. The terror which seizes the people, stifles the germ of all musical inspiration.
But on the death of the Queen and the accession of his son, Radama II, the music resumed with more splendor, which the organist presented in the second period of musical evolution in Imerina (1861-1895). However, the one described as truly Malagasy, disappears little by little. Two important factors contribute to this evolution towards mixed music.
In the first place, European influence, for Malagasy, more than any other people, “by this very faculty of imitation and assimilation, which is one of its most striking characteristics,” is not slow to accept the new inspiration Of the Vazaha. Then, the influence of Radama II, which “by its frivolous naturalness” contributes largely to making music, “light, carefree and lascivious.” Laborde and Lambert, as well as some Catholic and Protestant missionaries, are in constant and friendly relations with him. He also calls them, in affectionate terms, his “ray aman-dreny” (fathers and mothers). Flattered by such confidence, the Europeans put all their talents and ingenuity into the service of the king.
“It is reported that Laborde and Father Finaz, who had noticed Radama II’s passion for music, donated a piano (it was the first imported to Madagascar) and taught him to play the instrument. “Radama is committed to this new passion with
fervor. Immediately his entourage, like good courtiers, hastened to incense and imitate him. The Vazaha perceiving the musical aptitudes of the Malagasy, spread a multitude of popular European songs. Their influence is also felt on the religious music that flourishes under the queens that succeed Radama II. “The result is the birth of more complex and symmetrical rhythms and melodies. “
This European influence combines the personality of the king. “He was light, libertine and even shameless. He passionately loved music, dance and amusements. Everything that was new fascinated him, captivated him. The combination of these two contributions gives the music “a more square technique and a freer inspiration”.
Marie-Robert Rason quotes some tunes attributed to the king. After a few piano lessons, he began composing. It will be seen how easily he assimilates the foreign taste, without excluding his own. There is first “Kalokalon-dRadama II” (Romance of Radama II). Another melody, supposedly inspired by him, is obviously inspired by English, sometimes called “Mokatejy” (My cottage), sometimes “Rahodra” (My wood). This last romance is said to be composed by the king during a walk with his friends and favorites, on the shores of Lake Tsimbazaza, in a valley to the west of the Rova of Antananarivo. The king is accompanied by a valiha. His particular style conquers the composers of his time.
At the same time, three other tunes of unknown authors “all frivolity” make a tobacco. “There is no European who came to the island who did not retain them. Childishness, inconstancy and indifference are clearly depicted here. One of them is called “Mba hitanareo ve Raketak’izay” (Have you seen my Raketaka). We also note “Ianao Ravazaha ê! (O you Vazaha!). The song would be composed by workers who, tired out by a hard work to which they are not accustomed, go on strike and claim their bosses their wages. Finally we can not overshadow “Ketaka O! “Of a rhythm to make all lovers of public balls rise.
Under the last three queens, Rasoherina Ranavalona II and Ranavalona III, the music
“Frivolous” begins to become more and more serious, giving a prominent place to the spreading Christianity.