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


At the beginning of his reign, Ranavalona I was loved by his subjects, tired of the wars of his predecessors, as the Hymns they dedicate to him. Marie-Robert Rason, organist and chapel master of the catholic cathedral of Antananarivo, reports that it is from his reign that Merina music begins to appear with the creation at court of the royal singers Called “Mpiantsa” (see previous note).
These, directed by three professionals, Ranaivomahatana, Rasoanotadiavina and Raivodosy, interpreted, among others, the Hymn in honor of the queen and the Royal Hymn sung on the occasion of the voyages. The organist comments that, unlike the Hymn to the Queen, the “Mpiantsa”, to sing the first title, are divided into two groups. The first, comprising the “right-wing singers,” enters with fire the first two measures; The second, left singers, responds to him in more animated parts. The hymn invariably begins again until the coryphaeus faints. But “in spite of its rusticity, sung by the voices of women with the warmth and piety it entails, it breathes a sort of oriental, sweet and sweetness.”
Marie-Robert Rason gives another example, the Royal Hymn sung on the occasion of the voyages, an air which, one might say, is the basis of a host of later compositions. “It is, indeed, of an easy and singing conception, appreciable especially in its natural setting.”
As children’s songs, the organist records hundreds of them, but their melodies, “almost”, offer only slight variations. He nevertheless quotes four which appear to be the most typical and mark “innocence and candor”. The first is dialogued between two groups: one represents a joyful band which, at the sight of a bird perched at the top of a large tree, asks him: “Iza iry ambony iry ô” (who is up there) The answer is given by the other group supposedly represented the bird.
The second melody is interesting, but as brief as the previous one. “It’s a childish song that reminds every Malagasy of the old days, the biggest day of the year,” the Fandroana, royal bath day if not the Queen’s birthday for Ranavalona III. The sovereign made a large distribution of fat oxen and lamba to all his subjects on this solemn occasion. The festivities must last three consecutive days and all the families invite themselves to a great feast. “The joy and intoxication of this patriotic event inspired this original song.”
The third is truly a childish round, and by its syncopated rhythm and its broader melody, “it transports us into a limpid and candid atmosphere”.
Marie-Robert Rason sets the scene. In the smoky hut, in front of the fireplace where bozaka (dry straw) spurts, old men and old women, shaking the head, humming it gravely. Outside, by a beautiful moonlight, the guests, boys and girls, “stowed in circles, their hands softly agitated like the stems of rice ripened by the evening breeze, sing it con anima, while in the distance one Hears the plaintive screams of the dogs. ” The song is resumed until the choirmaster faints.
The fourth childish song does not yield to the other three. Characterized by a series of major thirds in the first motif and the F major chord in the fourth degree, followed without preparation from that of the major to the dominant, it will not let curiosity stick. “It is executed with a calm and an expression that includes this air that charm every Malagasy soul. “
The first period of the merina music is finally marked by popular eclectic songs. Such as the Melopea sung on the occasion of circumcision, the Hymn in honor of the idol Ramahavaly, O Ralila and Mazava atsinanana that today one hums again. We will return to this in our next Note.