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Gitara Gasy

"To me, Dida is like a mid-wife who saved my life. He helped me a lot. Whenever I come back from my tours now, I always try to give him some money, but he refuses to take any. There is never going to be anyone else like Dida," he says.

Apart from the solo tracks on that debut tape, there were others with a band.

"The group was a bit forced on me. There was one guitarist who I chose to work with on that cassette. His name is Bloko. I wanted to help him out. He was an ancient and famous guitar player from Tuléar. There was also another one called Kaboto, Bloko's brother, but he is dead now. Kaboto and Bloko were the best tsapika players. Another problem was that I was not a singer, I could not sing. I was not even ready to record but one thing was very important for me, it was the lyrics. I wanted the songs to be heard. My group started to be confused. Tata Rahely [a woman singer who now has a hot Mars cassette in her own right] was with us but she left to sing on her own. It makes me happy that at least Tata is still singing."

D'Gary then related how, not long after this, two U.S. musicians spent a brief period in Tana making a series of albums, summoning him for a hastily arranged solo recording. Later, an American visit was organised alongside Dama, with whom he had never previously worked, and again a pressurised album session was sprung on the unprepared duo. D'Gary, angry about this in retrospect, deliberately repeated his material for the Horombé album (with his own group Jihé) on the respected French label Indigo/Label Bleu, with whom he remains to date.

Knowing that there are often more than two sides to any story, it's better that I change the subject, and we talk about guitar styles, tunings and other players.

"Everybody who plays tsapika de-tunes the guitar. They change the E-string. That's all. Mine is very complex. But during festivals, there is too much tuning to do, so I only use two. I have about 23 tunings but I've hidden them so far."

"Although I lived a long time in Tuléar, my source is not tsapika, because it is very mixed with African stuff. My source came from the lokanga Bara [the traditional violin of the Bara people] and the avoria. Sometimes I combine the acapella way of singing together with the way the lokanga is played. Improvisation and tempo are the most important things for me. I have studied all this for a long time. I thought that the Bara tribe's tradition was going to die because there are a lot of things disappearing so I tried to reproduce the lokanga or the jejy lava [similar to the Brazilian berimbau] or mpamalia [valiha, guitar and vocal together] on the guitar."

This feature first appeared in fRoots 178, April 1998


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