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Gitara Gasy

Dida definitely has something about guitarists: Haja, D'Gary, Tôty, Iraimbilanja... and so many others even today. Oddly, though, Dida himself is a pianist. Although I've briefly met him a few years ago, he was unfortunately tied up with promoting a car rally (of all things!) when we passed through hot and humid Tamatave in mid-December so I never got the chance to get his overview of his various proteges. Another time...

Guitarist with Orchestre Rivo-Doza
Photo: Ian Anderson
Guitarist with Orchestre

Back to Haja. Is it correct to say you are playing marovany-style?

"Excuse me but this really is a guitar, not a marovany! We are only trying to get close to the marovany sound. Guitarists all have their own style. I like a lot of guitar styles but I also like my own. I am trying to promote a style in Madagascar, to polish the Malagasy guitar style."

Any other Malagasy guitarists who should be heard? Earlier names?

"Freddy Ranarison. And since a long time ago, Etienne Ramboatiana who was the first electric guitar player in Madagascar - he toured around the world. There are a lot of guitarists to be listened to in Madagascar."

There should finally be a Solomiral album for Mars before long. It has had a chequered recording history, partly due to the fact that their chosen style is vakojazzana, a thrilling mixture of vakodrazana [music and dance of the ancestors] and jazz, but they do also like to play some straight jazz/rock. Their current line-up also includes one of Madagascar's best jazz sax/flute players, Seta, and keyboard player Rivo.

Unfortunately a comment to their producer by a helpful outsider that the few straight jazz/rock tracks might not be so well received on the Euro-American market as the rest seems to have been mis-understood as advice to rid the album of all jazz influence. So it was back to the studio to start again...

"The recording of this album is now done, though the mixing is not. There are 10 songs on the album and there is a little bit from everywhere in Madagascar in it. There is no jazz this time because we were asked to play what is called World Music. If it was our own choice, we would have liked to play long solos but we realise that we are getting old and we would never get out of Madagascar unless we did what we were told to do. So we decided to do this World Music thing. The feeling is still there: it is only the solos and jazzy bits that we took out."

This feature first appeared in fRoots 178, April 1998


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