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African folk band to play in India

music Updated: Jan 13, 2012 13:21 IST
Nirmika Singh
Nirmika Singh
Hindustan Times
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When you listen to Ziskakan’s folksy lilting melodies, you cannot help but notice elements of Indian gypsy musical traditions.

The band from Réunion Island has not only been imbibing varied yet connected styles for the past three decades, but it also brings their equivalent of blues, called Maloya through their compositions.

Tonight, as they take to the stage at Blue Frog, the band will perform songs touching upon problems affecting their society.

“Maloya is now part of UNESCO heritage. It’s like a new vision of rhythm. It is influenced by Madagascar and Africa, but for a long time it had been censured and prohibited. The Ziskakan movement in the ’70s not only fought for the respect of the Kreol language, but also for this heritage. Our band was the only one talking about the Renionese society and problems that people face, like unemployment, political prohibition and apartheid,” says lead singer Gilbert Pounia.

Given the strong message that their songs convey, Gilbert adds that what they sing means a lot to them.

“Lyrics in maloya are really important to us, as they spread a message. We’re working with poets and writers who share our values and spirit. Today, the message is different and the maloya is fusional too. I prefer to describe our music as Indo-Afro-Euro-Malagasy."

Having performed in India before, the band is now looking forward to recording their new album in February at the Studio Clementine in Chennai.

“We met the band Kartick & Gotam and the team of Earth Sync at Reunion Island. We are very excited to start working on this project with them. We really love this country and our music is influenced by it. The public is warm and dynamic and we hope to share our music, our language and spirit with everybody here,” he says.

With the band’s music deriving influences from varied sources, ask him how they maintain a unique style and he says, “We work a lot on the lyrics and sonorities. I think our strength lies in the public who is faithful to us.”