Ti frere

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Ti frere

Post  Islander on Wed Oct 17, 2007 3:04 pm

The great Jean Alphonse Ravaton, alias Ti Frere, was born on April 29th, 1900. A coachman to a well-to-do-family, his dad not only performed the sega but also conducted a dance band, the kind prolific at the time with accordeon, banjo, percussion, and sometimes violin. These type of orchestras performed European dance repertoire like the cottish, mazok, lavalse and quadrilles, dances which, although they have disappeared in Mauritius, are still popular on Rodrigues, the neighbouring island.

Ti Frere learnt to sing the sega and ballads also through accompanying his father. Later he would sing with his own dance band, playing more or less for zarico (z’haricot) (bean) dances. Zarico dances were Saturday night country affairs put on in the courtyards of homes and during which a cake containing a bean was shared out: whoever got the bean had to put on the next Saturday’s dance party. These dances would most of the time finish with a few segas, something that still happens today at marriages or parties and that harkens back to the time when the sega, frowned upon and sometimes forbidden, was only danced as the night would close and restrictions eased up a little bit.

Although Ti Frere was reputed on a local scale, he had to wait until 1964 to achieve fame on nationally. On October 30th of that year occurred the well known Night Of the Sega. Held on Mountain Le Morne, it was a musical and theatrical happening which Mauritians still remember. In some ways this happening was the official reinstatement of the sega and the first step towards an awareness of Afro-Mauritian cultural identity. Four years away from independence and living with Hindus, Muslim, European, Chinese ethnic groups, the Afro-Mauritian, so called Creole community felt the need to assert its identity through a rediscovery and conservation of its roots. On that night a sega contest was organised after which Ti Frere was crowned King of sega. From now on, he was in the public eye and recorded a series of 45’s which are unobtainable nowadays. To the traditional ravanne, maravane , and triangle, Ti Frere would sometimes add the accordion, influenced by his father dance band instruments. Like other sega artist , Ti Frere has never been able to live from it. He has had many different trades: wood cutter, cane-cutter, casseur roches (boulder breaker), bus conductor, forester.

Ti frere, without losing any of the rhythmic intensity and inspiration of the original sega art from has written beautiful melodies. This is how segas were born, though their repertoire is now well-known to all Mauritians. Simple day to day things would take them off: words of advice to a drunkard, for a neighbours child, domestic rows ... Ti Frere tells great stories but then a sega artist cannot help but be a storyteller, a kind of chansonnier, piecing together over the years a musical patchwork of the events, the characters and the ups and downs of a complete community.

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