Sega is known as the major music and dance form of the Mascarene Islands – Mauritius, Rodrigues, Reunion and the Seychelles. It is something that every Mauritian is brought up with and forms a large part of the island’s culture.
Sega’s origins lie with the slaves of the Mascarene Islands who used to dance around the fire following the end of a hard day’s work. This was their way of ridding themselves of painful memories brought onto them; they very much used this music and dance form as distraction.
For a long time sega was looked down upon due to its origins in slavery – furthermore the Catholic Church looked down upon sega due to its association with alcohol and sexuality. Due to the sega having negative connotations it was only played in private places, however the turning point came in the 1960s when Mauritian musician Ti Frère gave a performance at an event known as the ‘Night of the Sega’ at Le Morne Brabant, a former slave hideout, in October 1964.
Traditionally the sega is played with basic instruments such as the ravanne, the maravanne, the triangle and drums. In its modern form sega is combined with other music genres such as jazz and reggae, however since the 1980s elements of African music have been added to sega music. Over the years sega has developed, and many of the younger generations now enjoy a form of sega known as the seggae. Seggae is a pop version of the sega, a blend of African dances, Jamaican reggae and Creole traditions.
Sega is by and large improvised, and is danced in an exotic manner by using graceful arm movements and swaying of the hips while the feet merely shuffle along the ground. The music and dance is lively and rhythmic, and often today you can find women in colourful skirts dancing the sega in tourist places such as hotels, restaurants and beaches – a must see attraction for all.
Despite the sega’s origins, today it is known as the national music of Mauritius and is an expression of freedom.