The Sega

The Sega (pronounced Saygah) is a dance which originated from the ritual music of Madagascar and the mainland of Africa, and it is the Musical Expression of the Mauritian Way of Life: Joy, Carefree and Lively.

Originally sung by men and women who had been sold as slaves but whose souls had remained sensitive to music, the Sega is nowadays a folksong which has integrated itself within the framework of our folklore.

It is a cry from the soul trying to transcend the miseries and heartaches of life, while at the same time expressing the universal human desire for joy and happiness. It tells the joys and sorrows of the peasants and the fishing folks. It is a nostalgic heritage of the villagers. Its beats, gripping in intensity, now provide entertainment to Mauritians of all walks of life in towns and villages. Today the Sega and its beat are a part of every Mauritian's life. Instruments

Disappearing instruments

The original instruments are fast disappearing, making way for the more conventional orchestra ensemble. However, all along the coastal fishing villages the traditional instruments are still being used: The Ravane, which is a wooden hoop over which has been stretched a piece of goat skin; the Coco, (Maracas) which represents the percussion section; the Triangle, a triangular piece of metal which tinkles when tapped with an iron rod. The traditional guitar which was a single string instrument with an arc attached to an empty "Calebasse", has been replaced by the more sophisticated Hawaiian and electric guitar.

Stimulated and inspired by local rum, the fishing folks gather around a camp fire and give full vent to their emotions. Very often they dance without any music at all and are accompanied only by the sound of the Ravane, the tinkling of spoons, the rattling of seeds in a tin, and the clapping of hands of spectators who eventually join in the melee.

The dance itself is the rhythmic swaying of the hips to the pulsating rhythm of the Ravane. It starts with a gentle swaying, to a slow and solemn tune, which gradually rises, consuming the dancers and setting their bodies jerking, stretching and swaying with animated movements to keep pace with the ever-increasing tempo. The beat creeps inside you and as your body responds to the rhythm, you are carried to heights of ecstasy, generating a vibrating force that shakes the "lead" off your feet and inspires you to a high-spirited and unrestrained way of dancing. Tiring perhaps, but ex-hilarating! Never mind if your movement does not follow the rhythm ... just carry on dancing and you will be amazed how rhythm and movement synchronize afterwards.

A few hints for dancing the sega

The man usually stands in the dancing area with hands on the hips waiting for the girl to shuffle towards him, wiggling, hip-balancing and waving a colourful handkerchief invitingly. Then the partners face each other with a waist-and-shoulder grasp and ... the improvisation starts.

Just let yourself go -- as long as you do not step on your partner's feet! When you hear "En Bas! En Bas!" (Down, Down) bend your knees and lower your body gently downwards while swaying your hips to the rhythm.

We do not advise the women to wear mini-skirts. A colourful full- length patterned skirt and blouse is preferable.Men are free in their choice of costumes. Open-neck or bushshirt will do, but formal wear can be a handicap.

We do hope you will enjoy the Sega. The Sega is usually sung in Creole (a pidgin french which everybody speaks on the island). We considered giving you the English version of the music but we feel that by so doing it will lose its local colour.