SATURDAY 24TH AUGUST 2019 – BOOMSHAK
Between Jamaica and Mauritius, there is almost 15,000 kilometres. Not enough though that reggae loses its strength, as it has melted into the Indian Ocean Sega to re-emerge in a new form: the Seggae.
“Rodrigues is a small colony of Mauritius”
As soon as Ras Natty Baby starts speaking of his homeland, we imagine a huge rock, lost in the Indian Ocean. No sugar cane on the horizon, just a few flocks that sustain the inhabitants. These descendents of slaves did not enjoy the fruits of economic development.
At 19 years old, Baby embarks illegally for Mauritius and eventually finds a home in Richelieu ghetto, in the suburbs of the capital Port Louis. His friends are also Creole (the Mauritian constitution divides the population into strict categories). They meet at “GOST “ (Workers without Work Group) house, play cassettes and lend each other instruments. But the Sega, music and traditional dance handed down by their African ancestors deported during colonisation, no longer corresponds to their rebellion.
Reggae and especially its messenger Bob Marley, brought new hope to these uprooted souls in search of an identity: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”
Ras Natty Baby and his group “Natty Rebels” assimilated Jamaican rhythms and strived to make their music known. Only in Mauritius, Reggae is not welcome in the village. The Indian community, the most populous on the island, took advantage of its political and economical dominance to impose their culture but… the small handful of Rastas do not disband. Little by little, DIY concerts without much financial support attract the attention of the public and local press as Sega and Reggae fuse together to create a new style called Seggae. The phenomenon takes on a whole new dimension when Percy Yip Tong, a young Sino-Mauritian decided in 1990 to produce an album by Kaya, a singer and friend of Baby. “Seggae, Nou Lamizik”, recorded during three nights in a radio studio on the neighbouring island of Reunion. This marks the birth of Seggae.
Several months later, Ras Natty Baby follows suit with “Nuvel Vizion”. Total record sales of 200,000 sold throughout the Indian Ocean. Two more albums establish his regional notoriety. He plays in Seychelles and Madagascar in the contest “Discover RFI 94”. After the release of two albums, Trinité and Armageddon, his association with his group “Natty Rebels” ends when he decides to continue his career in Europe. Reggae is quite popular, so Seggae has all the chances. Principle Difficulty: find musicians in France capable to master these hybrid rhythms. A new beginning comes with “Vibration Rasta Zom in 1996.
Since then, Ras Natty Baby has had the time to build a team, Time also to wipe away several disappointments.
“ You can’t kill an old soldier like me” he smiles.
He’s pushed to only do classic reggae but he resists, supported by his ancient Alpha Blondy keyboard; Ibis “Romie” Lawrence fell in love with the 6/8 rhythm of Seggae and came to give a big helping hand on “Seggae Time”, Baby’s new album. 12 songs in Creole, French and English (the official language of Mauritius) for a triptych repertoire: protest texts, others that sound like alarm bells from “Virtual World”, and lighter pieces…invitations to dance on the beaches of the Indian Ocean. In 1998, he represented Mauritius at the Media Zouk Party at Zenith in Paris.He recorded “Seggae Time” in France and then his latest album “Militant” came out in 2002 with a Mauritian producer. After several years of silence and set-backs with justice, Ras Natty Baby returned as determined as ever to celebrate his 25 year career LIVE in December 2010 and offered his best hits on a DVD recorded for the occasion.
Today, Ras Natty Baby continues his fight with this same perseverance. The Militant still reserves some nice surprises to come…