This will probably provoke images of me with clumps of plastic building bricks dangling from my ears, but rest assured that this Lego is actually a popular accordion player and singer from Madagascar. His real name is Andriamandresy Hasivelo Romeo, so I think we’ll just stick with Lego, if that’s OK with you…..
Madagascan music, like the Madagascan ecosystem and Madagascan culture, is radically different to that of neighbouring countries on the African mainland. At its narrowest, the Mozambique Channel between Africa & Madagascar is 400 kilometers wide and has helped many things in Madagascar develop in a totally different fashion. Even so, Madagascar was a French colony and still bears the scars. Musically, Madagascar adopted French musical instruments like the piano and the accordion and these have become an integral part of the country’s musical culture.
I first became aware of Madagascar’s music in the early 1990’s thanks to the efforts of David Lindley & Henry Kaiser, two musicians from strikingly different backgrounds united by a love of the island’s music. They carried out a number of field trips to Madagascar and produced three CD’s of indigenous music that revealed the richness of the country’s musical heritage. I recommend these CD’s to you unhesitatingly – they are superb and can be obtained from Amazon.co.uk – here are the links:
Volume 3 seems to be out of stock right now, but is available via the Marketplace.
Equally good is ‘Madagasikara 1’, another compendium of Madagascan music with some particularly strong accordion-playing by musicians such as David Andriamamoniy. This is available from iTunes as a download.
As far as Lego is concerned, he plays a type of Malagsy dance music known as salegy, which is played in a frantic 12/8 time and has been Madagascar’s most successful musical export. Of late, many salegy bands have been replacing the accordion with a synthesiser, not because they are any less enamoured of the accordion, but because most of the accordions circulating in Madagascar are now very old and are wearing out, with replacement parts almost impossible to obtain. One of the newer breed of accordionists, Regis Gizavo, has had some success in Europe and he collects donated accordions from Europe and sends them back to be recycled.
Lego’s music is typical of the salegy style and the ‘Dadilahy’ CD (1999) features some tremendous playing and singing. This record was available from the French retailer FNAC, but may now be out of print. Regis Gizavo’s albums ‘Mikea’ (Shanachie) and ‘Samy Olombelo’ (Label Unknown) are also both seriously recommended.
Powerful though the internet is, obtaining information about Madagascan music can be eye-wateringly difficult. Obtaining CD copies of music by Madagascan artists is also problematical – try iTunes and Shanachie Records first, then Amazon. co.uk
……..And good luck! You will need it……