Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rakoto Frah - Flute Master of Madagascar

The music that Rakoto Frah plays is based in the Merina traditions of the Central Highlands of Madagascar, and in particular two distinct styles; one deriving from the famadihana ('turning the dead') exhumation and reburial ceremonies, and the other from hiragasy(hira = song, gasy = of Madagascar), a theatrical performance by troupes of players, featuring song, music, dance, proverbs, morality tales and so forth.
Famadihana ceremonies feature troupes of sodina and amponga (a European-derived military-style drum) players.
The events are rooted in the immense respect
which the Malagasy people show their ancestors,
manifesting in day or even week long celebrations of the dead.
Far from being sombre or macabre occasions, they are infused with joy and celebration, reflected in the wild, frenetic music that the musicians play for dancing (to please the dead).
The famadihana repertoire featured on this release is virtuosic, brash and energetic.
As this is music for the outdoors, the recording reflects the volume and tone of the instrumental line-up; key to the achieving the exhilarating, high-energy effect.
Ceremonies are competitive; judged by the quantity of musicians in a troupe,
the prolific output of new tunes and the ability to keep the atmosphere going full pelt for the duration.
The events in which this master plays can feature up to 20 flute-players and drummers
and Rakoto Frah had apparently created nearly 800 pieces at the time of this recording!
Here, however, there are just three sodina players: bright-toned and breathy.

Traditionally the flutes, with six finger holes and a thumbhole, were made out of bamboo,but the flutes that Rakoto Frah makes for himself are made out of metal tubing
(ski poles are most favoured!) lending a certain harshness to the tone.
The hiragasy tradition is represented here by some distinctive, close harmony vocals
of Rakoto Frah's two young grand-daughters, singing songs on a variety of themes,
both serious (relira) and light-hearted (zanakira): from commentaries on behaviour to descriptions of places.
The singing is bold and attention-grabbing and again the tempo is upbeat.
The instrumental pieces are also descriptive, inspired by the environment or social concerns and so forth.As well as the vivacious sodina playing, the line-up features kabosy,
a small guitar-like instrument with four to six strings and partial frets,and the rhythm-marking ambio claves.

next, a nice old video with  Rakoto Fra as the guest of  Erick Manana