On Friday night Vu sent me a text, stating he was surrounded by teenagers at the Owl City Concert at the Varsity. I returned a message, saying the crowd at the Cedar Cultural Center was a little bit older, but no less energetic. In fact, a big part of the crowd was ecstatic that members of Wake Up Madagascar were on stage. After all, when’s the last time a musical group from Madagascar toured the Twin Cities?
What I know about Madagascar is a few geographical facts culled from a well-thumbed atlas in my living room. Did you know it’s the fourth biggest island in the world and it sits off the coast of Mozambique, Africa in the Indian Ocean? It’s also embarrassingly rich in biodiversity, and currently, the biodiversity is being threatened with unprecedented deforestation and bush burning.
This is the reason for the tour. Singer and songwriter, Razia Said, was so shocked by the altered landscape of her native country, she organized a music festival in the Masoala Rainforest in 2011 to bring awareness. This tour is an extension of the festival.
Taking the stage along with Razia were guitar virtuoso, Charles Kely, and singer, Eusèbe Jaojoby. Jaojoby even brought along members of his band, which included his wife, Saramba, a brightly energetic singer, and three of his children who filled in at rhythm guitar, bass and one daughter who was a one-person dance line.
One aspect I liked about the set up was everybody on stage sang. There were ten vocal mics as members of the band took turns on lead vocal before switching to backup. The concert was one constantly shifting lineup. There was a point in the concert where I jotted down a few notes and looked back up to an entirely different band. How does that happen?
The concert had a definite organic feel as it flowed from song to song. I didn’t understand much for most of the songs were either in French or Malagasy. Razia was eloquent as she spoke to the audience in English. Although cautious, Joujoby’s pronunciation of the English language was much better than mine. But when Razia asked if Saramba would like to say a few word in English, Saramba grabbed the mic and started a back and forth in Malagasy with the few concert goers who understood the conversation.
And that’s how it went for two hours; the lead singers singing and the backup vocals responding; then the singer talking to the audience who would hoot and holler back. Then everybody danced to the native musical sound of Salegy. In it I heard the rhythm guitars of the Soweto Township and the easy breeze that comes with a Caribbean sound. Maybe these sounds came from Madagascar. They definitely made you want to sing, dance and engage with the members around you. The sound of Salegy is one of community and the community is now saying, “Wake Up!”