A cultural foundation called ‘Fondasyon Kiltirel Seselwa‘ [Seychellois Cultural Foundation] set up last year is organizing a traditional music competition with the aim of promoting, developing and protecting Seychellois culture.
Launched in May, the competition is open to young people aged 10 to 25. The songs will be recorded in August and the grand finale will take place in November.
The foundation was launched last October during the Kreol Festival [Creole Festival].
SNA caught up with the head of the foundation, popular Seychellois singer Jean-Marc Volcy, to learn more about his efforts.
SNA: Tell us a bit more about the song contest?
VMY: The competition is reserved for traditional music such as polka, mazok, sega and moutya. It is now closed to new registrations and we have had around 40 registrations which I think is good enough for a first attempt. We are still sifting through it but so far we have seen some new faces, we will soon find out if there are already young people in the industry who have also shown interest in competing.
We have three categories for this competition 10-14 years old, 15-19 years old and 20-25 years old. Now we want to work with the participants so that they can record their songs in August. We will then collect the songs recorded in October for judging before hosting a grand finale in November.
We will organize a concert and promote the contest so that it has national visibility. It will also give young artists the recognition they deserve.
In the future, when FKS organizes activities, these young artists will have a platform where they can perform. Who knows, we might even feature them on FKS albums.
We will also be holding a workshop soon to arm them with the skills they will need to create this kind of music.
SNA: Tell us about the Foundation and what is the next step?
VMY: We started last year and our first activity was our launch at the Kreol Festival in Beau Vallon in October. We have planned a series of recreational programs to bring culture closer to the public.
When we set up the FKS, which brings together well-known personalities from the local cultural scene such as John Etienne and Patrick Victor. We also have people associated with us like Jany de Letourdie [local singer] and Penda Choppy [director of the Creole Language & Culture Research Institute at the University of Seychelles] and we have joined forces to revitalize our culture and bring it back to life. There are no official events organized to promote local culture and make it alive for them in the country.
|Patrick Victor works with children to help preserve Creole culture. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: What other plans do you have to promote Seychellois culture?
VMY: We have Radio Tant Dada, a program airing on Telesesel at the moment where we address the cultural issues that the country is currently facing.
We talked about music on Baka – which is one of our cultural heritages and we plan to have many more of these programs to follow which will talk about local writers and witchcraft amongst many other topics which we believe , affect the nation.
For young people, we have launched a competition of traditional songs. We are going to meet the young people to explain our expectations to them.
SNA: Do you also plan to include these programs in the national media?
VMY: We intend to air these programs on SBC, the national broadcaster, in the future, but as I believe these current programs are so open, some topics may not be aired. We plan to return to SBC with a program more in tune with its style and audience.
The only reason we went into the private sector was because we wanted the freedom to say whatever we wanted, as long as we didn’t insult or offend anyone.
SNA: Is the Foundation targeting the musical aspect of Seychellois culture or are you going to look at others?
VMY: The foundation counts among its members painters such as Nigel Henri and others who work with the arts here. We have no borders. We do everything that will help propel Seychellois culture to where it should be. We also have the Tant Dada program which will include poets and writers, when we talk about culture we mean art and culture in general.
|Volcy said that in the past, children learned to play a musical instrument with a family member. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: Seychelles has three national languages. Will the Foundation use them all in the same way or will you advocate more for the Creole side?
VMY: We are working harder to encourage our artists to use the Creole language more – especially on radio and television. I believe that television is a medium where you hear people talking every day. What we have noticed at the Foundation is that we have three official languages here, but when you look at the news, you have people who speak perfect English for the newsletters in English, the same goes for the French. However, when it comes to the Creole bulletin, people mix the languages while doing it, so much so that it becomes disrespectful to the language. This is what we want to get out of the use of Creole.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, but as a Creole nation that at one point in its history was ranked as the Creole capital of the world, we shouldn’t be comfortable abusing the language.
If something happens along the way disrupting the way we use our language, our Foundation strives to bring it to the public’s attention so that we can work to resolve the issue.
It is also important to work with older generations who know our local culture well – while they are still alive.
SNA: What does the Foundation plan to do on this front?
VMY: We want to work with both generations so that older people can share their knowledge and information with younger people. I also think local media should take the necessary steps to teach their professionals the proper way to speak and write the language.
SNA: Is the Foundation funded by the state or is it a private entity?
VMY: We are a non-governmental organization but get a lot of support from the government, however, the Seychelles Cultural Institute helps us a lot.
We also get support from the local TV channel Telesesel and other companies like Maz Millions who help us run the song contest.
We are knocking on many doors to find sponsors and even if it is difficult at the moment, we feel the interest. Many people are willing to do their part to help promote our culture.
|The foundation was launched last October during the Kreol Festival [Creole Festival]. (Jean-Marc Volcy) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: Where do you see the Foundation going in the long term?
VMY: We have a five-year plan, which details what we want to achieve, and it will make people aware that culture is for every Seychellois.
I think there has been a tendency to believe that it is the ministry that is responsible for culture and others like Patrick Victor, Brian Matombe and myself. Nope! Culture is something we should practice every day and not wait for the Creole festival in October to look for things associated with Seychellois culture. It is not only during this period that we should look for Kat Kat banann in the stalls, but since we have bananas available all the time, we should find a way to cook them at home and live our culture.
We will also have programs that we plan to take to districts across the country where we will hold workshops to impart knowledge such as typical Seychellois cuisine.
So we have the entertainment aspects and the educational aspects that we want to address. We will forge ahead in our mission to revive Creole culture.
The Foundation also plans to go to school just as with the traditional music competition we want to include school children. We realized that there are young people who are now in the music industry due to the advancement in technology.
In the past, the same young people should have learned to sing or play an instrument with their uncle or any other musical parent. While it is easy to buy an instrument, put your voice on it and have a song, traditional Seychellois music has not yet reached that level. We also face a lack of traditional musicians. So, we are starting to bring out such talents through this contest.