LINDIGO: SOUNDS OF MALOYA @ BRIXTON JAMM
Lindigo: “I was born Maloya, I breathe Maloya, I sweat Maloya, I will die Maloya”
It’s a balmy September Thursday night and outside the Brixton Jamm on Brixton Road and a modest crowd consisting mostly of members from Brixton’s Afro Brasilian ensemble Baque de Axé – renowned for their Maracatu de Baque Virado – are gathered in the hope of witmessing a rare performance from Lindigo, an ensemble who hail from the island of Réunion in the southwest of the Indian Ocean. Founded in 1999 by vocalist Olivier Araste, Lindigo is named after a local plant with healing properties. They play Maloya and have notched up hundreds of live gigs and released half a dozen albums.
As the band take the stage there is a genuine sense of anticipation. This one-off UK gig, is part of their European tour and as Brixton Jamm is home to Cal Jader’s Movimientos the regulars in the house are well versed in the roots music of Latin America and beyond. The first song kicks in it sets the dancefloor alight. The sharp percussive shuffle of the kayamb – a flat rattle made from sugar cane tubes and seeds – goes straight to feet and as the thunder of the ‘rouler’ – a large hand drum – drops it lifts the vibe in the room to another dimension. The spirit of the ancestors arrived in the room.
Araste deftly initiated a call and response rapport between the 8 piece ensemble and its audience and at one point even had the whole room, hands in the air, stepping side to side, in a Réunion style line-dance. The musicians consistently swapped places onstage to introduce an array of instruments including marimba, djembe, a small accordion and a unique home made ‘kora’. It was down to Lauriane Marceline, who doubles on keys, to drop both soprano and alto sax into the mix.
I can recall being introduced to the riddims of maloya at WOMAD through the political and social protest of Creole poet Daniel Waro. It’s a music of both the spirits and protest and its origins lie in the music of African and Malagas slaves combined with the Indian indentured workers on the island. For decades the powers that be considered maloya a cultural irritant that needed to be stamped out and some maloya bands were actively banned by the authorities until the 1980’s due to their connections with the Communist Party Of Réunion. However, as this show progressed it was clear that while Lindigo’s music stubbornly looks the past there’s no hint of nostalgia. What we experienced was a reviving dose of sonically fresh, contemporary maloya and a taste of what they plan to deliver during their forthcoming tour of Brasil.
As we bowled out into the night under a bright but waning Harvest moon high on maloya the consensus was that we’d definitely notched up a good one! And for that I have to big up Jody G for turning me onto the session and the man called Pedro Chiodi (B•Mundo) for having the having the vision and determination to host it!
PS: On an offbeat synchronicity note, I rode the tube back to North London with a trumpet player who’d I recognised from the Lindigo session and then, having parted company with him, boarded a bus home only to discover the woman on the seat adjacent to mine was a friend of the Brixton/Brazilian legend that is “Maria” and had also been at the gig. Deepness!