Seychelles: artist is proud of Moutya’s music and asks Seychelles to embrace him more
Seychellois artist Jean-Marc Volcy has built his career on promoting traditional Seychelles music including Moutya, which was inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List in November.
Volcy was one of a group of artists striving for international recognition for the traditional music of the island nation.
SNA has met Volcy now that Moutya is on UNESCO’s list to hear his thoughts and reaction.
SNA: How do you feel now that Moutya is internationally recognized?
JMV: I feel a sense of pride but I think the authorities should thank all those who, over the years, have worked hard to promote Moutya locally. If they had not made the effort, it would have been difficult for UNESCO to grant it the recognition it has just received.
The people who have really worked on the genre are young artists like Channel Kilindo, Piston and Norville Ernesta. They were the ones who really took what they knew about the Moutya and ran with it. The country owes them a big thank you for the role they played.
If they had not sung, UNESCO would not have granted us this recognition. Let’s be honest, we weren’t experiencing Moutya at one point.
SNA: How did you help promote Moutya and what did it bring you?
JMV: I played Moutya on my guitar, accordion and other instruments that I use to play, and that’s what made me Jean-Marc Volcy. It not only brought me fame, but it also gave me my way of life. I fed Moutya and in return he took good care of me.
I took this part of my culture to Europe, Africa and even performed it in Argentina. I believe this led me to ask where can we get our culture? Not the opposite.
SNA: What do you think of thinking that Moutya is not alive because there are no more authentic drums being made, with the required goatskin?
JMV: It’s an excuse. I say this because our next door neighbor, Maurice, has a Moutya drum industry. They have them in all sizes there. I often saw tourists buying a drum to take as a souvenir when I was there. How many Seychellois can say they bought a drum while they were there? That’s why I say it’s an excuse.
Most of the things we consume in this country are imported, so why can’t we import Moutya drums or better yet, why not import goatskin. I myself own about four Moutya drums that I bought in Mauritius.
It is important to buy the drums because Moutya is an industry. If you keep goats for their skins, you will not only be selling the skins but also the meat. During this time the drum will be sold and we will also be able to make small replicas which can be used as Seychelles souvenirs. It presents limitless opportunities.
The music itself can be recorded so that people can enjoy it at a small gathering. If such events were organized in all neighborhoods, it would create jobs. Our culture, in general, is an industry, it’s a shame that little has been done to promote it as such.
SNA: Now that Moutya is recognized, are you and other artists taking steps to make the genre more prominent?
JMV: The Fondasyon Kiltir Seselwa (Seychellois Culture Foundation) is a new foundation that has been established and includes well-known local artists and local cultural figures. The purpose of the foundation is to make people understand our culture.
We all need to help save what makes us who we are. If we don’t we will always drift and always hear different music, see different dress styles that we lean towards without protecting what is truly ours. If we don’t preserve our own culture, we will forget who we are.
When that happens, what will we be selling to visitors, American culture, Jamaican culture, or hip-hop? It is not our culture and visitors who come to Seychelles do so to experience Seychellois culture. They want to know who we are as a people wrapped in our beautiful sea and greenery. They want to know how we cook, dance and live together; this is what we must preserve. This is the type of work that FKS will undertake.
SNA: What is your favorite Moutya song?
JMV: I love all of Moutya’s songs as soon as the rhythm of the drums hits, it transforms me and puts me in a good mood. There are a lot of songs that I like some of them are the ones that I performed on my own, such as “Kannon” which is about a man who worked in the outer islands and had no been with a woman for 18 months. .
‘Dan mon pos napa larzan’ (there is no money in my pocket) is another one that I like because it tells how when I have money the lady claims that I smell the perfume but as soon as i’m broke the lady says i smell bad.
The songs contain real messages. They talk about the realities of life on the island and the situations experienced by our people. People often lose interest in songs because they remind them of bad times, but bad times are a part of life.
SNA: Do you think that the topics covered in the songs are disconnected from today’s problems and therefore not interesting for young people?
JMV: I think young people are not interested in Moutya because they have not been properly exposed and educated about it. Here, culture is not taught in schools. How can young people associate with Moutya if they do not know what it is?
This is why the route of transmission of cultural knowledge must begin in schools. When this is done, our young people will be able to know who they are, especially now that other cultures are easily accessible to young people via their mobile phones.
The influences they receive through their laptops, television and radio are much more than the knowledge we impart to them. This is why I believe that we must teach all aspects of their Seychellois culture and not just Moutya.
Although I learned through the activities organized by Seymas about six years ago that young people love Moutya, they are the first to come to the fore to dance. It’s in their blood, after all, it’s just that they don’t get it, which makes it sleepy.