Saturday night saw an electric performance by the musical group “A4” at the Conservatoire de Musique in Quatre Bornes, with applause calling for an “encore” at the end from a packed audience of music-lovers. LALIT member Rajni Lallah is a founder performer and the most prolific composer in A4.
The A4’s musical creation and performance last night was characterized by a kind of energy that emanates from their music, just as energy is generated from a spring that has been held down and then, once let go, just bursts with life. Or like a pod that has broken its seams with its built-up internal energy. This energy was compressed last night into a new assurance that the five musicians have in their own creations and performance, in the vibrant new rhythms they are inventing, in the changes in tone from one movement to the next within a piece, even in brilliant accelerations of pace, and daring moments of silence. Their music is at one and the same time new and exhilarating, and also full of traditions distilled from past musical wonders, and always tied, sometimes strongly, sometimes flimsily, to an undertow of Mauritian music, particularly sega.
The lyrics, too, overflow with this same wild energy that is in the music. There is “Ana de Bengal” who prefers to be called “Ana” to “Fidelia”, as if the energy were in the memory of the name itself, which it is, in a way, when Mauritian mothers still call rebellious daughters “Dife Bengal” with thinly masked admiration for the slave who set fire to the Dutch colonial establishment in Mahebourg. And there is “Siklonn” the disorder outdoors drawing the young girl into its vortex, into the excitement and “safety” of the bosom of cyclonic energy.
And yet the music is, at the same time as it is springing with energy, also hypnotic. It seems to speak to a deeper level of the listener’s consciousness than most music, being both exciting and dreamy. Maybe this is partly because their music, while firmly rooted in familiar Mauritian sounds, Mauritian beats and Mauritian life, also blooms from stems of familiar Western classical, American and African jazz music, as well as familiar Eastern musical particularities that we hear every day around us. This must be what contributes to the music being hypnotic. And all the while their own music is something totally new.
Rajni Lallah and Clifford Boncoeur’s piano keyboard and guitar are both at the height of perfection, even in the technically demanding music they have created, and they play with a mutual understanding that is astounding. Joelle Husseiny’s voice, a musical instrument in itself, has gained in range, while she herself is now at ease enough on stage to transmit the wild emotions of the music with both confidence and aplomb. When she sang the Diego Garcia composition last year in April at the Nelson Mandela Centre for African Culture, she broke down and people in the audience were also crying. But last night she was able to express the emotions that made her cry last time round. Drummer Dario Mannick, clearly inspired by the creative contribution of his co-percussionist, Jim Bachun who was a guest performer in the band for the night, has now come into his own within A4, not an easy task when you are replacing the original supremo Jhonny Joseph in the band. Steven Bernon on his bass guitar, also having to replace a master, Steve Desvaux who has like Jhonny Joseph gone to work abroad as a musician, came up with inventive sounds, just as Clifford and Rajni did. And all the musicians together performed with a unity that was at its highest point when they were improvising, as is wont to be the case for outstanding jazz groups.
No wonder the internationally reputed Jazz News magazine reporting the International Jazz Festival Madajazzcar in Madagascar in October last year said this of A4: “La plus intéressante découverte [de Madajazzkar 2012] est celle du groupe mauricien A4, jouant des compositions inspirées, aux intervalles irréguliers et rhythms mixtes, de la pianiste Rajni Lallah, entre blues, jazz et sega mauricien,ponctuées de beaux soli de Clifford Boncoeur, guitariste.”
The music last night started with a Requiem for those who recently lost their lives in the floods and then the bus accident, expressing the sorrow of the “day of mourning”, thus by this catharsis, freeing the audience and the performers for the concert ahead.
The auditorium was full, and this, and much of the successful organizational aspects of the A4’s performance and its Album “Nu Zistwar”, is due to the meticulous preparations done by impressario, Gavin Poonoosamy.