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Indian Ocean music: 369 albums on one site


The evening of Tuesday 12 December saw an incredible event. At the ABAIM headquarters in Beau Bassin, the sound engineer Phillipe de Magnée launched a new website. He had been recording musicians and music groups in Mauritius and Rodrigues, Seychelles, Reunion and the Comoros from the 1970s. Then recently he put together a team to prepare the music, and then to upload all that he had recorded on to the internet. Not only that. He and his team, at the same time, in a spirit of exceptional generosity, transcribed music that they had not themselves recorded but that was in forms that pre-date the digital era into digital form. He set up the website, and ensured that it can be an ongoing labour of love. So, Tuesday evening Phillipe de Magnée (and his team which was in France and present through Skype) launched the website. So, now all that music, all 369 whole albums, is available to everyone. Free of charge. The site is called “Patrimoine de L'Ocean Indien” (Indian Ocean Heritage). There is a lovely Bam Cuttayen quotation on the site that reads: “Leaving a mark where you have tread”.

 In all there are 148 groups or individuals, 369 CDs (or cassettes), and in all 3,524 musical pieces. All the more remarkable is that about one-third of all the music has never been available to the public at all before. It was doomed to disappear. Without this remarkable sound engineer and his team of volunteers.

During his launch speech, he appealed for all those who create original music of a non-commercial nature to be sure to share it on this site. He wants, this way, to get everyone to help develop the site so that it can house the heritage of the Indian Ocean’s music for the pleasure of everyone in the Indian Ocean and in the world, and indeed for posterity. Make the site yours, was his appeal to musicians present.

The web site is already extraordinary: for the first time, there are these hundreds of albums of music from Mauritius, including Rodrigues and Chagos, from the Seychelles, Reunion, Madagascar and the Comoros – dating from 50 years ago. And you can listen free! Some are on a “deezer” so you need to register your email address to use them, that’s all. Others are directly available, on the site. The search engine on the site works perfectly. There are also some with a YouTube link, or an iTunes link. Some musicians, to their credit, agreed to share at least some 20-30 seconds of their pieces.

The web site represents a real challenge to the “copyright” laws, and all the private ownership ideology behind them. The idea of copyright is really to reduce art and musical creativity to private property that can be bought and sold, as if it were a mere commodity, instead of something that is by definition something social and to be shared, given and received as a gift. All that’s needed is for us to work out a just way for artists and musicians to earn a living.

 Here is the site address:

Happy listening! Enjoy!