HEARTBEAT OF MAURITIUS: The Traditional Séga Dance and Music

HEARTBEAT OF MAURITIUS: The Traditional Séga Dance and Music

Mauritians love to dance to the rhythm of music, but especially to the traditional island music and dance called Séga.  Séga is the most popular dance and music in Mauritius, because it unites every generation. Séga is all about joyful dance and sharing the feeling of happiness in a festive setting. It is therefore an important part of most occasions, like celebrations and festivals both in the towns and beaches, it is simply everywhere.  

Séga has roots deep within the Mauritian culture, with the Séga dance being transferred from generation to generation like other family heritage. Parents and grandparents teach the children to dance as soon as they can stand on their own two feet.

It is not really known where the Séga originated from. Some have said that it was brought to Mauritius by the slaves, who came from Africa. But because of the confusion of where it came from have it been decided that Séga is a fusion of different dance forms from both western and African culture, allowing communities to unite, despite cultural differences. 

Séga is described as a cry from the soul trying to transcend the miseries and heartaches of life while still expressing the human desire of joy and happiness. It tells the stories of joy and sorrows and is a nostalgic heritage of the fishing villages. Séga was originally sung by men and women, who was sold as slaves, where it is nowadays a folk-song, which integrates itself into the folklore of the Mauritian people.  It is usually sung in Creole giving it uniqueness and cultural richness of the local music of Mauritius. 

The modern Séga that we see today is very different from the past. Original instruments have been replaced with modern musical instruments like base, guitar and drums. The original instrument used are the ‘Ravanne’, ‘Triangle’ and the ‘Maravanne’ that can still be seen used some places.

The instruments used provide only a rhythm, not a melody. The dance itself is shuffling steps without any set pattern with the hips swinging and outstretched arms. The dancers will shuffle around each other before facing and sitting down in the floor. Here they will bend their torsos back and forward, much like a courtship dance.  Séga can be extremely versatile, it can be done with both a full instrumental background or no music at all – anything that can make a sound will also do.

Despite the sensual swaying of the hips and torsos, is the Séga a family dance as well. Children will dance the Séga with their grandparents at weddings and friends also dance when they meet up in the village square.

The Séga perfectly represent the culture of Mauritius, it is not just seen as a dance but a heritage. The Séga overall is a freedom of the soul that pushes the miseries of life away while celebration the joy and happiness of every human being. The Séga is a story and a sharing of bringing people together in peace and harmony by breaking down all boundaries.