Sômarôho is today a must-see festival in Madagascar. The deep meaning of its name means "to live life freely without disturbing that of others". With this in mind, it is held every year in Nosy Be to introduce Malagasy music to the international scene. For 5 days and 4 nights, the perfume island is intoxicated with music, dance and sharing. Discover what is so special about this famous event.
It all started with the Salegy
It is traditional Malagasy music originating from the coastal regions all along the Mozambique Channel. In ancient times, he accompanied the Tsimihety and Sakalava during the "Joro", a ritual zebu sacrifice to ask the favors of ancestors and Zanahary, the ancestral God of the Malagasy.
The Salegy has since been spread all over the big island and imported internationally by Jaojaoby Eusebius, known as the King of the Salegy. His pace was slower at first, similar to a mix of Caribbean tunes and the melody of Soweto guitars. Beyond the musical genre, the Salegy has also become an emblematic rhythmic dance in Madagascar. Now popular, it has modernized and is turning to younger audiences. A successful reconversion of which one of the tenors is the singer Wawa.
Born in Nosy Be, Andrihamahazo Joel Issoubaly said Wawa, made the Salegy THE party music par excellence in Madagascar. The tempo was accelerated and the arrangement of accordions, electric guitar, kabosy (the Malagasy ukulele), drums and djembe transcend the Malagasy on its frantic pace. As a carpenter's son, Wawa began his career as a drummer before continuing his solo career. We can rightly say that it definitely has the rhythm in the skin. With his group, he won over the years a huge success across the Big Island and became one of the few Malagasy artists to perform more than 170 performances throughout the territory, not to mention his tours abroad. Which earned him his title of Prince of Salegy.
A successful anniversary
Since its beginnings, Wawa invariably performs at Nosy Be every year in August. First to honor his hometown, but also to celebrate annually the creation of his group. Passionate and true showman, the salegyman aims to "advance and carry the Malagasy torch higher and higher thanks to music". From this tradition and from this will was born the firstre edition of the Sômarôho festival. This event has since brought together Malagasy and international artists of all kinds: the Salegy of course, but also Pop, Afropop, Afrobeat, Reggae, Makoussa, Offbeat Coupé, R & B, etc. The enormous work done, the credibility, the professionalism and especially the atmosphere of madness are all factors that have made the festival Sômarôho to its current fame. In 2018, the event celebrated at the same time its 5e edition and the 15e anniversary of the group.
Let the party begin
For 5 days and 4 nights, it's the euphoria at Nosy Be. Usually scheduled for the first week of August, the festival starts on a Thursday and ends on the following Monday. First, it is opened by a carnival that mobilizes all kinds of youth associations, cooperatives, and women's associations, etc. Participants walk the streets of Hell-City, wearing traditional outfits or colorful creations of the most zany to the most worked, dances and choreography, to join the municipal stadium of Ambodivoanio. The latter hosts the event each year with a capacity of approximately 50,000 people. Since then, Wawa has been nicknamed the "Konka" of Ambodivoanio, meaning "master".
In addition, the festival invites about twenty artists from all walks of life, a true melting pot of talent. Among the locals, the biggest names like the King of Salegy Jaojaoby are partying. We can also mention among others Big MJ, Tence Mena, Shyn, Ny Ainga, Stephanie, Rak Roots, Lico Kininike and many others, each coming from a different musical universe. The festival is also an unprecedented springboard to promote and discover new Malagasy artists who find the opportunity to perform in front of a wider audience.
Among the internationals, his guests included Franco-Congolese Singuila, Togolese Toofan, Mahorais Bacoili, Portuguese-born Frenchwoman Luyanna, with whom Wawa released a single, Serge Beynaud, one of the biggest names in the offbeat coupe. Ivorian, the Cameroonian Daphne who flooded international waves and nightclubs with his hit "Calée" or the Tanzanian, Diamond Platnumz, whose collaboration with Ne-Yo on the title "Marry You" is danced at all weddings. Salegy's Prince closes the event, igniting the stadium until morning.
In addition, Sômarôho, it is also a sports and cultural meeting: election of Miss and Mister, moraingy, petanque, football, raffle, contests, etc. The basketball tournament has taken on a particular dimension over the course of the festival. Like the musicians, the teams coming from the 4 corners of the island are present after a qualifying tournament, as well as those of Mauritius and Reunion Island.
Despite his youth, it is little to say that Sômarôho has today affirmed his position among the appointments not to miss the big island. It is both a musical discovery, a cultural experience, a sporting event and a tourist charm.
More than music
You will agree that such a big event has a significant impact on Nosy Be, and by extension all over Madagascar. For example, the proceeds from the basketball competition were allocated to the City Hospital, Nosy Be High School, or to renovate the Ambodivoanio stadium, a youth recreation area. The rest of the year. Add to this the economic benefits for locals thanks to the influx of visitors. Nosy Be has become an almost "complete" tourist destination.
Beyond its paradisiacal beaches, its natural wealth both marine and terrestrial, it has today added a cultural dimension that makes it a flagship destination in Madagascar. Indeed, the atmosphere, the party and the pride inspired by the event have awakened Malagasy young people from all over the island. Despite the hard life, from Diego to Tulear and from Majunga to Tamatave via the capital, they all dream of the experience. Eh yes ! Nosy Be, this is not the door next door for the Malagasy. If not for those who have the means, Sômarôho has certainly contributed to the explosion of local tourism.
For this year, the 6e edition, Sômarôho will run from 1st to 5th August 2019. The Tanzanian Diamond Platnumz is sure to redo part of the festival. The rest of the poster is not yet unveiled. We will keep you informed when the time comes. A special approach is that Wawa chooses the guest artists based on the opinion of his fans on Facebook through a survey. If that's not cool !!!
Sômarôho or "live life freely without disturbing others" takes on its full meaning: sharing, pride, assertiveness. A worthy illustration of the very essence of Madagascar: unity within a cultural diversity. In short, if you do not mind, some advice from us may be able to serve you.
Some tips ... not exhaustive
It goes without saying that if you suffer from hyperacusis or ochmophobia, this type of event is not for you. He is more directed to people who want to have a real experience in the heart of local, passionate about adventure and fun. Those who want to discover the population and Malagasy music during their passage, to experience the Madagascan festival otherwise than in the crush of bad clubs, a bit amateur music (but not necessarily), Sômarôho definitely looks and the song of Malagasy culture. We reflected on the question and arrived at the following notes:
- Sômarôho is best known for its safe atmosphere. Since its creation, the festival has always been uneventful and the city authorities have been working hard to ensure the safety of everyone. There will inevitably be a crowd, but we are far from a Woodstock. On the other hand, if you are looking for a fight, it is at your own risk.
- All the general precautions of a trip to countries like Madagascar are of course maintained. Leave your valuables in the hotel, the lively places are likely to hide pickpockets like everywhere in the world. No need to point out and spread your "riches" under the eyes of everyone, this is not the right place. Avoid ice cubes and uncooked foods if you have a weak stomach, get enough local currency, etc.
- Book your hotels or places well in advance, as the month of August is the high season of the holidays for both foreign and domestic tourists. The perfume island is a very popular destination. For small budgets, some hotels or guest houses offer special rates for events of this kind.
- Food is not lacking during events of this type. There will be a lot of grilling: meat, chicken, seafood or fries accompanied by raw vegetables. For reference, a beer, a bottle of coca or mineral water costs between 2,000 to 5,000 Ar. Different rums: white, amber, arranged with ginger, vanilla or other flavors are also available to warm you up. Consume with moderation, we will never repeat it enough.
- Unfortunately, one reality is that Nosy Be knows the scourge of sex tourism. The latter is punishable by Malagasy law and liable to imprisonment. In addition, it is sometimes difficult to determine first-hand the true age of Malagasy people. It is therefore very likely that you come across minors. The key word is to respect oneself and respect the country, its laws and its inhabitants. To help you with good practices, a French NGO, ECPAT, has recently released a guide for the responsible traveler in Madagascar. It is downloadable on the internet and is intended for all types of travelers, national or foreign.
- If you are afraid of how you will be received, refer to our article on Malagasy population. The locals are hospitable and will appreciate very much that you are interested in their culture.
- When you're in the mood and want to keep up, the Salegy is a dance in itself. You can start at the beginner level by clapping by following the rhythm. At the intermediate level, locate the "fôlaka", the part of the music usually located at the interlude (after 2 refrains and 2 verses). The rhythm accelerates, you will have the impression that the musicians play another piece and they have in addition the propensity to extend the improvisation on it. This will be the signal that tells you to start to swing. Expert level, turn your head from left to right, from top to bottom and in all directions during the fôlaka. As explained previously, the Salegy being born from the ancient traditions, the dances are thus directly inspired by mimicking among others the cults of possession. Otherwise, if you do not want to take the lead, get in tune with what the dancers do on stage or the Malagasy movements around you.
- To give you a glimpse of the genre, here are some of the best known titles that will give you the "The" in Sômarôho. They may inspire you: Jaojoby - Mangala vaiavy; Wawa - 400 Volts; Stéphanie - Dontsiky; Big Mj - Na Lingui Yo; Tence Mena - Sitrany Solo; Dalvis - To; Serge Beynaud - Kota na Koto; Martiora Freedom - Hafahafa; Vaiavy Chila - Tsy Ambelako Ampirafy Anao; Shyn - Resim-pitia.
- Finally, when the Prince of Salegy Wawa goes on stage, he has a singular habit of haranguing the crowd to stay until the next morning around 10 am, even to close the gates of the stadium. Atmosphere requires. If you have a flight the next day or a program done, you are warned!