Popular Malagasy Music

Popular Malagasy Music Holding onto Its Roots

By Tori Huster

The initial ideas about African popular music is nothing compared to the complexities that it contains. The average individual would believe African popular music to be based simply around drumming; this is far from true. People would be surprised to learn that modern popular music found in Madagascar has, like many other African countries, become significantly more westernized in recent years. Although there is a strong influence of Western music, namely soft rock, jazz, and even hip hop, the music of Madagascar has managed to maintain many aspects of their traditional and contemporary styles. It is not uncommon that countries accept and adopt different genres of music, however. While Madagascar has embraced different cultural influences, they have not allowed them to take over by any means. Music and dance seem to go hand in hand as far as the people of Madagascar are concerned. The traditional style of Malagasy music is present within the contemporary and popular styles. Malagasy popular music and the most popular artists found within the country continue to excel in contemporary styles of energetic dance music, such as salegy, and the faster pace tsapika.

There are two popular styles of music in Madagascar at the moment. The first one originates from folk songs from the country and is called salegy. Salegy is the most well-known dance pop music surrounding the musical world within Madagascar. It emerged from Madagascar around the 1950s and 1960s. This form of music utilizes many different instruments: guitar, accordion, organ, and has even been exported to other countries, especially these days. Salegy is known for being extraordinarily upbeat. Another style of music that is found today in Madagascar is called tsapika. This form is even faster than the animated salegy with its staple finger-picking electric guitarist. Tsapika is typically heard throughout the poorer areas in Madagascar and known better as country music. These two styles of music are two of the most popular forms that have been developed and performed in Madagascar. Many artists and musicians have found fame in producing and performing songs in salegy or tsapika styles. (Eyre)

“The King of Salegy”

One artist in particular that has become a world renowned Malagasy musician is Eusebe Jaobjoby. Eusebe Jaojoby, a man born in July of 1955, is disputably the most popular Malagasy artist right now and in the last fifty or so years. He is known for being the king of salegy musical style in Madagascar. He grew up singing in churches, but eventually found his way to singing Malagasy traditional folk songs. With his first hit, “Samy Mandeha Samy Matidy”, he garnered national success and opened doors for himself internationally. Jaojoby took his music to Paris for several years and produced even more music. He has recorded four albums so far, which may not seem like a lot to Western cultures, but he has mastered the art of salegy and gained much respect on an international basis. (Eyre)


Watch Jaojoby Now!

Discography: Salegy!, Velano, E Tiako, Aza Arianao

Buy Jaojoby's CD on Amazon

Some Popular Music Groups and Artists of Our Generation

Tarika is a musical group that has introduced Malagasy musical sounds to the rest of the world. Hanitra Rasoanaivo is the woman that formed the group. ("Hanitra") This group utilizes many traditional instruments of Madagascar as they continue to tour across the entire world. (Fairley)


Mahaleo is another group that has emerged throughout the modern music world of Madagascar. The group is lead by a man named Dama Mahaleo. Dama Mahaleo is famous for his finger-picking on the guitar. His music, in comparison to tsapika, are very similar although he tends to have a softer sound than most tsapika styles. Mahaleo is a group that has been very active in politics and often refer to it in their works. ("Dama Mahaleo")


One final artist, and one of the most remarkable mentioned thus far, is a man named Rajery. He is known for his unique past and extraordinary perseverance. When he was young, he unfortunately came in contact with a poison that caused him the loss of his right hand. (Eyre) Despite his handicap, Rajery took up playing a Malagasy popular instrument, the valiha, and excelled at it. The valiha itself is a hugely difficult instrument to play yet alone master, and Rajery was able to do both even with his handicap. He has participated in several musical concerts that involve Western styles of music while performing on this traditional Malagasy instrument. ("Malagasy Pop Music")


Rajery Performing Live

References for Malagasy Pop Music

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