Reunion Island’s Grèn Sémé are the proud keepers of maloya: a form of music, song and dance native to their Island (situated in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and southwest of Mauritius).Of mixed racial origins since its outset, maloya was created by Malagasy and African slaves on the sugar plantations and was eventually appropriated by the whole island population. Initially conceived as a dialogue between a soloist and a choir accompanied by percussion instruments, this folkloric treasure now exists in an increasing variety of forms, both in terms of texts and instruments (the introduction of djembes, synthesizers, drums, etc.). Sung and danced on stage by professional or semi-professional artists, it is mixed with rock, reggae or jazz and inspires poetry and slam.
At the heart of Grèn Sémé is singer and composer Carlo De Sacco. It was in 2006 that he first assembled a quintet around his poetic compositions. Imbued in the traditional culture and unmatched mixing of influences of their island homeland, Grèn Sémé refreshes and exports mayola, peppering it with jazz, electro and world music to create what the band calls “evolutionary mayola.” In performance, the quintet offers its audiences inventive songs in Creole and French, with lyrics and melodies that skilfully blend tenderness and contagious energy, poetry and committed words, and joie de vivre and melancholy.
Grèn Sémé’s self-titled debut album was released to critical acclaim in 2013. It employed traditional instruments such as the kayamb and qarqabu gnaoua alongside electric guitar and keyboards. The group’s second album is being recorded with producer Jean Lamoot (Salif Keita, Bashung) who, according to Grèn Sémé, has “sublimated their world.”