The time is long past – exactly ten years ago – since “the Kid Pounia” (of her father’s name, the founder of Reunion famous collective Ziskakan), who was then a student in Montpellier, France, showed her true colors and took her first steps on stage as a backing vocalist. Since then, Maya got back to her island and took possession of the creole language as much as maloya music, a ternary-rhythm blues inherited from Madagascan and African slaves. Her parents and their group of friends – among those was the stellar itinerant Alain Peters – fought from 1979 to make this music survive. With her kayamb at arms’ length, Maya, in turn, has made this fight the common thread of a wandering folk music.
Ten compositions later, she chose her middle name “Kamaty” (the name of a standing, non- conformist and intense woman, a resident of Grand Bois, a village she heard a lot about from her father) to create her own band.
Shaped on stage and receiving popular and critical acclaim, their first album “Santié Papang” was awarded “Coup de Coeur” by the famous French Institution Académie Charles-Cros. With this album, they travelled around the world, from India to Australia but also Morocco, South Africa, Canada, South Korea and China.
Yet today, Maya Kamaty has chosen to abandon the acoustic side of this first opus and to make profound changes in her music. “It would have been too easy to make another Santié Papang, I need to put myself in danger, to take risks…”
To complete this change of direction successfully, to mix her rhythms and words to other sounds, including electronic sounds, Maya Kamaty has audaciously used only one weapon, faithfulness. Olivier Soubra, sound engineer but also the musicians she has grown up with and around whom she has shaped her personality, surround her on this album : the percussionist Moana Apo who became master in the art of electronic music machines, and the guitarists Stéphane Lepinay, Kilik Payet (Varkala) and Karim Attoumane (Loder Kabaré). In addition to these accomplices from the outset, Maya Kamaty chose the drummer Dylan Marvillier, but also first-rate guests, the young Armenian pianist Yessai Kerapatian (Dya) and the French multi-instrumentalist Loy Erhrlich. From Band of Gwana to Touré Kunda via Carrousel (with Alain Peters) and Hadouk Trio, this traveler and pioneer musician has always enjoyed getting things moving. It is no surprise then to meet this real expert of Reunion Island, playing a bass he invented himself, “Gumbass” (a variation of Guembri) on the opening track.
Pandiyé was born from this family meeting. A “suspended” album (its translation in Creole) between tradition and modernity. Borrowing from the Icelandic singer Asgeir’s electro folk, as well as Kendrick Lamar’s hip hop, Björk’s pop or from dubstep, powerful bass comes to support the Maloya traditional instruments kayamb and roulèr. It also accompanies other instruments from Reunion culture such as the takamba guitar (also known as n’goni) but also drums which are usually reserved to Malabar ceremonies played by Jonathan Itema and Gaetan Mroimana. (Maya represents the fifth generation of Malabars (Tamil descendants) who came from India to Reunion during the engagement period.)
With the collaboration of the producer Victor-Attila Vagh (Flavia Coelho), Maya and her band have found the right balance between the organic and the electronic sides. Their reinvented maloya doesn’t only belong to Reunion Island but it also belongs to the world. However, the emotion lives in the beat, the messages in the images, lifeblood of creole language. Because if the cover has changed, the need to tell stories in songs is untouched.
Assisted by Mauritius poet Michel Ducasse (who had already written two songs on Santié Papang), his daughter Lisa Ducasse (Dark River) and Reunion storyteller Sergio Grondin (Takambé), Maya Kamaty wrote most of the lyrics on the album. In Creole from Reunion or from Mauritius (Dya), in English, with a strength of interpretation probably inherited from her mother, storyteller Anny Grondin, she also shares her vision of the trance (Pandiyé), her connection to elders (Trakassé) and of course to family (Lam An Doz).
Behind the sweetness of her voice, the words are bitter to denounce the jealous and gratuitously nasty saboteurs on this small island of Indian Ocean and beyond on social networks (Akoz). And if her adventurous music makes its own original way far from the marked paths by her famous father, her poetry tells the absolute necessity to preserve the traditions of her island, especially the fighting spirit embodied in maloya (Loder Kabaré/Diampar).
With the second album, the time of confirmation and even of self-assertion has come. With Pandiyé, this “aware and obstinate woman, artist, Creole, daughter of…” according to her own words, has found the right sound most likely to enhance her powerful voice. From a soothing to a smouldering voice, she is able of all variations. And she never hides the pleasure to show it on stage.
Let it be known, Maya Kamaty is well decided to carry the rich sounds of her island further and to make today’s creole language and soul sing her own way.
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