Maloya: The protest music banned as a threat to France
Maloya is a type of dance music that was developed in Reunion, which is an island located in the Indian Ocean and is governed by France. The music was banned by France in the 1970s because it was seen as a threat to the French state. The music was sung in Creole, not French, and had its roots in Africa from the slaves that were brought to the island to harvest sugar cane.
France was not the only one that disliked the maloya music. The Catholic Church was not in favor of it because it was used in ceremonies where participants would enter a trance and come face to face with their ancestors. The French government was highly opposed to the music because it was protest music. In the 1970s, the Communist Party utilized maloya as protest music to voice to France that Reunion wanted to become independent. France saw this as very threatening and chose to ban the music. Anyone who was found openly producing or performing maloya would be place in jail.
In the 1980s, the music was not only re-legalized but was also funded by the French government from a cultural standpoint. Reunion did not gain its independence, but maloya was no longer used by the Communist Party as protest music to gain independence. There is still quite a disparity though between French nationals and those in Reunion. Unemployment rates are extremely high for those on the island, which has generated much frustration for those between the ages of 18-25, who have the greatest level of unemployment. Even though maloya is now legal and not being used as protest music, it is still a means of voicing frustration towards the French government. Maloya musicians will talk about the hardships they face because of the high levels of unemployment and cost of living. It would do the French government good to learn Creole to gain a true understanding of the hostility the islanders have towards the French.
I was glad that I came upon this reading because it really spoke to the idea of music being an outlet for frustrations and voicing opinions. It also showcased a more recent example of what we read about in Thomas Turino's Music as Social Life. In one of his chapters, Turino talks about how music has often been associated with various political movements. This was very much the case for a duration of time in Reunion. As I mentioned, the Communist Party help protests during the 1970s in Reunion asking the French to release the island from its control. One of the vehicles they used to gather individuals together and draw them to their cause was maloya music. It was a music type that had developed on the island so it was a perfect tool for the Communist Party to use. This article reminded me of what Turino wrote about when he mentioned the Nazis banning forms of music that were associated with Jews or African peoples. In the case of jazz though, some of it still survived because of the immense popularity it had among the Germans. The instance in Reunion with maloya is semi-reflective of what happened during WWII. The French, just like the Nazis, banned maloya music; however, it was very much a cultural and popular music type on the island so they were not able to completely eradicate it.