Tarika Be
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Tarika Be


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"Madagascar's Tarika Bé"

If we are keeping score, Madagascar is having a bad season. A half-dozen cyclones equals hundreds of thousands of people left homeless, a big chunk of the island’s famous cash crop – vanilla – ruined, as well as its crucial rice harvest. This spells big trouble for the island’s unique flora and fauna – people under stress will look to the island’s ever-shrinking forests for anything that will give them a way to buy food.

Fortunately, the country’s cultural traditions are still a source of resilience. Musicians draw upon Madagascar’s 1500-year musical heritage from its Malay-Polynesian origins – and all the other influences that have reached the island in the past several hundred years.

Most people remember the Tony Award-winning musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” reflecting Eubie Blake’s style – sliding over lyricist Andy Razaf’s contribution. Razaf was a real-life Malagasy royal prince (albeit born in America) who also wrote some classy, classic tunes of his own. But for contemporary Malagasy music, Hanitra Rasoanaivo – or Han cha as fans worldwide call her – is now Madagascar’s standout and driving musical force.

At her most recent concert in Antananarivo, Hanitra enters wrapped in a long raw silk scarf, a Malagasy lamba, with a strip of black friction tape across her mouth. She mumbles – there are things a woman still cannot speak in this world. A wordless chant, the scarf, then the tape comes off, a metamorphosis, and a sonic butterfly flies into the light.

Hanitra’s music teases the listener – it almost never quite goes where one expects. Close order harmonies are so tight you can’t slide a piece of paper in between the voices. There are Asian micro-pitches, and suddenly, bits of African plucked guitar, country and western, sounds from classic rock.

In concert, Hanitra often plays a jembe drum to drive the rhythmic emphases in her more ‘traditional’ tunes. As backup, her group – Noro, Njaka’, Ny Ony , Sandy and Mamy -- play acoustic guitar, electric bass, electric guitar and jazz drum kit. But they also use those unusual Malagasy instruments like a small, squared-off guitar, a long bamboo tube arrayed with strings to be plucked (the archetypical Malagasy instrument, the valiha), and a great box-like, double-sided zither. And on her recordings, the range of instruments is even larger and more eclectic. In her international breakthrough album, ‘Soul Makassar’, Indonesian instruments like the kecapi and rebab feature strongly.

But why the title? The more she reached into her Malagasy musical roots, the more Hanitra became fascinated by these origins in the Malay-Polynesian world that stretches from Sumatra to the far reaches of eastern Pacific Ocean islands. She was living, working and performing in London at the time, but she secured the support she needed to travel to the Toradja region of the Indonesian island of Sulewesi.

And why the people of Toradja? There were some linguistic clues and intriguing overlaps in cultural patterns – the Malagasy and the Toradja people both place their deceased ancestors in above-ground tombs and periodically re-dress them and host ceremonies to honour them. As Hanitra tells the story, she met up with a traditional boat builder in Makassar who looked her over slowly and then said, “welcome back, you’ve been away a long time”. Considering that it had been more than a thousand years since her ancestors left Southeast Asia’s islands, that comment underscored a near mystic connection for Hanitra with those ancient voyages.

Hanitra was about to build on the momentum of the “Soul Makassar” album and performances in events like Britain’s “Womad Festival” for some solid world touring and performing. She opened in New York City -- on Sept. 9, 2001. The tour tanked and she retreated back home to Madagascar to regroup. Once home, she began to build another artistic dream, an art centre, hotel and institute for the creative arts in Antananarivo, to help energize traditional Malagasy music.

Where did this whirl of creativity evolve from originally? Hanitra explains over lunch that her family were traditional farmers in the Madagascar forest – Malaygasy people with little exposure to the larger world. She never formally studied music, but began to sing with her relatives – traditional musicians, all of them – then went to university to study English. Shakespeare had fascinated her; she wanted to know how a lightly educated country boy had written such universal, timeless stories. English study led to work in Britain and a growing involvement with the world music movement, including a musical collaboration with Sibongile Khumalo -- a performance in front of King Mswati of Swaziland. Her song “Set Me Free” a protest against Mswati’s impending seventh marriage sounds like a hard-driving rock tune with unexpected Middle Eastern musical grace notes.

Hanitra’s music never seems to let you listen mindlessly. “Allo Cheri” brings Louisiana’s Cajun Zydeco music to mind, while the origins of “Malalako” are in the Ronettes’ big 60s hit, “Be My Baby”, first heard through a French cover version by Madagascar’s early international group, Les Surf. Hanitra says with a straight face that even after she first started singing this song she thought Les Surf had created the song themselves.

And then there is the hair – shaved high on the sides to reflect those ancestral Toradja forebears, but a long tail in back to focus her strength. It’s not a shtick; she does it because it feels right. Sounds right too.

The best place to see and hear Hanitra and her group Tarika in the next several months will be at the Rain Forest Festival (along with a Southern African group like “Black Umfolosi”) in Sarawak, Malaysia. Or, maybe, some day here in South Africa.

Trikola Music in the U.S. and Rogue Records in the U.K. have recorded and released Hanitra’s music over the past decade. For additional background on Hanitra and her group, Tarika, go to http://www.tarika.nu. Or http://www.myspace.com/tarikab

- South African News

"Hanitra of Tarika Bé"

Hanitra, of Tarika Bé:
Harmony from the Forest

So from where did this profound spirit and charisma arise? From where did this woman, this singer, first get her inspiration?

"From the forest…everything first came from the forest", says Hanitra.

She began in the forest and always returns to the forest, time and time again, to regain her roots. Her full name is Hanitrarivo RASOANAIVO.

When she was a child, she was one of a powerful harmony family- 6 members: the 4 kids and 2 parents. They would sing in full voice out in the Forest, in Tana, Antsahakely, Fenomanana Mahazoarivo where no one could hear them and they could disturb no one. (There is a BBC film made on this story…) her brother and one of her sisters perform on stage with her now.

Harmonizing is what they did, and if they didn't do it well, they would not join the harmony! She came to harmonize best with her sister (who still currently sings with her) and said that to this day, there is no one with whom she can find that perfect harmony, “it is so close, you can slip a piece of paper in between says Hanitra.”

When I asked her age or time questions, she gave me a sideways glance, which made it quite clear that Hanitra does not believe in age nor time, and as she later clarified, she sees time, and life, in a circular, not linear, way. One must live in the moment, for the moment, believes Hanitra, and says that she tries to live life in this way herself.

She recalls singing in the forest as far back as 1968. The family chose to live there in the forest and at that time they had no running water, electricity, etc...so the forest was their refuge. She recounts how the sound of animals from the forest inspired their music and sounds. Animals such as: Crickets, frogs, snakes, birds, chameleons, etc…This was the first basis of her music, what she found in her immediate surrounding.

After a time of being alone, out of the 6 members of her immediate family, she was the only one that felt something within her wanting to get out and seek more of the world outside of her forest.

Her family was so poor, and lived in just 2 rooms, that the forest offered the space and escape she seeked. She recalled that her mother wondered why "(she) was in the forest talking to someone…" Hanitra went on to say, "I felt the desire to be alone and communicate with someone…"

She recalls that her parents beat her up a lot as she was seen as the "black sheep" of the family; wanting to do things outside of their tradition and lives and not feeling bound by the norms around her.

For her family, as poor as they were, it was very important to have the 4 children be educated, no matter what. But Hanitra was the only one who went farther in education than her siblings. She said that she was strong in math, but chose to pursue the study of languages, as she wanted to learn about the different cultures of Madagascar. She believed she had to learn the 21 different languages of Madagascar as she wanted to embrace the different aspects of her culture and country.

At 16, she discovered this intense interest in her culture, and then other cultures, and continued studying languages, such as French, then later in University, English and German. For Hanitra, it began with her small circle, the Forest, then the next outer one, other cultures of Mada, then the more external circle, French, and then other foreign languages outside of Mada. In pursuing such things, people would say "there she goes again- the sorcerer…"

Communication for her was, and still is, such an important facet of life, and was the objective of her studies. This intense desire to be able to communicate, not just with her own people, but with people of other cultures, led her to her travels. "For me, life is a travel...not a destination." Though her parents wanted to set "destinations" (end objectives) for her, she would not abide, and felt that her own way was about the paths to discovery and the journey itself.

She was, from early on, a self-promoter, who took the initiative, starting in Madagascar, in searching for a job. So she began tapping on people's doors, "looking at them in the eyes", and telling them that they need her. (And if you have ever met Hanitra, with her charisma, you know that she can be quite convincing…)

So, at an early age, she became a tourist guide. She worked for free, approaching tourists and offering her services to take them places, while they only paid for the travel and lodging, but not for the work. This, she said, she saw as an investment in her future. She wanted to visit places around Madagascar, and this was the way to do it for free. Her entrepreneurship was quite extraordinary for that time and age, especially for a Malagasy woman coming from a traditional family.

She was influenced by people she met along the way, such as a famous sax player from Colorado Springs, US, and other foreigners who crossed her path. Then one day she approached the USIS (United States Information Systems), and asked them outright for a job. She began to work there as the receptionist, which allowed her to read and do research in the library. There she took the initiative to learn more about American Culture and the outside world. She was also working as a translator for the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy, from time to time.

Then one day she got this "fancy idea to go to England to see 'Shakespeare's Land'". She wanted to see the setting of his literature, as she always felt that in order to fully understand the language and culture, one must be in its context. So she quit her job at USIS here in Tana and left to London, all on her own, not knowing anyone. Out of 332 family members, she was the only one to then ever leave Madagascar. Before leaving, she told an American official from the Embassy, "[one day…] you'll see me on the cover of a magazine…"

She started out with a 6 month visa and had no work. She, again demonstrating her courageous initiative, went to the Malagasy Consulate and, seeing that there were no Malagasy working there, offered her services, "You need me", she told them. But they declined at first, until a few weeks later, they offered her the position of Cultural Attaché. This was an ideal position for someone like Hanitra, who embodies the spirit and culture of Madagascar.

She called her sister to come visit her there in London. One day, in her kitchen, while washing the dishes, in London, in 1989, she was singing with her sister- their old songs reminiscent of their Forest. A DJ from BBC 1 Radio had heard them singing acapela and said to Hanitra, you cannot keep these beautiful voices and songs to yourself, I want to record you. At this time, Hanitra did not know anything about such things- recordings, studios, etc…

They went on to record 4 songs and when they were played on the radio, she was told that the "Red light had never stopped", meaning that the phone calls came flooding in- all wanting to hear more, who were these singers, where can they get more? Her new "agent" said to her, "you have a career".

Her first album was Fanafody, and once she hit the airwaves, it was no longer possible for her to work at the Consulate, though she enjoyed her work there very much. She went on to put out, on average, one album a year for some time. She was traveling about 11 months out of every year, and playing with as big of names as Youssou N'Dour, Cesaria Evora, Baba Maal, Cheikh Lo, Zap Mama, etc..and was hot on the World Music scene for many years.

When I asked her if she enjoyed performing with other artists, she said yes, but confessed that singing with her sister is still the best, as it so natural, easy and harmonious; that means there is no need to learn each other's way or find what works, which is what one must normally do when singing with someone else. As Hanitra describes the singing harmony between her and her sister, "[it is] so close, you can't even slip a piece of paper…" And if you are lucky enough to see them in concert, you will find this to be true. The perfect harmonious sound that emerges from these two, sent shivers through my body, and made me realize, from the onset of the show, that I was about to embark on a musical journey that would move me body and soul.

She enjoys the music of many different artists, locally, one such musician is Madame Masy, and some of her other favorites include Voix de Bulgar (Bulgarian Voices), Tahitian Choir, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and more.

What I found so unique about Tarika Bé, among other things, is their incorporation of both traditional and modern instruments. For example, the Marovany, which is a large box string instrument which is played on both sides, is played by her guitarist, who used to be a heavy metal solo guitar player, and who also demonstrated his versatility when he played a Gibson guitar at the last concert. Hanitra, when she found him, had taught him how to play traditional instruments and Hanitra herself dabbles in various instruments, including the Talking Drum from Senegal.

The story of the Talking Drum is quite intriguing as it is extremely rare to witness a woman playing it. According to West African tradition, women are not permitted to play this drum.

She chose to play it in 1997, as part of a powerful and historical moment for Senegal and Malagasy relations. As part of a Conflict and Reconciliation Project, between Senegal and Madagascar, she produced a record called "Son Egal" (meaning Equal Sound, but also a play on words to sound like Senegal…) This project was aimed at reconciliation between the two countries because of the 1947 uprisal, where the French had used Senegalese to fight against the Malagasy, which resulted in the death of 100,000 Malagasy people.

To this day, Hanitra professed, Senegalese, and perhaps other West Africans, are historically hated here by Malagasy. She felt it was important to dedicate an album to this project to help un-demonize the image of the Senegalese here in Madagascar.

She knew she wanted to play this beautiful instrument, which so embodies Senegalese spirit and sound, but she felt that she needed to have it spiritually blessed because it was against their tradition to have, firstly, a woman play it, and secondly, for different purposes other than their own. She bought it from Baba Maal's drummer, and then went to her friends and co-workers, Cheikh-Lo and Youssou N'Dour, to seek their help. They sent her to Casamance to learn about the drum from the old tribal Ngom people and to have them bless it.

This project became so popular that the President of the Republic of Madagascar took notice and publicly supported the endeavor.

This undertaking, and the synthesizing nature of Hanitra and her music, passion and convictions for mutual understanding between cultures, is reflected in Tarika Bé's sound and lyrics, often addressing political topics, both related to Madagascar and abroad.

When I asked her about being seen as a strong female Malagasy model for women here, she replied that many Malagasy find her charisma and strength threatening, especially for traditional households; that the idea of a strong and free female artist could give ideas to women that would change their roles and voices in what is otherwise seen as a very traditional society.

She is not scared to learn of new cultures or ideas, but rather the contrary, she is always seeking it. However, even though she has traveled and lived in many different places, she always returns to her roots. She has made her art and music easily accessible and one can see more of it at her art center, Antshow Madagascar, where she lives, here in Tana, next to the Forest.

Tarika Bé performed Saturday, April 21st, at Alliance Française, to a full audience that, I myself witnessed, was moved to the core. This being my first exposure to Tarika Bé and Hanitra, I could not believe that I had missed other performances, and the honor of being a part of such a rich spiritual musical journey.

Tarika Bé is performing on Saturday, May 5th at Espace Le Jard’In, at 21:00. Space is limited and table reservations are required for dinner. If you have not had the privilege of seeing Tarika Bé perform, do not miss this opportunity.

Written by:
Tali Klein
Sr. English Language Fellow
Antananarivo, Madagascar

- Madagascar News

"Tarika Bé en concert"

:: Tarika Bé en concert à La Résidence Ankerana

« On veut être plus proche du public malgache » dixit Hanitra

Tarika Bé, un ambassadeur de la musique traditionnelle malgache.
Après avoir passé plusieurs années à l’extérieur, Hanitra Rasoanaivo , celle qui a beaucoup fait pour la musique traditionnelle malgache avec ses compagnons de scène de «Tarika», est rentré au pays, il y a quelques temps. Elle a fondé le groupe «Tarika Bé» et donnera un concert ce vendredi 08 Juin à La Résidence Ankerana.
« Nul n’est prophète en son pays »
Une phrase qui traduit bien la situation qu’a vécu « Tarika » dans le temps. Il a fallu attendre la sortie du tube « Raitra » pour que les compatriotes adressent une petite attention à ce groupe typiquement malgache.
Puis, vint le début de « Tarika Bé ». Auparavant, leur musique est définie comme une sorte de « fusion roots ». On a cru entendre du « riff » rock balladant entre les mélodies bien de chez nous, exécuté avec des instruments typiquement malgache.
Quand bien même, ce groupe a été bien acueilli par le public depuis ses début. Après la présentation au Ccac, il y eut une tournée à travers les alliances dans toute l’île. Et tout récemment, le public malgache a pu les découvrir à l’Aft d’Andavamamba. Mais Hanitra et sa bande ne veulent pas en rester là.
Loin de ces habituelles soirées comme on a l’habitude de voir, Tarika Bé va cette fois proposer un spectacle très « visuel ». « Le but est de donner une autre image à la vie nocturne. On va proposer un show exceptionnel où tout le monde pourrait se défouler », a expliqué Hanitra. L’on se souvient quand elle a déclaré que si l’on veut être populaire, il faut entrer dans le sysème qui fonctionne mal au pays. Sans parler de la place qu’occupe ces genres de musiques sur les stations. « C’est vrai qu’il y a différentes sortes de musique traditionnelle mais on est sur le point de se faire entendre par le public on va tout faire pour être plus proche d’eux », a-t-elle conclu.
Une rude bataille dont seul le groupe a le secret pour arriver à bon terme. Espérons qu’ils y arriveront, et avec l’aide de tout le monde, bien sûr.

- Tribune Madagascar

"The Mad Phoenix"

From fRoots magazine November 2007. www.frootsmag.com

Tarika’s high energy, politically charged take on Madagascar’s roots music took them to the top. Then disaster struck in 2001. But now Hanitra’s new band Tarika Bé are rising from the ashes. Elizabeth Kinder hears from an irrepressible survivor.

“Hello, I’m Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America.” So the former vice-president introduces An Inconvenient Truth, his essential-viewing documentary on climate change. So might Hanitra (pron. ‘Anch’) Rasoanaivo have introduced her band: “Hello, we’re Tarika, we used to be the next big thing.” A tenuous link you might think, but both Al and Hanitra were prevented from assuming their rightful place at the top of their chosen fields: both were stymied in America in the early years of this century due to the foul deeds of others, and both are aiming for political change through an artistic medium.
It might be argued that in this area Hanitra has had more success so far than Al who, let’s face it, is up against it with the multinationals and governments intent on money-making and bugger the consequences. Hanitra meanwhile, through her innovative music and lyrics continues to raise social consciousness in her native Madagascar, something she started before her songs were woven into the soundtrack for civil revolt there. And now her powerful new band Tarika Bé, meaning big or strong band, is rising phoenix-like from the ashes of Tarika. If their powerhouse performance at July’s Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak was anything to go by, they’re ready to storm the international stages once again.
Years before Dreamworks’ cutesy animals pitched up to push the island name firmly into the public consciousness, Tarika had been drawing worldwide attention to the place. Constant touring of their ground-breaking blend of modern and traditional music had them rated by Time magazine in September 2001 as one of the ten best bands on planet Earth, alongside Radiohead and U2.
At that time, Tarika had released their internationally acclaimed fourth album, Soul Makassar, which topped the world music charts in both Europe and America. Its arrival had already been delayed by a year due to the implosion of the music business, in this case BMG, downsizing in the protracted run-up to its eventual merger with Sony. This led to the band touring America to promote their new CD fifteen months later than originally planned.
But it was OK. They were still riding high, still receiving the massive amounts of airplay which had secured them their No. 1 position. CNN had made a TV documentary about the band that was about to be broadcast worldwide, and if past American tours were anything to go by they’d pack in the crowds every place they played.
Tarika’s first gig at BB King’s in Manhattan gave absolutely no clue that this tour would be any different. It was on September 10th 2001. But their second in Los Angeles on September 11th never happened. Looking out of their hotel windows that morning the band saw the World Trade Centre burning and learned, as we all did, that the world had changed.
Practically and immediately for Tarika, this meant they were stuck in the States on a six-week tour with no available internal flights and no external flights to get them out. So tour manager George Cruze hired a van and drove them to their next scheduled gig in Tucson, Arizona, a two day, 2,000 mile journey. They made the gig, but the punters didn’t. Everyone stayed at home watching the TV news (but not the documentary: CNN pulled it). It set the picture for the entire tour, which was now taking place in a country jangling with newly minted fear and glinting with a freshly polished xenophobia. It was a dreadful time, it traumatised and bankrupted the band, but when they eventually got home there was no respite as Madagascar plunged into civil war.
Initially a mostly peaceful, orderly affair as the entire country simply went on strike following the presidential elections in December 2001, it developed into a bitter stand-off. The incumbent president, Didier Ratsiraka, flatly refused to budge, denying that his opponent Marc Ravalomanana had won (a later recount proved otherwise). This was not uncharacteristic behaviour on the part of Ratsiraka who had declared victory in the previous, 1997 election after a spectacular and flagrant display of vote-rigging which would have amazed and no doubt inspired the Bush brothers (Dubya and Jeb) had they the slightest notion that Madagascar existed or where they might find it on the map.
Hanitra had already seen her music result in political ramifications in that earlier election. Tarika’s widely acclaimed 1997 release, Son Egal, explored issues of race and equality and called for recognition of Madagascar’s past. In a deeply spiritual country made up of many indigenous ethnic groups who nevertheless share a reverence for their ancestors, Hanitra tapped into that popular belief in her songs. Invoking their spirits, she pointed out that the ancestors would be ashamed both of the country’s corrupt politicians and the treatment of its independence war veterans. One particular track, Avelo (Ghost), received almost constant airplay.
By the late ‘90s, Tarika had become, in popular parlance, ‘overnight sensations’ in their own country after a series of breakthrough concerts and TV appearances and more hits like Raitra and Koba. Hanitra wasn’t just addressing corruption, cultural pride, social welfare issues and the roots of racism in her music. In leading the band, writing politically astute songs, playing at home where they could and touring abroad, she was breaking ground in a society where equal rights for women weren’t part of the public consciousness.
No surprise then that on returning in late 2001 she wanted to stay in Madagascar whilst it was struggling to throw out Ratsiraka. But the ensuing awfulness of the dispute, which lasted for over six months, sealed the fate of Tarika, reeling from their experience in America. The country literally came to a standstill. The strike descended into violence which saw peaceful demonstrators shot by the small part of the army which remained loyal to Ratsiraka, and widespread destruction of the country’s infrastructure by his supporters. The situation only resolved when Ratsiraka was granted safe haven in France.
Remembering this time, Hanitra says, “You really witnessed how the Malagasy people teamed together and united. I wanted to be part of the unification of the Malagasy.” Hanitra ploughed her last resources and energies into a project to build the country’s first arts centre, Antshow. “In a way, all this bad luck triggered something new and good in me. All the while that I was touring, especially in Britain, I was really impressed with arts centres, small places where people can go up on stage, play to an audience of 50 or a 100. There were people exchanging experiences, teaching, you know. It’s to boost the local community culture. And I thought this is the time to make this in Madagascar. I remembered all the functions that these community centres and arts centres were having.”
Antshow, she says, “is a place which has facilities for people to record, to get up on stage and do live shows, a place where musicians can sleep and eat. It’s like a mini-complex, you don’t have to go anywhere else in town to create, produce, anything… We don’t have really good professional equipment but it’s a start. We also have art exhibitions, photography, and sometimes instrument exhibitions. Basically there is no other space for people to express themselves in art, so I accept everything that comes along.”
The place feeds into a resurgence of pride in local culture by the Malagasy themselves, which Ravalomanana keenly promotes and which Tarika’s music had helped to kick-start, back in the late ‘90s. “Antshow,” Hanitra continues, “is good for Malagasy people and for foreigners too, who are interested in our culture.”
Eventually, as the memories of 2001 faded, the urge to perform and tour returned. At Antshow, Hanitra met up with a brilliant local rock guitarist, Njaka, who’s now proved to be an equally brilliant multi-traditional-instrumentalist in Tarika Bé. In July they rocked the Rainforest Festival on their first gig outside Madagascar, with the audience wildly dancing and screaming for more. fRoots caught up with the irrepressible Hanitra the next day.
Hanitra, it turns out, is still fighting. She’s fighting to promote traditional Malagasy music in danger of being lost in the enormous enthusiasm for pop in her country. In the new band, which also features her equally beautiful sister Noro from the old Tarika on voice and percussion and their older brother Sandy on bass and vocals, she performs traditional a cappella songs lush with those gorgeous, pitch-perfect harmonies which only members of the same family can produce.
The band’s use of a mixture of modern and traditional instruments (a product of Hanitra’s dedicated research into the cultures of the indigenous groups which make up Madagascar) varies to suit both the songs and the venue where they are performed. It’s both pragmatic and musically inspiring. As with the old Tarika, Hanitra seamlessly blends traditional elements into her own compositions, and traditional songs may be brilliantly realised on modified traditional or modern non-traditional instruments. But Tarika Bé take the idea a step further.
“My idea” she says, sitting in the humid hotel lobby on Sarawak’s Santubong Peninsula, looking out to the South China Sea, “was to have a very strong, powerful band which still features traditional instruments and the harmonies and will just beat the hell out of these pop musicians in Madagascar. In Madagascar, when you tour you can have everybody you want – all the best talents that you can have. The idea is to have a big band that really sounds so good and powerful on stage.” The earlier Tarika were famously described as being “virtuoso traditional music with the energy of punk rock” but sometimes their all-acoustic sound would be a little lost on big festival stages. On the evidence of their Rainforest performance, the high-energy big sound of Hanitra and Noro’s new band with drum kit, bass guitar and electric guitar (normally Naina Razafindraibe but on this occasion their old Tarika compatriot Ny Ony) in the mix with Njaka’s valiha, marovany and kabosy, means they can now compete with any modern band.
But they’re flexible too. “All these members of Tarika Bé can just have traditional instruments in their hands. So, for example, when we toured Madagascar in 2005 with Alliance Française there were places where there was no electricity. So what does Tarika Bé do? Mamy, the drum kit player, takes hand drums and percussion. And for the bass guitarist, I created a humungous kabassy, a kabosy bass, which is what Sandy plays when we go on tour acoustically. It’s fabulous! It’s a way to show people that Tarika Bé can do anything you want, but if we have 50,000 people in front of us then let’s take the drum kit and bass guitar and electric guitar. You just need very versatile musicians inside the band. I’m really happy with this combination that I have now.”
She pauses: “What we need to happen now is for a proper record to be put out internationally and we’d like to have a record label to push this. Basically we are a ready product, it’s a very powerful band.”
Ironically, the push they need might start in America, unintentionally doing its bit for Malagasy culture. Tarika’s track Raitra, a massive hit in Madagascar from 1999, is featured on the soundtrack of the new movie The Nanny Diaries starring Scarlett Johansson and Alicia Keys. Perhaps the film’s release will have the unexpected effect of slipping Tarika back into the public consciousness, more widely than before. Audiences may unwittingly be hearing what, as Hanitra reminds us, was “considered one of the ten best bands in the world”.
“What else can Tarika Bé be?” she smiles. “We can only be better than that, really. We can be No. 1. You know it’s very difficult to beat your own record. A lot of people give up, but the thing is, this is a really strong, powerful band and we’re ready. It took me three years: I started in 2004 with Tarika Bé to really change and write and think and use everybody’s talents.”
Let’s hope Al Gore has more success, so that we’ve still got the planet necessary for Tarika Bé to hit the top spot.


- fRoots magazine


1.Fanafody (debut album 1992)
2.Balance ( 1994 on Rogue Records)
3.Bibiango (1994 on Green Linnets)
4.Son Egal (1997 xenophile records usa)
5.Avelo (1997 Hit single xenophile records)
6.D (1999 Xenophile records)
7.Raitra single (Sakay Records)
8.Soul Makassar (2001 triloka records)
9.Koba (2001 hit single triloka records)
10.Tarika 10 (2004 triloka records)
11.Tapan Routes (Sakay Madagascar 2007)



Madagascar's wonderband, has delivered one of the most thematically rigorous, well-researched and intentionally provocative world music albums ever. We're talking concept, major statement. And the music's brilliant too." Rhythm Music, USA.

"Not since the days of Bob Marley has social commentary come wrapped in so many seductive colours." Sunday Times, UK

Time Magazine voted Hanitra's band one of the 10 best bands in the world on a list that also included, U2, Radiohead, Portishead, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers and Cuba's Orishas.

Her music is a unique, modern blend from the roots music of the different regions of Madagascar, strongly featuring vocal harmonies and local instruments like the marovany (box zither), valiha (bamboo zither), kabosy (small, partially fretted Malagasy guitar), jejy voatavo (gourd dulcimer) and lots of traditional percussion among the more conventional guitars and electric bass. It's a mix of buoyant grooves, tight harmonies, infectious melodies and energetic dancing. Her albums have all been notable for songs which combine stories, ideas and hard-hitting political subject matter with this upbeat, accessible, danceable music.

Tarika, led by the charismatic Hanitra Rasoanaivo, became one of the hardest working bands on the 1990s World Music circuit; Madagascar's most successful musical export. Tarika's name means simply "the group" or "led by" - or in their case, "the group". "Virtuoso traditional music with the energy of punk rock!"

Hanitra is coming back with a newer version of Tarika which is simply Tarika Bé. Combining the driving force of her band, vocal harmonies by Hanitra and her sister Noro and new energy from four talented musicians all based in Madagascar, her big band is more powerful than ever before.