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"We sing, therefore we are"

The band Ziskakan that performed recently in Puducherry, tries to preserve Creole language and identity.

This is perhaps their own style of Manipravalam — when you mix words from two languages. With a language that has borrowed from other languages and a music that was born out of the struggle to protect their culture, their identity and their la nguage, this group of musicians from Reunion Island, a former French colony, may very well call their music Manipravaalam.

“Ziskakan...Until when... was the question that rose in our minds when the struggle began in the late 1970s to protect Creole language, people and the music. Thus was born ‘Ziskakan’. Though our ‘war’ is over we still sing to support our language and want more people to appreciate it,” says Gilbert Pounia, one of the founding musicians of the band, which performed in Puducherry recently.

They played at the Aayi Mandapam inside the Bharathi Park at the Fete de Music put together by the Alliance Francaise and the Department of Tourism.

“When we started it was mainly Maloya music, which was like forbidden music since it was the music of the African slaves and they were not allowed to perform freely. This music was listened to in the ‘kabars’ (Malagasy word for assembly) and is performed on traditional instruments like the rouleur, the bobre and the kayamb.”

“The songs that we wrote were about the difficulties of the Creoles, who were of African, Chinese, Indian and European descent. Now Creole has a better position and we get to see even advertisement campaigns in Creole, it has been made an official language and people are speaking it without fear,” says Gilbert, whose forefathers were from India.

Though many in the audience did not understand the lyrics of the songs that Gilbert rendered at the show, the music from his guitar touched a chord. “It is mainly inspired by African music, called Maloya, but there is a bit of music from Europe and even Asia, which is why the music sounds familiar,” says the long-haired Mishko M’Ba, who plays the bass.

The other members of the band are Pascal Manglou ( on the electric guitar), Gerard Clara (vocalist and drummer), Jean Raddiga (on the keyboard), Gerard Parame (on the drums) and Rouben Savariaye (plays tabla and drums).

Ziskakan figured in the Top Ten California and has also been voted the best group and the best artiste of Eastern Africa at the Kora awards in South Africa.

The band even took part in the first Creole festival at Seychelles in 1981 and met Creoles from the Carribean islands, Haiti and other places. They have performed in the U.S., France, Armania, Germany, Spain and India. They have cut several albums and their latest offering is “Banjara”, which has 13 pieces and the songs are about a AIDS affected child, a celebration of the abolition of slavery, man-woman relationships, friendship, a tribute to another musician and also a visit to a Sufi temple in Delhi.

The group said that they enjoyed performing to Indian audiences and will be coming back to Puducherry to record with Indian musicians and make more albums. - The Hindu

"Sakifo Music Festival - 4ème jour"

« Ça s’est fait naturellement » expliquait le lendemain, le chanteur croisé sur Terre Sainte, à l’occasion du risofé, le concert dominical qui clôt habituellement le festival. Accessible, le musicien que tout le monde connaît sur l’île et plus encore dans ce quartier de St-Pierre où il a élu résidence, est félicité, remercié pour son concert et plus généralement pour la totalité de son œuvre. Ziskakan est un monument ici. Il a contribué au même titre que Danyel Waro ou Ti-Fock à rapprocher les Réunionnais de leurs musiques. Chacun d’eux a tracé sa voie, marqué son empreinte. Celle de Ziskakan est généreuse et souriante comme son leader. C’est la main sur le cœur qu’il a accepté d’interpréter pour les lecteurs de ce blog une des chansons de Madoré, ce « cagnard (voyou) de luxe des rues » confie-t-il avant d’ajouter : " Il faisait le tour de l’ïle avec sa guitare sur laquelle il plaçait 4 accords (do, sol, fa, ré) et coulait des textes qu’il n’écrivait jamais." - Mondomix

"Music has no language"

Another gem in the Bonjour India series was the superlative performance of the legendary band Ziskakan, from the Reunion Islands at B-flat recently.

Playing to a packed house of music lovers, musicians and people generally interested in different types of music, the group treated their highly appreciative audience to a blend of Maloya, Sega, Indian percussion, reggae, jazz and pop-folk music.

Zishakan was born in the late 70s, out of a movement to ‘foster the use of Creole language and to promote local culture’.
They travel all over the world playing to diverse audiences, proving time and again that music is indeed the universal language of brotherhood. They sang in their native tongue, Maloya and played an eclectic selection of instruments like guitars, tablas, mandolins, ukuleles, banjos, kabassy, drums and they reached out to everyone in the audience without exception.

“The band is a pure legend, having been around for over three decades. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics you can identify with the music because the folksy style appeals to most people regardless of race or ethnicity,” says musician Aarti Rao.

“You can be transported to the beaches of Goa, the streets of Chennai or the exotic spaces of Reunion Island through the sound of their music,” she added.
Ziskakan was formed by Gilbert Pounia, who still remains the lead vocalist and guitarist.

While he stays with his original concept, the rest of the band brings a highly contemporary feel to their repertoire adding to the universal appeal of their music.
As they played, the highly receptive audience could barely keep still, rocking to the beat and keeping time to the highly infectious tunes.

They enjoyed the selection of songs from the band’s popular albums like Banjara and Madagascar which also strongly reflected the contemporary style of Maloya music and the influence of its mixed inhabitants of African, European, Indian, Chinese and crossbred descent.

In a show of spontaneity some of the musicians in the audience were inspired to get up on stage and jam with the band thus ending the evening on a high note. - Deccan Herald (DHNS)


2011 : Live at Sakifo - CD/DVD
2009 : Madagascar - album
2006 : Banjara - album
2004 : Reunion Live - DVD
2002 : Live au Casino de Paris - CD
2001 : Rimayer, album
2000 : 4 ti mo, album
1999 : 20 tan, album
1996 : Soley Glasé, album
1992 : Bato Fou, album
1989 : 10 zan, album
1983 : Moringer, album
1981 : Kaskanikola, album
1979 : Ziskakan, album



Intense-looking character of an Indian prince, he is now a sym¬bol of Reunion Island. Humanist poet and man of convictions, this singersongwriter is the charismatic leader of the band Ziskakan he founded in 1979. Madagascar and Indian music, African drums, Creole texts ... His style is a reflection of Reunion, mixed.

Ziskakan rised up in an island politically parted in two with the supporters of the department status on one side and the partisans of the autonomy on the other. Resistance immediately organized itself around this emerging band who dared say out loud what others thought. Thirty years later, the split between the supporters of the department status/autonomy followers hasn’t outlived the election of the first socialist president of the fifth republic. From now on, the Maloya belongs to Humanity World heritage.
In the meantime, Ziskakan has grown and has even hit the professional lights in the mid-90s through a historical contract with Island record, Bob Marley’s record company. New Morning, Central Park, Sun City ; everywhere Ziskakan has sown the seeds of ternary music directly originating from Slavery. A music endowed with multiple influences, sometimes Malagasy (Madagascar),
sometimes Indian (Banjara) that the band carries on exploring and carefully respecting the recipe which made them successful : a spicy music supported by committed lyrics.

After 30-year career, twelve albums, a rich repertoire, touring national and international, awards worldwide and a captivating journey, the Ziskakan group returns with a new CD / DVD release Live at Sakifo.
It was a magical concert that the band offered to a converted at the closing of the 7th edition of the Sakifo Festival punctuated with the presence of surprise guests such as Matthieu Chedid and Alex Sorres.