http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00249

Maloya

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): France

Identification

Description

Maloya

Maloya is a form of music, song and dance native to Réunion Island. 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 of the island’s population. Initially conceived as a dialogue between a soloist and a choir accompanied by percussion instruments, maloya exists today 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. Although originally dedicated to ancestral worship as part of a ritual, maloya has gradually over time become a song of lament against slavery, and for the past thirty years it has represented the island’s identity. Every cultural, political and social event on the island is accompanied by maloya, which thus became a vehicle for asserting political rights. Today, it is kept alive by 300 documented groups, including a number of world-famous artists, and by specialized music teaching at the Conservatoire de la Réunion. An element of national identity, an example of cultural mixing, a moral touchstone and a model for integration, maloya is nevertheless threatened by social changes and by the disappearance of its main exponents and the practice of venerating ancestors.

Documents

Decision 4.COM 13.40

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: Maloya has been passed down from generation to generation, adapting to the social context of Réunion Island and providing the communities concerned with a sense of identity and continuity;
  • R.2: Inscription of Maloya on the Representative List would contribute to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage by strengthening traditional instrument production methods and transmission in schools, and promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity;
  • R.3: Recent safeguarding measures are elaborated including support to artists for the diffusion of the element and proposed measures such as research in various relevant fields and classes and workshops under the auspices of the Réunion education authorities;
  • R.4: The nomination was elaborated with the support and participation of various civil associations and governmental institutions and submitted with their free, prior and informed consent;
  • R.5: The element is inscribed in an inventory maintained by the Ministry of Culture.

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