A Hymn for Mauritius

Every nation deserves to have, or should have, an official national anthem and an unofficial one usually in the form of a Hymn

Every nation deserves to have, or should have, an official national anthem and an unofficial one usually in the form of a Hymn. Extolling the virtues — real or perceived — of the motherland the national anthem is normally sung at ceremonial functions whilst we salute the paramount, sacred symbol of nationhood — the Flag. A national hymn, which can be sung in groups or even individually at anytime, captures the essence of the country and is no less potent than the national anthem.

“Whilst national anthems can be impersonal, the national hymn is a personal, intimate melody that even the little man can hum to himself in his quietude. Thus Australia has “Australians all let us rejoice/Waltzing Matilda,” the UK has “God save the Queen/Jerusalem” and India has “Jana Gana Mana/Sare Jahan se Accha.” Whilst Mauritius already has a beautiful national anthem in “Glory to Thee,” she is still in search of a much-needed national hymn…”

Whilst national anthems can be impersonal, the national hymn is a personal, intimate melody that even the little man can hum to himself in his quietude. Thus Australia has “Australians all let us rejoice/Waltzing Matilda,” the UK has “God save the Queen/Jerusalem” and India has “Jana Gana Mana/Sare Jahan se Accha.” Whilst Mauritius already has a beautiful national anthem in “Glory to Thee,” she is still in search of a much-needed national hymn.

1965 Riots

All throughout the week leading to the 50th anniversary of Independence, the MBC broadcast a version of the Gowry brother’s 1960s song. “Done to lamain, prend mo lamain DTLPML)” reverberated with I don’t know how many “gawayas” with unsynchronized voices each pulling in its own direction. It is a fact that rehashes, however brilliant, rarely work. This rehash seemed at best a very rancid copy, and at worse a total cacophony. I wonder whose bright idea this was and, bearing in mind the astronomical sums some “artists” were demanding in the run-up to the Day, how much it costs the taxpayer. Anyway I just hope there is no agenda to turn it into our national hymn.

The original song was in fact composed and broadcast in the wake of intercommunal riots between Hindus and Creoles in 1965. I know because, together with my late friend PR, I was an eye witness from a vantage point at the junction leading to Grand-Gaube, one of the various hotspots in the Island. In fact we eventually ended up directing the lorries carrying the riot police to Grand-Gaube. In those days there was respect for law-enforcers, and none more so than the no-nonsense la police baton.

Violence

From all accounts there was not much violence that took place in Grand-Gaube that Sunday except when a Chinese shopkeeper — probably thinking that his shop was about to be looted — let go his shotgun. Several people got hit by the buck-shots, including my late friend GR.

And so it happens that DTLPML was written in response to widespread violence. It is a song of those terrible time and circumstance when we needed to soothe the badly bruised national psyche. However 52 years later, the tune sounds jaded and bland and the words are just far removed from the essence that galvanizes a nation, to become a national hymn. As a matter of fact it will always remind us of the violent, divisive background against which it was composed.

National Hymn

As it happens we already have a song whose words and melody fits the bill to a T. Sung by young children, it is full of hope for the country. And the winner is… Abaim’s Rouz Ble Zonn Ver. We could not have succeeded to do better if we had set out to write an apt national hymn for Mauritius.

I am reproducing it with Jerusalem and, as you will see, the effects are a cannily similar. Could we do better? I really do not think so! So thank you ABAIM.

Rouz Ble Zonn Ver

Rouz Ble Zonn Ver
Pavyon nou pei 4 kouler
Lor later lor lamer dan lezer
Sak foi to regar fer moi fyer

Rouz kouler dife
Dan pavyon nou pei kan flote
Mop pli kontan twa dan aswar
Ler to amen soley al kouse

Ble kolorye lamer
Leve diboute nou avanse
Mo regar tous lorizon
La mo get bato pe valse

Rouz Ble Zonn Ver
Pavyon nou pei 4 kouler
Lao lao mo pou lev twa
Mo pe nom sa lor mo loner

Zonn dorir disab
Orn lou leker ar saler
Mo pou ekrir to nom 1000 fwa
Mem vag vini efas li

Ver bote lanatir
Fer kares divan frisonn nou
Dan lete kouma dan liver
Mo va protez toi pou touzour

Rouz Ble Zonn Ver
Pavyon nou pei 4 kouler
Senser ki mo pou senser
Sa lamour pou amen laboner

Jerusalem
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

 

* Published in print edition on 16 March 2018

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