By Dwij Rogbeer
While writing this, an errant musician, a Yannick Noah’s look-alike, is singing. The whole lot of people sitting in groups (guess I’m the only loner here) appear to be disinterested with the singing. That man is noticeably enjoying what he does never mind. Music might as well be his whole life.
Even if the tray he put for collecting money is rather empty, his morale is high, the indifference of the crowd does not affect him. Here and then a charitable soul approaches the place where the makeshift musician is performing and leaves some money, as a token of appreciation. The singer smiles and nods politely, as if saying “Thank you, I’m happy you liked my music.” Every fortune starts with a penny right?
Yet the real reason why I’m writing about him is that something came up my mind while listening to him. Are our talented countrymen really recognized as they deserve to be or are they just considered as a hopeless marginal, who unfortunately have a passion for doing something else rather than being an undifferentiated part of the system?
Right now, caught up in the cloud of the musical notes at the Waterfront during lunch time, I just managed to hear the guy singing something with “Sime La Lumière” (excuse my knowledge of segas) followed by something that conveyed the plight the working class. His voice perfectly suiting the feeling of the song, I find it better than the original version. It sounds like an expression of his experience and the ending of the hope for a brighter future.
This guy has definitely a gift for music; listening to him makes you actually relax and his stereotyped surfer look, (bright coloured shirt adorned with drawings of flowers, baggy trousers and his pair of sandals) adds to the relaxation.
Music is made to relax, to be enjoyed. Some tensed-up white collars around me seem to have forgotten that this is what it is. Guess I may have jumped to conclusions too fast: a man is now asking him to play something. It looks as if the crowd over here is not actually that indifferent.
Reluctantly, I had to go. Walking in the busy streets of Port Louis, I wondered. How much money could that guy make monthly? Ten thousand maybe and then what if he has a family? Is that enough? What are the roots of his motivations? Is he doing music for pleasure or was it is because he might have hit a dead end? Nevertheless I admired him.
If he was stuck, he found a way of repaying his debt, playing at Caudan is indeed some cool job. If he played because he was passionate then he is someone who has the guts to fulfill his dreams, as a much better alternative to being stuck in bureaucracy. In either case, he deserves my respect and the fact of striving hard to earn his living should be inspiring enough.
It is an irony that sometimes we tend to marginalize such people while they are on the streets but then admire the one who does the same thing if the show is on TV. See the film Camp Rock for example; it’s the story of girl who lives her dream of integrating a famous holiday camp when her mother was chosen as caterer.
Again, talents can be found at the corner of the street but they just need to be noticed and groomed up. I can imagine that guy becoming a reputed local artist. He has the guts to play up to a what appears to be heartless audience even if what he sings is not adapted to the modern segas (rap music mostly). I can easily see him singing Blues or even the old-fashioned segas.
Nevertheless I shall become fan of this guy’s music if one day I stumble on one of his songs while chasing for some good music on the radio. I would smile because I would then be reckoning that somewhere someone else recognized his talent just like me and that he has been given the chance of shinning up in public. Someone once told me that the real professional never forgets the hardship he faced in the beginning. Possibly if this guy embraces a musical career for good, his days playing at Caudan would represent the striving part of his claim to achievement
As I am ending this article right now, it occurred to me is that there may be many of our Mauritians who are talented. Many of them would have seen their dreams of doing what best they can perform fade away for good, crushed by the down-to-earth material demands of a ruthless system.
Are the creative souls all destined to be chained and only one of them, once in a while, is likely to break the barriers and unfasten the chains even where they come up with something new and are eventually dishonestly copied away? Is that the model that we aspiring too? And is being turned down because the “music made doesn’t match people’s tastes” a real excuse?
That man is a pioneer in a sense though. He showed me that earning money is not necessarily hard and that one has to do what is close to one’s heart passionately. That could mean one may have to start small and never reach up to the sky because happiness does not lie in wealth, but rather in the self-fulfillment.
* Published in print edition on 8 February 2013