Seychelles is continuing its efforts to bring more visibility to the UNESCO recognised Moutya dance, with efforts now being targeted towards the youth.
The Moutya dance was introduced to the Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, by enslaved Africans who arrived there with French settlers. It was originally performed around a bonfire, deep in the forest in the dead of night. The dance was an expression of resistance, allowing enslaved people to share their suffering and sing about the difficulties they faced, far from their masters' ears.
Since the dance was added to UNESCO's list of intangible heritage, there has been a lot of efforts to revive the dance in the island nation and the latest part of this plan was to bring it to the younger generation, so that they can keep it alive.
"We started these Moutya classes ever since it was named as UNESCO heritage, where we wanted to start teaching it to children at very young age, so that they can grow up with and retain our traditional values," said Alan Jules, the programme's coordinator.
Seychelles first submitted the Moutya to UNESCO for consideration in 2019. That application was initially rejected due to a lack of information but was then finally added to the list in 2021, after numerous works to bring together all the relevant information.
With more eyes now fixed on the dance, Jules added that the aim of the programme is not only to teach the dance itself, but also the main instrument, which is the Moutya drum, which is made from animal skin, traditionally goat's skin.
"We have been going around different districts on the island and there has been a lot of young children eager to learn both the dance and drum, which is very encouraging, especially as we want to eventually have a Moutya competition at various age groups," added Jules.
While these classes were being held during the school holidays, Jules has explained that they hope to continue it for kids during the next school breaks, while they also want to have classes for adults as well, with the hope of even having a national moutya competition in the future.
Nationwide efforts to promote Seychellois traditional music and dance
Other prominent singers, musicians and composers are also contributing to a nationwide campaign to keep traditional Seychellois music relevant to the youth. In 2021, the Seychellois Cultural Foundation, an NGO, was set up with this mission, headed by the renowned singer Jean-Marc Volcy.
Singer Patrick Victor has been giving lessons to young people in playing the Moutya drum and composing songs.
Furthermore, a group called SMS made up of well-known local artists Clive Camille, Joseph Sinon and Elijah put together an album in June 2022 called 'Moutya des Seychelles' to promote the music form. The album also features veterans of the Moutya beat such as Jean-Marc Volcy, Andre Dubel, Brian Matombe and Andreix Rosalie.
From August 29 to September 3, 2022, the Creative Seychelles Agency (CSA) within the Seychelles National Institute for Culture, Heritage and the Arts organised 'Lafet Moutya Sesel 2022' [the Seychelles' Moutya Celebration] , which included street performances in the capital Victoria.