Explore by walking around the...
Explore by walking around the center of town and uphill on both sides.
It's also been the the starting point to my trip described in travelogue on Madagascar page. The vistas from either side of the Marketplace up on the hill and of course the steep endless stairs leading there. It felt like a procession up and down with some intermezzo platforms where any kind of entertainment or salesactivities take place.
They tore it down by setting fire!
**Update on March 31 2005: The Royal compound has just re-opened for visits early 2005."
**Update on Dec. 24:
The slow process of reconstruction is continuing. A museum nearby [set in Lapan' Andafiavaratra (Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony 's Palace)] displays the artefacts which had been rescued from the fire. Find there a number of old photos of the Malagasy royalty in western court dress. Also, exchange of letters with Queen Victoria of the British Empire. Kings of Madagascar (mostly Queens, in fact) had been maintaining close contact till the invasion and abolition of the Malagasy state by France in 1896.**
Whilst some printed guides may still talk about a must-see activity "Visit the Manjakamiadana Royal Palace", please be advised that this Palace no longer exists. Only remains of the burnt palace will be there (see my travelogue on Rovan'i Manjakamiadana - Manjakamiadana Palace). Look at my Rovan' i Manjakamiadana travelogue to see the remains of it.
The Rova was burnt in 1995, in the night of Nov 5 to Nov 6. The mystery wrapping this atrocity has never been solved. It seems that the government, the one from 1996 to 2001, led by ex- Pdt Ratsiraka, has been reluctant to make the necessary research, so has been the one who was there in 1995-96.
At meantime, a commission was in charge of the reconstruction works. Bad management, robbery slowed down the works. I don't even think they are being made now... *Update on March 31 2005: Recovering the four tours of the Queen's Palace it by bit... *
*Update on Dec. 24:
For the Palace being located on top of the Analamanga hill, it has been, for centuries, a landmark of the city. When they tore it down, one had to re-study the view again. You feel something is missing. That was for the visual effects. Fortunately, the facades having been spared (see tlog)
Historical artefacts, antiques and documents within the complex paid the toll of 1995 arson. Only 20% of them were spared.*
Besides, the Rova used to be an important element of the nation unity. Tearing it down was aiming at dividing the nation, so it was resented by the millions of Malagasy people.
For the complex containing the mortal remains of Madagascar Kings, Malagasy people, for whom ancestral worship and veneration of the remains of the dead are important, saw the destruction of the royal tombs as spiritual as well. The soul of the nation was burnt to ashes.
I was really touched when I heard about reactions of Malagasy people, their anger, sadness, pain, from all over the country. For sure, those who bore the title of Queen and King of Madagascar were always from Merina tribe, the pain was felt in all places.
In the picture, remains of Rovan'i Manjakamiadana (Manjakamiadana Fort). At background, Lapan' Andafiavaratra (Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony 's Palace) used to be the office of Queens' Prime Minister. At that time, it used to be the central point of all decisions regarding Madagascar. It's the centre of power. Coincidentally, this latter was also burnt in 1976. Again, the government, led by ex- Pdt Ratsiraka, never succeeded to find the criminals. It was reconstructed but "mystery" around this event still remains unsolved. Yet, people in Tana don't expect any explanation on it either.. as if they know the answer...
Note that those two Palaces, with the Rovan' Ambohimanga, epitomized the heights and the then power of Madagascar Kingdom.
Like most cultural aspects of the country, Hira Gasy is totally unique to Madagascar. It's a traditional form of Malagasy entertainment that is said to have existed since 1789, and the rule of King Andrianampoinimerina. This king provided his people with farming tools and techniques so they would be able to feed themselves in times of famine or times of plenty; and mpikabary (orators) went to perform for them (including singers and dancers) to entertain them. The practice of Hira Gasy has been popular ever since to give thanks to their kings.
Today, a Hira Gasy performance consists of several themes; each theme is made up of five phases, like Sasitehaka (a prelude, usually about ten minutes long). The main part of the Hira Gasy is the Renihira, which introduces the main theme of the performance. The themes can be about farming, social issues, weddings, or even trade. The songs linked to this theme can last for an hour our more.
Today, many influences are adopted in the Hira Gasy, like the red uniforms worn by the French during their colonization of the island. Hira Gasy is sometimes staged during sacred ceremonies; these include Famadihana (the exhumation of the dead for reburial), the circumcision ceremony for one to seven year olds and other important events.
Sometimes performances are also put on for tourists although these are often only for tour groups. For locals, Hira Gasy is done for public entertainment too, and in small towns and villages you may stumble across a traditional performance.
Zoma mahafinaritra: Cool Fridays
Or so are simply called Friday evenings. Friday evenings are cool because it’s, for urbanites, when week-ends begin. It's when it starts. It’s usually made for letting the steam off, partying, going out with friends, to clubs, cabarets, karaoke. “Zoma mahafinaritra” is now an institution, so is “Manal’azy”. For those Friday evenings, newspapers usually print out “l’agenda culturel”, a compilation of all cultural happenings in Tana. You’d expect them to do it esp. on long week-ends. My favourite “agenda culturel” newspapers is at Les Nouvelles. L’Express de Madagascar is quite interesting too. A big cons though: both dailies, like all we have here, are in written French.
Now, you could always check it out at Hôtel Glacier (on Araben’ny Fahaleovantena, the main avenue downtown). They have those concerts, events bills sticked up at their door. Chances are they are in French. Guess you could ask about their program too since, imo, you don’t need to understand the language to appreciate Mozika Mafana. Mozika Mafana is the rhythm Cabaret Glacier is specialized in. Literally translated “Hot Music”, it’s about tropical rythms such as our salegy, our tsapiky made for dancing, partying. For who is in the know, salegy king Jaojoby is nearly a resident there, performing his art cabaret style. Not too big a room. Not that uncommon to see Merina folk groups perform vako-drazana either at Cabaret Glacier. Another cabaret spot I’ve heard good things of is Piment Café, located in Behoririka.
You may check at your hotel too, as some like Radama, Palissandre, carlton (ex-Hilton) reportedly hold regular venues too.
Else, Tana youngsters like karaoke a lot (not my stuff). I’ll give you addresses upon request.
By the way, depending on finance, Zoma mahafinaritra in Tana can be a booze-up evening on the backseat of a car, parked in a parking lot. With all the kalin-taoka: fried chicken, kebabs, meatballs, snacks... mostly meat… to accompany all the booze. As simple as that… and… as long as it’s fun.
Take time to visit countryside I
Take time to visit Tana countryside as it offers a view of people life, tradition as well. In fact, countryside people are still living like in old times. Depending on seasons, you will see rice harvest or peasants working in ricefields with oxen or their wives sticking rice plants in fields'soil...
In other areas, you may see other picturesque activities, like natural silk weaving (typically in Ambohidrabiby, Talatavolon'ondry area), designing jewels (silver, copper, gold)... In dry season (May- September), you will see several smoking ovens for clay- brick baking.
Sometimes, surprise happens. While wandering near a group of peasants who were having their noon lunch, they wholeheartedly invited me to join them. I was surprised because though living in a rural area, I would not have invited passengers nearby... :-) It's a Malagasy habit to be hospitable and a little shame on me to have lost that. So enjoy talking with them (thanks to a guide as peasants only speak Malagasy), sharing things sometimes, sharing knowledge as well...