Just as I said that Lorraine wouldn't be alone to take over, the following generation will have to master acapella singing. Not karaoke. Acapella singing. You should be able to sing without notes, without instrument except light ones: such as flute, harmonica or guitar.
It's customary in Malagasy family gatherings to sing acapella. Repertory ranges from religious to French standards, passing through Malagasy folk standards, pop or the so-called Kalon'ny Ntaolo, lit. "The Chants of the ancestors". Kalon'ny Ntaolo are Merina traditional songs, made for acapella singign, not for dancing: ballads or duets mostly. Then you have Malagasy blues that is not assimilated as a dancing repertory either, acapella too but then it's better with a piano.
Needless to say when you have both guitar and keyboard, things keep on evolving better and better. :-) Oh! and the microphone... it's amazing, the power of a microphone. Everyone wants to hold it, even I had it for awhile. Nice !
We are just big kids, love having that microphone.
Lorraine won't be alone in taking over Dol and co.
See those instruments, they are the oldest of my nephews. They really had fun playing to warm the party along with "djs" and the singers...
What is funny in this pictue is that the three nephews in front are older than my two cousins in background. What can I say ? Big family, eh ! That happens when the oldest of the secod genration (mine) gave birth long before the youngest of the first (my Dad, my uncles and aunts' ) got married.
My cousin, Samy, is not really happy whenever one calls her "Auntie"... and the guys know that !!!
**Discarded people's photos & replaced them with nature pictures from Malaza area!**
For Malaza being a rural area, most peasants go barefoot. Myself, I use to browse around barefoot : in the garden, the orchards, the vegetable patches... but only within our domain. Outside, it's a bit difficult :-) One day I would get used to walking on zébu pooh and risking walking on thorns... well, I am more concerned about walking on zébu pooh than about thorns. Actually, visiting our rose patch, I use to walk on thorns too...
However, the sight of the grass instinctively drives me to take off my shoes (even sandals and flip-flops). The urge for barefoot prevails.. always..
Walking barefoot is something I miss in Brussels. Unless I go to parks, I cannot do it... memories and habit of life in Malaza has got me to enjoy parklife, esp. in spring and summer, when I can take off my shoes and walk around barefoot... aaarghhh!
*Party planning tasks: usually tackled
*Party warming: successfully, regularly performed
*Music programming: left to the pro and the skilled assistant(s)
*Instrument playing: ditto
*Acapella singing: not for bad singers, kids are around and their ears are still immune to bad sounds.. let's preserve the kids ;-)
*Social duties organizing: tempting... willing to join the team when returning;
Still, the obvious thing for me is probably: archiving, interviewing and reporting.. to satisfy the editorial lust, to improve reporting and photography skills.. and what a great way to socialize while being a gawky dancer and a bad singer.
Managed to snap nearly unnoticed. It was only at the very last second that my cousin and my godmother-aunt (in white top and beige pants) saw the camera. Gotcha ! Anyway, they are not camera shy. I wanted natural looks, a not staged picture and I had it.
My godmother is one of the mother of all parties of the first generation (previous, my Dad's). No party without her. Also, she is our unofficial archivist. At a time, she drew our family tree and made researches about ancestors. Interesting and a very useful stuff considering the size of the family. I think I'd be interested to keep it up, for one reason: I have no less than 44-45 cousins from my Dad side only. Most of them are married and have kids and though I know the name of my eldest nephews (yes, in Mada, kids of my cousins are still my nephews), I don't know the names of the kiddies. In all cases, I could figure out which of my cousins their parent(s) were (genetics never lie), but not their names. That would be a tedious but somewhat rewarding job, for me, for the next generations.
That uses to be family reunions for. Meeting each other, getting to know the newly brought--ins (sorry, not negative but that's how I name them), to welcome the addings.
Here on the picture, Dol (from Dolores), the mother of all parties.
During workdays, she runs a hospital, is a happy mother of three. On special occasions, an efficient party planner and warmer. Also, she took an initiative (with Zo, another cousin of mine) to gather up the family very regularly... It is so big and spread up so we have to gather at one place to see each other.. together.
Her "assignments" in the family are not only related to party planning. She (and a few others) is in charge of many aspects related to social duties we (the big family, children & grand-children of our Grandpa and Grandma) have. Malagasy society is so linked that we have social duties towards our family relatives. For instance, when a son of a brother of my Grandma (ie, one of my Mum or Dad's cousins) is getting married, our family has to pay a visit and formally present congratulations. Very probably, people from our family are invited to the engagement and wedding ceremonies. They too do the same towards us (be it in happy, be it in sad moments). That's part of our social duties. And the more families are big, the more frequent social duties occur. Seen from Westerners eyes, this seems odd since here in Europe, many don't even know the cousins of their parents. In Madagascar, there is still this link. That makes Tana a small world.. very very small world since people know each other.
In the past, my Dad, as the eldest male of the family and more naturally as an Alpha-person, had this in charge. Still, our generation (talking about the second) has to take over, Dol and Zo cousin did it. Yes, let those grown-ups rely on us. It is about time to take over... they have done so much for us.
Yes, food !
Food is an important ingredient to succeed a party. It's not only about food and drinks. The long lunches are occasions to socialize, to sit on those communal tables and spend and seize the day.
As a kid, I used to be on the third communal tables with all my cousins of the same age. As a teen, I was "upgraded" and moved to the second table, with all my teen cousins whilst the third table welcome the kids. There always new kids. I've never sat on the first table for a good reason, it was always full: all seats taken by the grown-ups and well, their number could only increase...
I could only join the first table when some grown-ups left either to check the flowers, either to have a nap with a good jazz. Then, I enjoyed listening to the remaining grown-ups finishing their botles of wines and chatting, gossiping.. about some talks of town. And we easily spent the whole afternoon like that until it was time to leave. At 5 pm, time, for our usual guests (for that matter, they were not considered as guests anymore) to pack and join the city, head to each one's place... till next Sunday or any other near Sunday.
Talking about cuisine, check my travelogue in Madagascar page to have an idea of Malagasy cuisine. click here.
March 6, it was typical Malagasy menu: "composé", vorontsiloza: a Malagasy style turkey, fruit salad. Composé is a very popular starter that you have to compose yourself, you'll choose from the various seasoned and cooked portions: macaroni and chopped meat, cucumber vinaigrette, macédoine de légumes with optional mayonnaise seasoning... you eat it with bread. It happens to be very convenient because you just choose what you want to have in your dish. You compose it, hence the name ! It's very popular even on Tana street stalls !
Ah! do I need to say ? Vorontsiloza is eaten with rice and a tomato-green onion relish... and a round red wine.
Million thanks to Dad, Mum, Solo (my sister's hubby - they are both on the picture), my cousin Samba, another energetic man. For it being a party to reunite the whole family and to "welcome" me back, I hadn't done anything. They didn't let me organize. It was annonced during a previous family reunion that I was heading home in mid-Feb, so some party would take place in Malaza. It was a farewell party, early Feb., for one of my nephews who was going to study abroad.
So, within the first week, Dad and Solo asked about when I would like to hold the party. I decided "March 6 or March 5&6". From then, the planning began, Solo started to regularly call the several cousins (one call per family!) to ask about suitable date March 6 or March 5&6 and asked to spread the news too. Many were not available on 5 so March 6 it was.
I was browsing around, visiting sites with Mum when all of that was suddenly put together: food bought, drinks bought, music programming under control. March 5, three cousins came home to help us pushing and arranging the room to fit the "dancefloor", the dj booth and the chilling area. Done unnoticed. Where was I ? Oh yes, now I remember: pampering myself in the bathroom, babysitting... oh! on Saturday afternoons, preparing the meal (peeling vegetables).
Planners which are not on the picture: Dad, Mum and DJ assistant Samba.
My big big family never counted djs. There are singers (of all kinds and skills), instrumentists (mainly pianists and, broadly speaking, keyboard)... but this djaying skill, it took Joo, a newly "brought-in" cousin (sorry Joo.. can't find another word) to mix (though he hadn't mixed that day) and program the music. Joo is with his assistant, beer-fan, Samba (one cousin) and with the charming Samy (another cousin). None of the guys are djs, just djaying on week-ends and occasional events but both are funny and very cool. Ooh! how I wish my (big big extended) family reads my Malaza page. Malaza is not Malaza without them, definitely !
In the past, some of us (I was a "dj assistant" at the wedding of one of my uncles. hehe) used to play dj: choosing the pieces to play, changing cds..etc... tedious.
Nowadays, it takes some time to program everything and it goes ok. Our parties evolved into more dancing but chatting is done along the way. It's all in the way you arrange the living-room: push the furniture to leave room for some dancefloor but display chairs and sofas all around it and that would be fun. For those who would like to enjoy the garden, display one or two tables with seats on the terrace to let them feed the babies and kids. Anyway, duty first but they would join the set afterwards.
Even the dj booth was on the terrace, to leave more room for the dance and the chilling area around.
I let you have a glimpse on a typical day-party... when it comes to a nocturnal party, there should be some extra tasks... Yes! extra tasks.. but you'll see, it's all in the excitement and the enthusiasm of readying for a long-waited party.
The extra tasks are mainly related to food. The key is to find a dish that is able to sustain and keep you awake & warm at night (esp. for winter nights - winter being the season of many Merina celebrations: famadihana, for instance but also occasional celebrations such as end of last academic term, graduation parties, wedding balls, the launching of a house building, birthdays ...etc). OK, think carb. Off course, alcohol, cooked meat, meatballs, kebabs and sambos help... But one dish is really sought after when partying till dawn: vary amin'anana. This is a dish made of soft rice (vary) cooked with anana, the thinly sliced leaves (a spinach-related species, watercress, cabbages, parsnip leaves, green onions... ) and diced beef meat with onions, dried shrimps, voanjobory (pea) and ginger. Eat it with kebabs or sausages and chili or more ginger (use to hate chili but raw ginger is ok). With this, the night is yours!!
Very often, you'd always find helping hands in big families. If it's a simple get-together, some cousins will join forces to shop for ingredients, others will work on vary amin'anana, others on the meats... it's all fun when you tackle tasks with others. The boys ? well, they shop for the drinks (to make sure beer is in abundance, maybe ? hihi), will push furnitures, will arrange the parking lot and clean the whole place.
This feature is imported in Europe as well. Malagasy communities are used to simple gatherings ending up with parties. It takes one hour or two to buy food and drinks, find the room, push away furniture... if you have a chance to be invited to a Malagasy party, go!! It's such an ambiance...
Oh! and don't forget to bring booze. Not that we are all drinkards... but, you need some refreshment when partying under the sun and you need some warm in winter... whatever.
But beer is a very popular with youngs (and the less young) througout the island for many reasons, including the above.
Chilled in whatever season, it's a good accompanying drink for the snacks, the kebabs, the sambos... Even, the big guys would have it alone. Just chilled !
THB.. Within a family that counts so many youngs, you have to have it.
There is also Queen, from the same Star brewery.. When I was in Tana, Star was launching a version of Queen with a lighter alcohol content. "Intended to the female taste" said the Star team I met in a restaurant. Still, the good old THB is the best-selling beer there.
Anyway, wine is great, i'm not into beers. Malagsy cisine welcomes those Good red.
A family gathering is usually made of this: people having fun seeing each other again, sharing quality time.
Yes, I miss those afternoons spent on munching, chatting, drinking on communal tables and listening to music. Long noon lunches... Well, the main activity is not munching neither listening to music, it's all of that and more than that. Music is just part of it. It's customary within Malagasy families to find a music player and many amateur singers. Otherwise, there would be always fun-loving singers (both the great and lesser great ones.. suivez mon regard) to sing acapella. Yes, sing as noone is listening. Dance like noone is watching. It's only a family gathering, you know.
My family is lucky enough to have a week-end Dj. Really, really. More instruments and effective progamming don't hurt either.
What can I say ?
We use to party hard...
For the family being big, tied but spread out, we value those Sundays spent together. From my Dad only, I have circa 45 cousins, grand-children of a couple: my Dad's father and mother. Gee! I admit spending Sundays alone has been the toughest thing I got to really get used to when arriving in Belgium.
When I lived in Malaza, our Sundays were almost dedicated to some of our aunts and uncles coming at our place. Those were simple gatherings. Sometimes, they advised they were intending to come, others not... Just come as you are with enough food for your household. We then displayed all the dishes on the table and shared what was there. Sometimes, my parents called a bbq session, then together with the usual suspects, they planned the meal (to each household something to prepare: either meat, dessert, starter or rice... anyways, us, the kids used to find those fun.. carefree days munching, partying around the pool and under the shade of the poolhouse and the trees.
Since then, kids grew up... many of my cousins have their significant ones. Good! The more the merrier. Most of my 45 cousins are married now (many have kids), that just double or treble the partyers headcounts.
Some have settled in Malaza, others stayed in the city, a third category had gone either abroad either in other cities. Thus, we have to plan our gatherings in advance. For our March 6 get together, we had to seek for a day that would fit the most of us. Still, those in remote areas couldn't attend. Nonetheless, the loss in spontaneity hadn't affected the fun... in the contrary.
It was cheering and fun to see my uncles and aunts, my parents pampering their grand-children. To think, those were the partyers of my childhood and teenhoud. Nowadays, my generation has taken over... We even have our mother of all parties, Dolores.
As my generation managed to take over from the previous generation, the following generation, probably led by this young lady Lorraine, will manage too.
For me, she appeared to be one of most "partyer" of the kids of her generation (i.e, my nieces & nephews')... yes! she will... and she won't be alone.
Vokatra means "result" or "harvest" or "output", depending on the context. Vokatra I refer to are the auctions made to collect money (fund raising) for the parishes. They use to take place in countryside churches.
You have to understand that most of families in urban Tana have their roots in Tana surroundings (countryside). Malagasy people are fervent believers. They use to return once a month (if not each week-end) to the village where they originate from. One sunday to attend the mass and pay visit to relatives. My dad's family comes from Malaza. Most of my uncles and aunts live in urban area for convenience. But on week-ends, at least, on Sundays, they use to pay us a visit, bring food and we spend Sundays together, sharing food and chat. Listening to music. So do many families.
Easter is the time for countryside parishes to raise funds. They use to be the sole auctions of the year. For this, those who live in the area use to boast the zanak' ampielezana (lit. "children whom one uses to inform"). The latter are, for us, my uncles who live in urban Tana but who have their parish in countryside. It happens that they go to other parishes but they are strongly tied to this particular one since, for instance, my grand-grand-father built this Anglican church in Malaza. So, they are zanak'ampielezana. Can't escape from that, I think. :)
The D day, after the mass, at 11.30 am, attendees gather in the church parish court, for chatting and auctionning. The vokatra are food items (cakes, starter, dishes), poultry, snacks, fruit... Usually, they are local products (harvests... red rice, peanuts, cassava, voanjobory, those peas on the picture that are proper to Malagasy cuisine..). This event gathers many people since zanak' ampielezana join the locals to buy vokatra, to finance works on the church or social actions... I love the ambience there.
Around noon, when everything has been sold, they count the raised amount and families head to their place, with the purchase, dine with a feeling of duty done.
To cultivate rice, the villagers share the Laniera plains with other neighbouring villages' inhabitants. The Laniera plains had been fit by King Andrianampoinimerina (short. Nampoina) who ruled, at first place, Ambohimanga hill and, gradually, surrounding area till he conquested Antananrivo itself. To organize economy and feed the Greater Antananarivo area, Nampoina had fit Laniera (18th cent.), just as had his predecessors, decades earlier, who arranged Betsimitatatra plains in West and South-West of Tana.
Laniera plains occupy a great part of North and North-East of the Tana.
It's simple, between the many hills that the area counts (amongst them the 12 sacred ones), there should be plains. Since dwellings occupied the hills, plains were fit to feed the growing population, rice being the staple food.
Rice cultivation in Madagascar implies several steps and activities as rice plants grow. Each person in charge of his plot(s) uses to work solely on his plot(s), with his sons sometimes and zébus. However, there are bigger works such as harvesting that require the help of other persons and to avoid crops being flooded, one has to hurry up in collecting them (talking about vary aloha, lit. early rice, that is harvested from Jan, coinciding with start of the rainy season, till March). For centuries, solidarity played some role here: everybody is getting ready to help a peasant collecting his crops. Harvesting a plot may take up to a week. Evenings are the scene of diners at the crop owner's around a communal table. When it's done with a plot, "next time" (the following week, generally) is for another harvesting... so on and so on.. till everyone has his crops in his yard.
Solidarity had prevented peasants to hire the services of harvesters that are reported to cost too much for the meager resources of the peasants.