christine salem

From Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, the “potent, ­indefatigable contralto” (The New York Times) ­Christine Salem is the greatest living champion of maloya, a nearly-extinct musical tradition rooted in the work songs and chants of the island’s African slaves. The hypnotic, ­percussion-­driven music is based on rhythms played during ceremonies dedicated to ancestors, and is layered with ­rousing call-and-response vocals. A force of ­nature on stage, Salem delivers socially-­conscious lyrics in ­Creole, Malagasy, Comorian and Swahili, while shaking out the tempo on a traditional ­rectangular reed rattle, the kayamn. A channel to another time and place, she seems to fall into a trance while inducing the ­audience to do the same.

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