Up Close … with veteran Seychellois singer Celine Dine-‘More should be done to promote our local music’


21-February-2012

Celine DineMeeting with her some time back for this interview, I was quickly put at ease in her presence for she is a carefree person who loves life  and is full of laughter, excitement and enthusiasm once she starts talking about her life, work, travels and most of all her hobby as a singer.

Listening to her it would be somewhat quite difficult to believe that she had been caught in a war, heard bombs rain down on the building in the underground shelter where she had been safely hiding.

“I’ve heard bombs fell and seen dead bodies in the streets of Beirut,” Celine told me. 
 
She recalled those terrible times in 1975 when Lebanon was in the grip of a terrible civil war and the part of the capital Beirut, where she worked, suffered constant bombardment.

Celine first left for the Lebanese capital in 1965 after a friend of hers found a job for her there.
“I signed a six-year contract and I worked through it,” she said.

She believes she had been very lucky to have worked for some very nice and rich people.
“The family I worked for was very rich and understanding and I taught their children some English as well. I travelled a lot with them,” she said.

But after the end of her first contract, Celine returned to Seychelles in 1971 and decided to concentrate on her music and be close to her mother whose health was ailing.

A family of musicians
The fourth of 12 children, Celine had two elder brothers who were musicians and therefore it is not surprising that she loved music from a very young age.

“I have music in my blood and I started singing very young,” added Celine.
Celine writes all the lyrics for her songs and chooses her own music.

It was in 1975 that she recorded her first song Anmenn mwan mon pti avyon which was an instant hit and remained so for many years. This was to be followed many years later by a cassette entitled Ganny Lespwar. Over the years during the times she came back on holiday Celine recorded Voyaz, Ti reste mwan enn on CDs and the last of her work on CD Kestyon san repons was recorded last year.
 
Missing her work in Lebanon
Celine signed another contract and flew back to Labanon in 1975, six months after her mother’s death.

“I missed work,’’ she said, explaining that this new contract was to be in a new home and again life with her new employer was fine and Celine met her many friends on her days off.

“I did a lot of music with them and I enjoyed their company,” she said.

She recalled that her employer this time was a rich millionaire and again she travelled a lot with him.

But the interesting thing for Celine was that she had her own flat and each day she found her own way to work. Celine’s boss had a lot of rich friends with houses in various countries and when he visited them he took her with him.

Working in the war zone
Talking about Lebanon, the first thing that comes to mind is war. The year that Celine returned to the Lebanese capital, civil war soon broke out. It was a war which was to drag on for many years.

“It is something you are terrified of in the beginning but soon get use to,” Celine said of the war.
She remembered when the six storey building she lived in was bombarded.

“We were all in the shelter underground but it was only after the bombardment was over that we realised several floors above us were gone.

During those days Celine recalled she prayed a lot.
“I believe God gave me the strength and courage to stay on. Even though I longed for home I also thought of my work. I needed my job and seeing how quickly the Lebanese resume their daily activities after a bombardment somehow helped me to do the same as well,” Celine said.

“Those were terrible times for me and seeing dead bodies in the street was not something  I was used to and it was very disturbing,” added Celine.

“But life has to go on,” she said pensively.

Dreams coming true
While working for her millionaire boss, Celine recalled the many dreams and premonitions she had.
“It was always my mother or a priest telling me things in my dream and I would wake up thinking hard and long about them,” she said.

Celine said she always had the feeling that something was going to happen, but something good.

The good news came one day in 1979 when her boss took her on one of his visits to Paris. There she was introduced to a French lady who owns a chateau. My boss wanted me to be her lady companion.

“I became not only her companion but also her friend and I was treated like a member of her family and she introduced me to all her friends and relatives,” recalled Celine.

Celine remained in France for several years. The old lady lived only a few months in one place. She travels all the time and Celine was at times given the choice to either travel with her or stay behind.

And when she chose to stay behind, Celine took on other part time jobs.
But in 2006 she decided to come back to Seychelles to retire.

Adjusting to life back home
Almost five years since returning Celine is still trying to adapt to life back home. She has gone back to Paris to visit twice. Originally from Anse Aux Pins, Celine who now lives at Ma Constance spends her time at home doing her chores and visiting friends and family members on weekends.

She also enjoys going to mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception every Sunday.
But the thing she enjoys most is listening to music -- all types of music, even though she has a passion for our traditional music.

The cover of Celine’s latest album

But was does she think about the way music has developed in Seychelles?
“Music in Seychelles has come a long way, which is very good because we need to innovate and modernise.

“Modern music is good but we tend to forget our roots. Very few are those musicians who are promoting and fighting to keep our music alive.

“I believe we glorify too much foreign music and tend to give less importance to what is ours and that I think is not good for the younger generation. There will come a time when our young people will not know what our real music is if we are not careful,” she said.

Celine recalls her days overseas when she attended a lot of parties held by her many friends from the West Indies, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

“It was always with great pride that throughout the evenings it was purely music from their homeland, mainly zouk and beguine that we enjoyed,” said Celine, adding that the pride they show for their music was astounding.

“It is a pity that here even on the airwaves our traditional music and songs are not being given the importance and place they deserve,” she said.

Celine said she admires a lot the late Cesária Évora, the Cape Verdian singer who inspired young people in her country.
“The respect she commanded is overwhelming and the young people from her country said they are all inspired by her and followed her path.

Here in Seychelles veteran musicians are discouraged, there is not much to push them forward, said Celine and she believes this is just regrettable.

Celine’s greatest dream is to be able to realise a video clip of one of her latest songs.
Her last video clip was En Roz I Bezwen Lapli which was recorded a few years back.

 

By Marie-Anne Lepathy

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