Sonny’s back!-Did he ever really go away?


20-October-2012

       
The front and back covers of Sonny’s latest album

Pre-release spins in continental France and La Réunion have already met with critical acclaim.
The album, recorded at the Poons Head studio in Fremantle, Western Australia, was produced and mixed by the legendary Rob Grant.

Arguably the most internationally renowned of Seychelles’ popular musicians, and possibly the most genuinely inventive, RAS DIGWA marks something of a watershed in Sonny’s long and most eclectic career. Plus ça change? you might well enquire.

The context of the album is clearly established by the front cover which displays an evocative lith-print image of Jumeau’s shop with its splendidly behatted, all-male clientele gathered outside and Aimée Jumeau seemingly shepherding them: a bucolic scene resonant of letan lontan.

It is hard to establish the date, as pirogues and cocos are the eternal stuff of La Digue, but the subliminal, symbolic value of Jumeau’s, it being the first laboutik on La Digue, is unmistakable: the image might coerce the mind into recalling the rapport of half-forgotten lanmizik lontan. The reverse cover shows a portrait of a fairly unrecognizable Sonny. The trade-mark guitar, shades and jeans are a give-away, but who is the short-haired character in a smart shirt? Surely not the same sega, blues, reggae, ragga-rap maverick of the late nineties and early noughties?

RAS DIGWA is Sonny’s tribute to his birthplace and its people. As such, the guitar-based album is much more reflective than nostalgic and neatly side-steps the honey-pot of sentimentality.

Interestingly enough the form of the Kreol language Sonny uses, with its slight French inflection, appears to be that of 30 or 40 years ago – some may lament the fact but is not what we hear today: like Sonny’s music not only the Kreol language but the Kreol culture of Seychelles is in a state of constant flux, continually evolving. This language device is not a conscious artistic contrivance, he merely uses the language he grew up with and is most ‘at home’ with.

As a counterweight Sonny also includes a track which acknowledges his, and other workers’ gratitude to his adopted domicile, Australia, for providing the conditions in which to make a living and to prosper. Home and domicile are, of course, two different notions: domicile refers to ‘principal establishment’ and ‘home’, as we all know, is where the heart is. Sonny cut his musical teeth in the hills of La Digue – he lived at Nid d’Aigles – and has genially referred to his group at that time as ‘hill-billies’.  While throughout his career Seychelles has remained the dominant theme in his work, this time he has singled out La Digue: he is proud of being a Digwa.

Fiercely proud? No! RAS DIGWA reveals a much less combative Sonny: while light on aggression, heavy on manifestation, the lyrics to tracks such as ‘Dan Ros’ – ‘you can’t get water out of a rock’ – and ‘Ler ou Napa Nanryen’ still pack a topical, critical punch.  ‘Ras Digwa’, the title track is, with its ‘sega-tinge’ influence, debatably the stand-out track.  The bluesy ‘Respe Sa Tonton’ conveys a fairly evident moral message and ends with a pulse reminiscent of a beating heart. RAS DIGWA is by no means run-of-the-mill popular music: both sounds and lyrics have been carefully conceived, artfully crafted and the overall sound production is superbly professional.  

RAS DIGWA exemplifies the maturing of an artist, the mellowing of a man and the fruition of a singer-songwriter who, through all his forays into blues, reggae, ragga and rap, has finally brought his multi-cultural experiences home to roost in a unique, virtuoso form of authenticity.

In the relatively short history of Seychelles Sonny Morgan is a cultural icon: you may visit him at www.sonnymorgan.com

Contributed

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