Régis Gizavo (1959 -2017)

Posted on July 21st, 2017 in News, Recent posts by .

Régis Gizavo

Régis Gizavo © C. Paes / Laterite productions, photo extradite de “Songs for Madagascar”

Words by Ulrike Hanna Meinhof

One of the most important and best-loved musicians from Madagascar, the brilliant accordionist, songwriter and singer Régis Gizavo died of a heart attack on July 16. It happened during a concert in Corsica where he was performing with the Corsican group Alba. He was due to play with Toko Telo at WOMAD Charlton Park next week.

Gizavo was born in Tulear in the South-West of Madagascar, from where he made his way to the capital Antananarivo. There he recorded his first songs for which in 1990 he received the coveted ‘Prix Decouvertes’ of the French radio station RFI. Regis talked amusingly about how he suddenly saw himself on a clip shown on public tv, not having realised till that moment that he had won the prize and that his adventure to Europe was about to begin. He recorded five albums, one of which, with Louis Mhlanga and David Mirandon, was a Top of the World in 2006 (Songlines #40).

Since 1990 he lived in France, performing worldwide as a solo artist, but also with other musicians such as the Corsican group I Muvrini, the Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora, and the Brazilian singer Lenine, to name but a few. Since 2006 he was a member of the illustrious Madagascar All Stars, comprising musicians from diverse regions of the country who memorably performed at Songlines Encounters in 2012. Losing Gizavo, with his extraordinary music, his unbounding energy, his infectious laugh, his great pleasure in life and his deep and lasting friendship, will leave a terrible gap.

This is evident in the feature documentary Songs for Madagascar, directed by Cesar Paes from Laterit productions in Paris, which has only just opened in French cinemas after its first screenings at international film festivals. It shows Gizavo talking about his life, rehearsing with his musician friends, performing songs such as ‘Malaso’, an indictment of the local bandits who steal zebu cattle from poor peasants, and a song about the drongo bird whose black colour the song celebrates alongside all the other colours in the world – a typically subtle reminder of how mixed we all are. He will be missed in Madagascar, in France and around the world.

Gizavo was only 58 years old and leaves a wife and a young son at their home in Paris.

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