Mauritius’s sensual, hip-wiggling national dance, séga (saygah) comes from the Bantu word tchéga, meaning play or dance, and originated as a courtship dance among African slaves in the eighteenth century. In traditional séga, Creole lament rises above the rhythmic beat of the ravane, a goatskin drum, accompanied by the maravanne, a gourd filled with small stones and shaken, and a metal triangle, originally tapped with a panga, used to cut sugar cane. The step is a shuffle, the feet never leaving the ground as the woman sways around the man as he stands with hands on hips, waving a colourful handkerchief. The dance becomes wilder and more frenzied as the tempo increases, and the couple edge together until clasping each other, bend their knees and gyrate backwards, until reaching the floor to the cry of “en bas!” (down). Famous séga singers include Ti Frère and Kaya who popularized “seggae” – séga with reggae. Séga is danced at Mauritian family gatherings, festivals and celebrations, but visitors are more likely to see “séga hotel”, sometimes around a fire on the beach, with women in colourful cropped tops and billowing skirts, and men in loud shirts and pedal pushers. Watch carefully, as guests are usually asked to join in.

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