‘Didn’t Expect That’/ Patyatann in Conversation

Listening to Patyatann is like watching an intricate balancing act between cultures. The four-piece band from Mauritius combines its African, French and Asian roots to create an incredibly unique sound. Putting on hold other projects, group and solo, they anchored their connection through a shared love of intercultural music.

525194_442721295816937_20326907_nAs they began their set at IOMMA 2013, their sound seemed so familiar and yet it was like nothing I had ever heard before. Their African inspired harmonies wove flawlessly into Sanskrit chants. I was left impressed, confused and longing for more. Two days later we ended up sitting together on the front porch of my room talking about how this all came together.

Mana: How did all of this begin?
Anthony: Last year our manager Percy, who is also part of a music festival in England called World Event Young Artists [WEYA], was searching for a band with a roots vibe. He knew Sarasvati from earlier and at the time all of us were in different bands. Neal actually joined us a month ago. Sarasvati and Anoushka were in a group playing the Ravanne (a Mauritian frame drum made with goats skin).

Sarasvati: It’s interesting because we were an all girl band playing an instrument that is traditionally very male oriented. Unfortunately, two of the girls were pregnant so we had to stop.

Anthony: Percy asked Sarasvati to propose something musically and that’s how we found each other and began composing music. Luckily they loved the music so that’s how we were invited to perform in England.

Mana: Is this when the name came about?
Anthony: Yes! Patyatann in Maurtitian and Creole means ‘didn’t expect that’. Things just came together so well. After our first jam session we discovered that our musical tastes came together beautifully. Since then we’ve put our personal projects on hold so we can focus on our music.

Mana: Your music sounds like it has a whole host of influences.
Sarasvati: Yes, our music is essentially fusion.

IMG_1745Anoushka: Its inspired by our traditional roots but at the end of the day we are young musicians. All of us listen to all kinds of new music. We also come from very different cultural backgrounds, which makes it even more of a mix. We don’t do traditional Sega, we make it our own.

Anthony: We try to pull in all our influences and work with our strengths.

Sarasvati: Anthony was in a metal band actually! Anoushka sang the blues…

Anthony: …And Sarasvati has grown up singing Carnatic.

Mana: Carnatic? That’s an interesting choice.
Sarasvati: (laughs) I grew up in a family that went to temples every week. Bhajans were a big part of my childhood. My family is very traditional. Sounds crazy no?

Mana: This explains a lot when it comes to the instruments you use. Most of them look like traditional folk instruments from India.
Anthony: The Indian culture in Mauritius is very, very strong. We wanted to have it in our music since it is such a large part of our lives.

Mana: Your Harmonies on the other hand have a very different influence don’t they? I haven’t heard anything like it actually.
Sarasvati: We didn’t calculate any of it. So much of this creative process has been extremely fluid. You could say there are some African influences.

Mana: How is your music received in Mauritius?
Sarasvati: People call us crazy.

Anoushka: Most people in Mauritius have no idea we exist. We’ve had more opportunities outside our island than we have had on it. We started out as a touring band and we haven’t stopped. We haven’t actually had the time to sit down and create an album since we are constantly preparing new material for our upcoming gigs. It’s extremely challenging so we haven’t had the time to organize a gig in Mauritius. It’s quite sad when you think about it.

Sarasvati: Our band is only a year old. Since we started out at WEYA it has opened doors for artist collaborations and gigs primarily in England.

Mana: How was your music received there?
Anthony: The response was fantastic! By the end of it we even had people sing Creole with us. We were a little scared since it is so different from what they are used to but people seemed to respond really well. Funnily enough we met some Lebanese artists who actually had the same instruments as us so we ended up performing with them. When you really interact with people, you are more similar than you think.

IMG_1752Mana: You sing in a whole host of languages. Creole, French and, I’m pretty sure I heard some Sanksrit.
Anthony: (laughs) In Mauritius the official language is English but on the street people speak mainly in Creole or French. We also have people who speak Bhojpuri and even Chinese!

Anoushka: We are blessed with this incredible mix of cultures and we intend to use it in every way possible. That’s what defines us.

Mana: In India we are at this stage in life where most of us are consciously trying to move away from our roots. Is it the same in Mauritius?
Sarasvati: I would be lying if I said that this wasn’t happening in Mauritius but somewhere I feel like the youth is slowly coming back to its roots. You can feel it in the music. There are a whole host of young bands who are beginning to incorporate traditional influences into their music and that just reaffirms that what we are doing is right.

Mana: What next?
Anthony: You know being a full-time musician is hard. All of us have day jobs to help us get by. We are hoping that an album might change that. At the end of the day all we really want to do is make music. Everything we do now is just about working towards that goal.

An Exclusive by IndiEarth.com

Mana Dhanraj

Curator of music website Sideways To Sound, Mana Dhanraj is a freelance writer, designer and musician based in Bangalore. She writes for various publications such as The Border Movement and Rock Street Journal, as well as documenting and recording work for The Kabir Project. An avid traveler, Mana has a keen understanding of roots and world music, and has been involved with eclectic music festivals, artists and conferences in India such as Blue Lotus Festival, IndiEarth XChange, and NH7.

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