As a long time friend of the Seychelles, and regular visitor, I stay in touch with many individuals on the islands and they share their news from the archipelago with me.
Derek Savy just published a moving article about the passing of one of the Seychelles’ music greats, Francois Havelock.
Having heard his songs played in the past, there is no better tribute to pay but to republish Derek’s eulogy and pay my own last respect too:
In Seychelles they say “A legend takes his final bow” with sudden death of Francois Havelock
Derek Savy, a regular contributor for articles on Seychelles Personalities wrote this week on the island’s Today Newspaper the following spread on Francois Havelock, the much love musical icon who is known and loved right around the Indian Ocean Islands. Derek Savy writes:-
Seychelles’ home grown ‘Tonton Farser’ (joker) who entertained several generations with his quirky lyrics, moving slow numbers and pulsating séga beats is no more.
François Havelock passed away on Wednesday this week after a short illness, leaving behind a legacy that few musicians and composers will ever emulate. He is the one and only ‘Lewa Sega’ (King of Séga) and his tunes are forever embedded in the psyche of our country.
François was a highly opinionated and colourful character whose songs were very revealing of the environment in which he lived. He would always ‘tell it like it is’. His lyrics and melodies capture a ‘slice of life’ that everyone would either associate with or relate to. As a performing artist he would entertain with his little waggish séga moves, taking even his backing musicians by surprise.
François’s extensive repertoire could be played non-stop for a whole day! And no one would get tired of it. No party is complete without some good séga numbers from the jester. Ever present by the beach at Beau Vallon, he would soak in the atmosphere, joke incessantly and enjoy his little green bottle as he watched the world go by – and as naturally as the sun sets rises and sets each day over the bay that he called home, some scenes would end up in his songs.
None of his songs captured the essence of Beau Vallon beach as well as ‘Lavi senner’ (the life of a seine or net fisherman) which brought to life the decades-old tradition of the fishing net bursting with fresh mackerel drawn ashore by a team of regulars that hung out on that beach. That may have been why, when the fibre optic submarine cable landed on Beau Vallon beach in May 2012, François was given the honour to ‘sound the horn’ – an old fishing practice which involved blowing into a conch shell known locally as ‘lansiv’ to announce that the catch had landed.
As is the case with most local musicians and singers, it is almost impossible to make a career out of your art. So François dabbled into several occupations but always found a way to turn these life experiences into songs; and most of these with a comic twist. He would always view life through a humorous, laidback perspective, which would inevitably translate into his most creative work. All his songs would tell a story.
François had the knack of composing catchy melodies with poignant lyrics that delicately painted portraits of his world; a world into which we would all be drawn, taking in the sights and sounds and even the fragrances. Some of his most memorable songs such as ‘Lavi senner’, ‘Pti Terez’ (Little Thérèse), ‘Bo Valon’ (Beau Vallon), ‘Mariklod’ (Marie Claude), are forever engraved into our subconscious.
He collaborated with Patrick Victor on his classic album ‘En Transition’ when they were both experimenting with séga drums and other instruments at the height of our Creole music renaissance. In fact François collaborated on several numbers on that album, playing a variety of instruments. They then embarked on an Indian Ocean tour in the late eighties, establishing a beacon for our local music in the region.
“We have lost an extraordinary composer with an amazing talent,” extolled Patrick upon hearing the news.
François’ masterpiece album remains without any doubt ‘Lafet Parasol’, (the Festival of the Umbrella) with its collection of hits that reminds me of the good old days of Coral Strand’s ‘Takamaka Room’ discotheque back in the early eighties. One of François’ last memorable public performances was at the 2008 end-of-year street party when he set the crowd wild with his collection of classics and a séga medley that brought down the house.
The outpouring of comments paying homage to our séga legend on the social media network is itself a true testimony of his influence on so many people.
“No words to describe this man. He was a friend. He will always be remembered as séga man from Beau Vallon. Deepest sympathy for the family” intones Emmanuel Marie.
Didier Confait in the UK pays tribute: “The thing with François is that he was a real ‘segatye’. A lot of other Creole singers sing more like pop séga but François was the only one who could capture the real nature of séga.
He played ‘kamtole’ with his father and uncles since he was a boy. A true talent. He will be terribly missed”.
“Given how many great séga songs François had in his collection pou met ‘laganm dan tou nou pti parti’ we often forget how gifted he was as a songwriter. I mean songs like ‘Fer mwan war’ (Show Me) and ‘Mon mazin ou’ (I Remember You) will go down as some of the greatest love songs ever written by a Seychellois artist. François could do it all. He truly meant a lot to us!” Olivia Rose eulogized.
Kenneth Sicobo in the UK sums it up: “Sak fwa mon tan laklos minuit sonnen ading ding, mon mazin Merilyn mwan… (every time I hear the midnight bells toll, I think of Merilyn, I do …).
His first musical break was as the bass player with Palmier, fronted by David Scholastique. David helped him launch his first record ‘Msye Mizer’ and ‘Sega Kolodan’, then Chow took over and the rest is history”.
It is unfortunate that local musicians have never been able to make a really successful career beyond our shores. But François will go down in history as one of the most influential and colorful entertainers that our country has ever known. He deserves a posthumous award for his contributions and is without any doubt up there in the top five of our musical hall of fame.
‘Plito mon en mizisyen’ (I’d rather be a musician) is a fitting epitaph for one of Seychelles’ greatest.
He was a genius and will remain an icon.
Goodbye François … although you have left us, we will still remember you! ‘Mon mazinn ou’! You will surely be called upon to entertain all your ‘pti leker, gro leker’ (little heart and big heart) fans up there in the big blue yonder. But meanwhile, we will cherish your memory with your immortal tunes back here lo nou ‘Dibwa Drive’ (on our piece of driftwood).