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The PROPEOPDEMREP'S
Ministry of Pre-Revolutionary History Presents:
Sega Party Songs - 31 May 1969
(go direct to the bottom of the page to hear the songs)

Diego Garcia Plantation
          1968


The Plantation as seen from the M/V Mauritius, November 16, 1968


A few months ago, I was putting better quality photos from Kirby Crawford on the First Americans page, and I read again of an audio recording he had made of a Sega Party while he was on DG in 68 - 69.  So I wrote and ask if I could get a copy.

Sega?  What's Sega?  Well, its a sort of interchangeable word.  For one, it refers to a Dance, basically at night around a campfire, and is in that sense a tribal-type event.  Sega Dances are known by various and similar names on the Southeast Coast of Africa, and in the various island groups in the Western Indian Ocean.  Sega also refers to the strong white-lightening liquor made of fermented coconut juice, which the workers secretly brewed. Of course this would have been against the law, and certainly would have been the subject of investigation by the BIOT Police, had there been any BIOT Police in those days!  Since their reincarnation in the 1970's, the BIOT Police have dutifully gone after moonshiners (they certainly were when I was there in 1988).  Probably still are - don't want to cut into the profits at the Club!

What's a Sega Party?   It appears to have been the equivalent of the toga party in Animal House, with the partiers providing the entertainment, the Sega liquor, and dancing the Sega Dance late into the night.  Here's how Captain Thompson described a Sega Party he secretly witnessed from the surrounding jungle in 1942, after bribing his way to the area with some bottles of whiskey:
 

As if automatons awakened, the scene gradually stirred into life, the toys moved stiffly in the shadows. . . The drums grew louder, quicker, the beat deepening to a wild urgency . . . slowly the rhythm and movement increased; the dancers bodies glistened and shone in the heat . . .couples paired and danced together . . . They danced, drumming now a drug, the blood of the living moment, burrowing into muscle and brain, throbbing in the body like an iron pulse, alive, dynamic."


The clearly African and tribal roots of the Sega Party were often judged too intense, especially sexually, by the European overlords, and these parties were supposedly outlawed by the Plantation Managers and governors from time to time.  Today, they would say they were "prejudical to good order and discipline"!  The party basically consided of drum beating, singing, drinking lots of Sega, and "The Dance", which was held around a fire on a beach or in a clearing.  An observer in the 1930s reported the drinking and singing went on for hours and became "increasingly frenzied and reportedly often ended in fornication" [quoted by Richard Edis, Peak of Limuria, page 60].

The Ilois were very attached to the dance.  Small wonder.  There were no concert halls, singles bars, or even penny arcades in the Chagos in those days!  Besides being a cultural affair, it certainly was the most fun to be had, especially if there was fornication involved... kind of the way keggers are for stateside college students.  According to Edis, "an attempt by a manager in the Salomons to ban Sega in 1937 led to an insurrection"!  Lead by future-Senator Blutarski no doubt.

During Kirby's year (68 - 69) on the island, he says "they popped up here and there on Saturday nights." One Saturday night Kirby and the boys were invited to one, along with Reginald Payete, the plantation manager, and by all reports, it was wild.  The music consisted of fantastic singing by a woman with an intoxicating voice, and the band consisted of men beating on four 55-gallon drums with rocks.  The songs themselves were stories in the "Creole" French of the Seychelles and Mauritius, and were about daily life, folk lore and many other things.  And Kirby managed to record about 45 minutes of the singing!

In 2006, Pat Mayot, a linguistics expert in the Seychelles, listened to the tape and said, "It was a very exciting moment inserting it into my cassette player and pressing the 'play' button! Talk of a 'blast from the past'. . . At least one of the women who speaks has got an accent which sounds more Mauritian than Seychellois, whereas another sounds more Seychellois. . . Reginald Payet (who I've been told by one person passed away two years ago - but I'll check again to be sure) sounds either 'tipsy' or tense. . .  I say that because in his 'speech' he refers (very obliquely) to male junior staff who had been behaving in a manner that he judged insubordinate. His own Creole contains a lot of French - I'm not sure whether he spoke like that all the time or whether he felt he had to 'sound right' because he was being recorded. . . In one of the songs the female singer praises Reginald Payet as a good man and implies that it is wrong that some people misbehave towards him. All this gives some idea of the 'dynamics' of the place!"

Most importantly, Mr. Mayot states:

"I don't know if any other similar recording from the Chagos exists - your material is probably unique!"


 
 

Here's Kirby's short narrative regarding this unique historic and cultural recording:

"On Saturday evening, May 31 in 1969, we learned that there was to be a 'Sega' party over at the plantation at East Point. We had been told that at one time these party’s had been prohibited on the island because they tended to get out of hand with excessive drinking and other activities.

"My thought was that this would be something interesting to see and perhaps an interesting activity to record. So Gus Jones and I carried my Akai reel-to-reel tape recorder over to the plantation and set up two stereo microphones in front of one of the huts just north of the jetty near the edge of the lagoon.

"A good number of the plantation workers had assembled and they were in a festive mood. In the early evening the music and  the drinking of  local home-brew spirits started out slowly but as the sun was setting, the music got louder and the drinking got heavier.

"The only musical instruments were 55 gallon drums beaten with rocks. At one point the plantation manager, Reginald Payette stepped before one the microphones and made a short speech in the French/Creole language.

"The party went on throughout the night and in the early hours of the next morning some interesting romantic activities were reported to have been seen."  hmmmmm... maybe Edis was right...

The PPDRDG Ministry of Propaganda asked Kirby, "Did you ever think when you were there how simply taking pictures and recordings of things that interested you at the time would turn out to be priceless historically?"

He answered, "When I was taking pictures on Diego, I really didn't have a sense of any future historic value as far as recording the local culture etc.  Most of my photos were taken to be sent back to our office in Washington so the bosses could have show & tell material concerning our satellite tracking operations.  In retrospect, I wish I would have taken a lot more photos of the people and activities on the island.  However, when I decided to record a sega party, I did have a sense that this was an opportunity to record something very unique that would some day disappear. Little was I to know that it would dissappear so soon."

 

On October 15, 1971, the MV NORDVAER got underway from Diego Garcia, carrying the last of the plantation workers and their families to exile (or evacuation, depending on how you look at it), ending 178 years of
slavery,
contracted labor,
continuous civilian habitation,
and Sega Parties.


It is Therefore with the Greatest Pride that the PPDRDG Presents:
The Sega Party Audiotape
(please forgive the fact that these are in mono, rather than stereo)

"Woman's Song #1 (The Opening Song)" (13mb)
"Woman's Song #2" (11mb)
"Woman's Song #3" (6 mb)
"Man & Woman's Duet #1" (14mb)
"Man & Woman's Duet #2" (10mb)
"The Wild Song" (10mb) (about 2 hours into the party)
"The Manager's Speech" (3mb) (thanking the partiers)
"The Man's Song" (1mb) (finale - when everyone is wasted!)

To download these songs, right click on the link,
select "save target as" and save them to your
hard drive or other device...


JUNE 2011 UPDATE!

My ISP has given me more room, and so I've posted the ENTIRE recording, uncut and unedited for you purists!

Sega Party Part 1 (this is 29 minutes long &12mb)
Sega Party Part 2 (this is 28 minutes long & 11mb)

Sega Party Part 3 (this is 58 minutes long & 24mb)

The world really can't thank Kirby Crawford enough for
saving this unique collection and offering it to all!!




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This, and everything else I write and every photo I produce is copyrighted by Ted A. Morris, Jr.
The songs linked on this page are copyrighted by Kirby Crawford