Jaojoby

Born : 29/7 /1955 in Anboahangibe (Madagascar)
Country : Madagascar
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : world music

The "King of Salegy" is the nickname given to Jaojoby by his fellow countrymen. This is enough to show that he holds an important place in the most popular music in Madagascar.

More info
  • Jaojoby website
  • The "King of Salegy" is the nickname given to Jaojoby by his fellow countrymen. This is enough to show that he holds an important place in the most popular music in Madagascar.

    The oldest of thirteen children, Eusèbe Jaojoby was born on July 29th, 1955 in Anboahangibe, near Sambava one of the vanilla capitals of north-east Madagascar. Raised a Catholic, he went to church several times a week where his uncle played the harmonium and he realised very early on by singing canticles that he had a clear, powerful and energetic voice. Before his voice became his trademark, which makes him stand out in the madagascan musical panorama, it was at the root of his career.

    In September 1970, his father sent him to study in Diego Suarez, the capital of the North and an old pirates landmark which was much appreciated by French sailors. In this blessed city known for its lively night life, it did not take Eusèbe long to find himself on stage. One month after his arrival he signed up for a talent show. The contest lasted several days because they were not at a loss for contestants. He never used a microphone and he was not he accompanied by a band but this did not prevent him from winning.

    Double life

    In the night-clubs and wherever there was music, he was allowed in to sing every chance possible. The uncle who he had been staying with informed Eusèbe’s parents of the situation and on the advice of their priest decided to let the fifteen-year-old follow his calling as long as his school work was not affected. A double life began which he held up on both fronts for several years.

    At the Saigonais bar, frequented by French colonists and volunteers he started performing in 1972 with the house band "The Matadores". The clientele wanted current hits and international pop songs but Eusèbe and the musicians slowly integrated traditional Madagascan elements into their music using electric guitars. Guitars, bass, drums and keyboards replaced the kabosy with four strings, the accordion and the percussion instruments.

    Modern Salegy, today the unifying music of Madagascar was taking shape. Even if Jaojoby was one of the founders, he was not the author, no more than Tianjama, nicknamed "the great master of salegy", who became known in Majunga with a similar style. The impetus did not come from one man, it belongs to an entire generation who grew up in the same context and experimented with the same things at the same time but in different places.

    In 1975, Eusèbe changed groups and joined The Players who were less experienced but more open. With the sound system and the generator which belonged to the Chinese shopkeeper who acted as their manager, they toured endlessly in their region, playing at all the dances in the villages they visited. After four years the group imploded, leaving two 45rpms recorded in 1976 behind them.

    Journalism and Music

    Eusèbe tried to carry on with the new musicians but quickly preferred to return to the capital Antananarivo to finish his studies. For two years he studied sociology at the University. At the end of 1980 he was recruited as a journalist for a national radio at a time when Madagascar was clearly part of the Eastern block. Once again it was thanks to his talent as a singer that Eusèbe took up the road to music again. One day while waiting for the bus, a stranger approached him and asked if he know how to sing salegy. That evening he took the microphone at the Papillon, the club in the Hilton Hotel. He was hired immediately and alternated the nights on stage and the days at work for three years except when he did an advanced journalism course in East Berlin in 1982. Assigned to Diego Saurez (renamed Antsiranana) as head of the provincial news service, a position with great responsibilities under this political regime, Eusèbe put his career on hold in 1984 until a Frenchman, Pierre Henri Donat put him back in the studio in 1987 to perform on the compilation " Les Grands Maîtres du Salegy".  (The Great Masters of Salegy) His song "Samy Mandeha Samy Mitady" became a hit in Madagascar and one daily newspaper called him "the King of Salegy". 

    Back in the Capital in 1988 in order to meet concert demands, he formed his own group with musicians and singers who he had met or already played with like Saïd, guitarist for The Players and Jean-Claude, a former member of Los Matadores. Djaonarana set the modern rhythm of salegy to drums. Eusèbe started performing under the name of Jaojoby all the while preserving his job from 1990-1993 as the press attaché for the Ministry of Transport, Meteorology and Tourism. In 1992; the English producer Ian Anderson who had recorded him during a radio session two years earlier gave him the opportunity to do his first album in a multi-track studio in Antananarivo. 

    Some Albums, Finally!

    "Jaojoby: Salegy!" showed people outside of Madagascar this style and its variations (basesa, sigoma...). New horizons opened to the artist. In 1994, he benefited from a more professional environment for his second album "Velono" which Hervé Romagny oversaw because the guitarist Ray Lema had known Eusèbe and his music for many years. This album launched him in the World Music festival circuits. In Portugal, Germany, Holland and France, notably at the festival for Mixed Music in Angoulême, at MASA in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) in 1997, Jaojoby knew how to make people dance. Salegy is made to measure. For this it belongs without a doubt to the African rhythms. Kwasa kwasa and Zairian rumba have also influenced the Madagascan artists.

    In spite of the death of drummer Jean-Claude Djaonarana in 1995, Eusèbe’s group remained very effective on stage. "A machine of implacable rhythms, a hurricane of sounds with insistent cries" one read about him. His children, who at one point formed the group Jaojoby Junior and did their training in the cabarets of Antananarivo, are today more often present at his side in concert as musicians and also as backup singers and dancers.

    His third album "E Tiako" which appeared in 1998 gave him another dimension in Madagascar. The song "Malemilemy", taken from a folklore tune, did not leave the airwaves for over a year. Jaojoby was voted artist of the year on his island in 1998 and then in 1999. Conscious of his popularity, he put his notoriety to work for the UNFAP (United Nations fund for the population) by taking on the role of goodwill ambassador. During the summer of 2000, in five days and under conditions close to live performances like he was used to, he recorded "Aza Ariano" which came out a year later. A few weeks before the December 2001 Presidential elections, Jaojoby played for 50,000 people at a political rally for the Mayor of Antananarivo, candidate for the highest office.

    2004: "Malagasy"

    Jaojoby made a comeback on the recording front in 2004 with a fifth album entitled "Malagasy". The album, recorded on the neighbouring island of Reunion, was an open call for peace and reconciliation. "On the title track, "Malagasy", I urge all my compatriots to look ahead and trust in the future,” Jaojoby said, "We all have to fight to improve our lives and get this country back on its feet again!" However, at the same time, the singer insisted that he no longer wished to play an active role in Madagascan politics and, as if to emphasise this decision, he set off on a two-month tour of France, finishing up at the Festival de Thau (9-18 July). He then played a series of concert dates across Canada and the U.S.

    Over the following years, Jaojoby continued to perform extensively on the live circuit, playing concerts at home in Madagascar, but also on the neighbouring island of Reunion and in France.

    In June 2006, the singer was on his way home from the "Donia" festival on the island of Nosy Be when he and the rest of his family were involved in a serious car crash. Jaojoby fans were shocked at the news and banded together to form a human chain of solidarity that led to Jaojoby being treated in hospital in Reunion. The singer was bedridden for several weeks after the accident.

    Jaojoby made a comeback on the recording front in March 2008 with "Donnant-Donnant", a fifteen-track album originally released in Madagascar. The album, featuring Jaojoby's usual mix of upbeat music, vibrant vocals, swelling backing vocals and romantic lyrics, found the King of Salegy remaining loyal to the Madagascan sound that had made him famous. But "Donnant-Donnant" also included a series of songs he had written in French, English, Creole and Malagasy in the 1970s and 1980s. The singer reassured fans that the overall aim of his music was still to get everyone up on their feet dancing, however!

    On 20 September 2008, Jaojoby performed one of the most memorable concerts of his career, appearing at the legendary Olympia, in Paris. The singer requested that the seats be specially removed from the venue for the occasion, giving the audience room to dance.

    At the concert, he invited along Lova, a Malagasy rap artist living in France, who joined the king of salegy on the song “Mitsinjaka”. Their duet was widely broadcast on their home island. In a completely different style, Jaojoby sang a reggae number with his compatriot Abdou Day, also living in France, on the latter’s album “Toux égaux”.

    When a new political crisis sparked off in Madagascar in early 2009, a clutch of artists got together to record one of Jaojoby’s songs entitled, “Mila fitiavanaé (need for love) in an attempt to reduce the tension.

    In December a big concert was held at the French cultural centre in Antananarivo, announcing a symbolic year for the singer. In 2010, he celebrated forty years in the trade and organised a national tour that took him to a dozen major towns. That year also marked the fiftieth anniversary of Madagascar’s independence, which the artist celebrated in three concerts he gave in France.

    In June 2011, he opened his own cabaret called Jao’s Pub in Antananarivo in an effort to feed into the local music scene. He also took up the role of cultural representative for the Republic.

    2012:"Mila Anao"

    In February 2012, he released an album recorded in Antananarivo, "Mila Anao". The collection marks his return to classic salegy with a touch of rock, and includes his sons Lucas, Jackson and Anderson, respectively on guitar, bass and vocals.

    February 2012

    © RFI Musique
    Any reproduction of this website - either whole or partial - is strictly prohibited without the agreement of the authors.

    Close