Rasoanaivo Hanitrarivo (pronounced Rah-SAH-nay-vo An-EEH-tray-va), singer-songwriter for the Malagasi band Tarika, confesses that she has adopted "a little bit of professionalism" since the group started touring internationally a few years ago. "Instead of using bicycle-brake cables, I use piano cables," she says, referring to the components of her myriad stringed instruments.
Rasoanaivo seems loath to make any further concessions to foreign ways, at least when it comes to her band. The purist aesthetic of Tarika's music--"It's 90% Madagascar," she says--testifies to her deep suspicion of globalization. "No one knows the good and bad any longer/The target becomes only to participate/No one fights for the differences," she sings on Disease, a track from Tarika's most recent CD, Soul Makassar (Triloka). Rasoanaivo draws a distinction between what she calls "roots music" and everything else. "Roots music," she explains, "means doing something you really feel in your blood rather than trying to copy something you've heard that everybody else is doing." Non-roots music, she adds, is "something you make a decoration with."
As an alternative to the homogenized pop culture Rasoanaivo decries, Tarika offers Madagascar's folk music, which combines the traditions of Indonesia and the African mainland (Indonesians settled the island thousands of years ago). Vocal harmonies as warm and light as Bornean breezes blend seamlessly with playful African polyrhythms. The disparate elements are held together by the rock-solid consistency of Randrianasolomalala Victor's drumming and the conviction in Rasoanaivo's vocals: the soul, perhaps, referred to in the album title.
--By Benjamin Nugent