Reunion Island. Danyel Waro and the Creole Mixed Freedom.



Reunion Island. – I looked up the word Creole with special reference to Reunion Island, wanting to learn more about the history that brought us here. This is what I learned.

The island was largely unpopulated until the late 17th century and in that had no indigenous language. Then people from France and Madagascar, as well as East African slaves started arriving. Slavery was officially abolished on 20 December 1848 (Celebration) and workers were brought from India and China.

The result? A linguistic melting-pot, with French dominating and Malagasy, Tamil, Portuguese and Hindi all influencing the development of the Réunion Creole people and language. My guide Philippe pointed out that even though there is a strong French linguistic influence, he doesn’t understand when the language is spoken in its pure form.

Also on the what is a Creole front? The name comes from criollo in Spanish and crioulo in Portuguese, words used in the 16th and 17th centuries in colonies to describe those born and raised locally as opposed to those who immigrated as adults.

Its a beautiful word and correctly holds great pride.

This was very evident as we were invited to join Denyal Waro, legendary Creole musician, poet and activist, at his home Kabaro. A highlight of my Festival Liberté Métisse experience.

Danyel Waro personifies warmth. He welcomed us with open arms, kisses to the cheeks and a heartfelt invitation to join the vibrant dancing. The rain ran down his face and the humidity fogged up his glasses, but nothing could dampen the energy or pride that shone from this man, who is known as the Creole King of Maloya.

Maloya is the rhythmic music on which plantation workers have been singing their joys and woes since the days of Isle de Bourbon. Today the focus has shifted from the political voice of slaves to a message of peace and hope for the environment.

This very modest home in his sugarcane fields high up above Saint-Paul, is where children are hosted on overnight camps, taught how to grow vegetables, where their food comes from, the importance of healthy eating and about the preservation of the ocean. Also why the world is what the fight must be for now.

His songs border on poetry. He speaks of love, death and hope, using the voice of the Creole people, keeping their tradition alive. Waro makes sure through expressive beauty and words, that the language is not forgotten.

‘I defend freedom of expression, the seeking out of truth, our culture and proud heritage’ – and the réunionese listen. As did I.

In the rain, mud underfoot, more accurately mud everywhere, the mood was light, animated, passion filled. With a complete sense of abandon that the uniting mixed freedom festival celebrates.

I hope some of these photo help to capture the mood of the night and these gloriously proud island people that demonstrate the true art of rich abandon.


A small crowd of about fifty with the most incredible sense of movement I’ve seen. You don’t think about the music, you feel it.


The one and only Danyel Waro.




With my guide Philippe, translator and rhythm setter.




Kick off those dancing shoes.




Note: Thank you Smart Translator for the extra info on the Creole people.

Read more about my time on Reunion Island. #GoToReunion

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Dawn Bradnick JorgensenDawn Jorgensen
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The Incidental Tourist

The Incidental Tourist is a Personal Travel Blog of a conscious traveller with a deep love for Africa, its people and the environment.

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