Artist Profiles: Madagascar Slim

Madagascar Slim – Photo by Anand Maharaj

Madagascar Slim’s real name is Randriamananjara Radofa Besata Jean Longin. He talks about his background: “I Was born on Halloween night of 1956 in Antananarivo the capital city of Madagascar.

I was the youngest son in the family and I had 3 brothers and two sisters. Two of my brothers and one sister played guitar, and my parents were both musicians although not playing professionally.

When I was about nine, one of my brothers received a guitar for passing an exam. The instrument really gave him power over me and the only time he allowed me to play it, was after I ran some errand for him or gave him my dessert. I guess that’s one of the reasons the guitar became very desirable to me.

My brothers played in a local band and they were into one of the most popular dance music of Madagascar called “Salegy”. Again I was not allowed to be in their rehearsal room but whenever my brother practiced on his own I would closely observe his technique and I would try to emulate his playing on his guitar when he was not home. It was not long before I became a fairly decent “Salegy” player.

One day I heard this incredible music on the radio. It was “Hey Joe” played by Jimi Hendrix and it really change my life and the kind of music I wanted to play then. I literally spent days and nights trying to figure out the chords and especially that fantastic solo part. I couldn’t speak a word of English and I did not understand what he was talking about but the feel of the music somehow really touched something in me.

Later when I heard some records of B.B. King, I recognized the same crying solo pattern but in a more direct and simplified form. Those two giants and the local Malagasy music were the biggest influence to my playing.

My parents sent me to Canada in 1979 to further my studies and get a good education, but in my mind the real reason I came over was to learn English so I could sing the kind of songs I fell in love with when I was younger. I took English as a second language and then I finished college. I graduated with honors in the “Accounting and Finance Co-op Program” at Seneca College.”

After hearing Malagasy music from the visiting band Tarika, Slim became excited about playing the music of his homeland again. He got a grant to return to Madagascar and study the valiha with one of the masters. While there, he also met one of his heroes, guitarist & songwriter D’Gary. He was treated as a star in his hometown.

His unique music has received many awards including the 2000 JUNO Award for Best Global Music recording for his album Omnisource and another JUNO in 2001 for his collaboration in the group Tri-continental.

Discography:

Omnisource (2000)
Tri Continental (Trem, 2001)
African Guitar Summit Vol 1 (CBC Records, 2004)
African Guitar Summit Vol 2 (CBC Records, 2006)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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