Music for the soul with Hans Nayna

Hans Nayna is a talented local musician from Mahebourg, 27 years old, who is on tour promoting his first album, a crowd funded CD recorded in Mauritius. Last night, he and his excellent eight-piece band, thoroughly entertained an exhuberant crowd of around 300 at the Institute Francais in Rose Hill.

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Not many concert halls are built around a tree

The local press is a good source of what is happening and I jumped at the chance to go. This was my first visit to this venue, I was there on time, surprised to find yet another free car park in Mauritius! I paid 300 rupees (£6) for a ticket and joined a very relaxed crowd at the bar; speedy service with a smile too! Excellent. I was asked if I had practised my “La … la-la laa’s”. What?

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It started at 8pm … Mauritian time!

With the minimum of fuss, Hans and his band almost apologetically crept around the black curtain to great applause and started their show.

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Hans has a strong singing voice with soul, blues and bags of emotion. He has been compared with Paulo Nutini, a bit of jazz, soul and blues. Let’s see, or rather, hear.

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Talented, unpretentious and likeable

He had been a finalist on RunStar, a version of The Voice, on nearby French island, La Reunion. It must be nerve wracking to perform your own words and music, have your first CD on sale, be up there on stage in front of your family, friends, loyal supporters and others who had heard about you. He went through all the tracks and a few others, the performance growing in confidence as he and the band felt the audience participation, appreciation and pleasure.

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Emanuelle’s violin led many of the songs

There was a lovely rich sound from the brass section especially on “Le King” and “Welcome to Paradise”; Fabien Thomas on trumpet and Bryan Armoogam on trombone. Emmanuelle Ghem was elegance personified with her violin, delicate left hand fingers getting just the right vibrato; Josian Long was, of course, as cool as a Mauritian cucumber on the bass as tradition dictates.

Jann Payet played electric piano and keyboards with sensitivity and distinction especially at the start of “Music for the Soul”, a song which builds slowly The backing vocals supplied with gusto, especially on “Liv” by Christabelle André and Anne-Sophie Paul (her name would be so confusing if it was Sophie-Anne Paul).

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I thought Hans was similar to George Ezra just with a voice not so low, especially on “Liv” and “Music for the Soul”. “Pieces of the World” reminded me a bit of George Benson in the early days. “Welcome to Paradise” had lots of audience participation with more La La’s than in the Teletubbies! (I am la la-la la-ing now as I am writing this). “With You”; impossible to not tap your feet and dance to that one.

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He had to sell all his footwear to pay for the CD

Christophe Bertin showed a great range on the drums through the concert especially in “Feelings”,  (no, not that one!) and “Music for the Soul” .

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Maybe all Mauritian drum kits are fitted with flower holders

At the end, a spontaneous standing ovation was humbly taken and “Mo lam”,  a haunting violin rising above the chorus,  was the standout choice for the popular encore.

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I think it was Hans’ Mum who came on stage to give flowers to him and the ladies

Thank you to Lauryn who told me he was a pretty cool guy and introduced me to his music. She was right; Hans and his band were terrific. The lyrics were sensitive, soulful and uplifting.  The music sort of blues, jazz and a bit of rock, it was just great!

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I left the concert with a big smile on my face,  my soul warmed by the music and looking forward to playing the CD in the car on the way home.

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“La la-la la, La la-la la”.

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Hans Nayna – super connected with a happy audience

Now, here is a real treat for you….

The whole concert is on:

“Gimme love”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijBlbHX3p0A

“Music for the soul”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5mmy9zBvmo&list=PLEpthTfasd_sHTBucKVLFCMCnwa2F8Lm8

Natural history of Mauritius

 

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This splendid building houses the Natural History Museum in the centre of Port Louis and, having walked past it at least ten times a week, it was time to pay a visit … although entrance is free. It is open Monday – Friday 0900 -1600 and 0900 – 1200 on Saturday.

This is the oldest museum in Mauritius and contains many animals, birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, fish and of course, the world famous dodo of which there are several models in the garden.

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There are several uniquely decorated life-sized dodos outside

The first exhibits portray what Mauritius was like when it was discovered by the Dutch in 1598. There were hardly any predatory mammals, reptiles or even large insects then. The early human inhabitants brought animals to farm and plants to grow food. This upset the natural balance on the island but made it easier for man to live and develop the land which was almost completely covered with trees.

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The island still has so many beautiful and colourful birds.

Deer thrived in the forests and still do. There are over 10,000 in Mauritius now.

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They giant turtle in the background is one of the survivors of man colonising the island

The fruit bat is not so popular as it, well, eats fruit. It’s population has grown too much recently and as a result increased locally produced fruit market prices! It is why the lychee crop was so poor last December and a cull was introduced to reduce the bat population. Not fair on ants as they are the only native mammal of Mauritius. Deer, pigs, rats and other were introduced by humans settling on the island.

Bats famously hang upside down but baby bats feed upwards.

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Bats fear old age and incontinence

The dodo is well known and forever associated with Mauritius but I had not heard of the Great Elephant Bird which had originated in nearby Madagascar. It stood 3 metres high, weighed just under half a metric tonne and it’s egg was bigger than even a dinosaur egg, measuring 30cm wide.

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Equivalent in volume to 180 chicken eggs

The dodo is the national emblem of Mauritius and appears on bank notes, stamps and coins as well as many other items. It was just under a metre tall and weighed 20kg. It was a friendly, flightless bird and had no predators until humans arrived in Mauritius.  Many dodo bones have been discovered  during excavation work in the last 15 years.

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Almost as soon as the dodo was discovered, it became extinct, its eggs eaten by new predators like imported Macaque monkeys and the dodos themselves eaten by hungry sailors. The fact that the female only laid one egg at a time may have been a physically comforting thought for her but this was not good for future survival of the species. The last sighting of a dodo was sadly in 1662.

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The Dodo. Never to be forgotten in Mauritius.

Now, what was under the sea and in the turquoise lagoons? Let’s start with shellfish. This giant clam shell was a whopper.

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Imagine a dish of Spaghetti Vongole with a few of these in it!

Diving would not be so much fun without a few of these cuddly fish swimming around you.

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Have a whale of a time with these lone sharks

I have not seen too many butterflies in Mauritius, the ones that I have found have all been quite small. This display excited me and I was looking forward to photographing some like this on the island until I read the display was of butterflies only found in the Amazon!

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I look forward to snapping the Brilliant Blue and the Bush Brown on my travels now I have found that they are part of the 39 endemic butterflies in Mauritius.

This was a really interesting and unpretentious museum with free entrance to all.

 

http://www.mauritiusmuseums.mu

Uninvited guests

I have welcomed many visitors to my new home and also met some that have come in on their own!

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Gekkos are our friends; they eat mosquitoes

Most of the ones I have seen are light brown or bright green. They make strange noises at night, chirping like a cricket or even barking like a dog. Yes, really! The can walk easily up and down a smooth wall and have amazing pads on their feet that just stick. Strange fact. They have no eyelids, unlike lizards, and have to lick their eyes clean.

I saw a big sign for Rotring pens in Chinatown recently and went back to the shop to buy one. They were brilliant for drawing in A level Biology and drawing cartoons in letters as I was recently reminded. Unfortunately they stopped selling them in 1998 but the sign was covering a large hole above the shop door so they had not moved it. I must do some drawing one night.

Undeterred, one night I put some black ink in my fountain pen and looked at a pen and ink Christmas card for inspiration just as cockroach scampered across the floor. If you spray a cockroach with insecticide such as the appropriately named “Doom” you may be surprised by the cockroach indignantly sniffing it all in, turning round and flying towards you squeaking, “is that all you have got?” A flip-flop or sandal is more effective I have found and better value.

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Cockroaches can survive a nuclear explosion and may well inherit the world if things go bad

They tend to be the size of an adult male thumb, slightly brown on the back and pretty fast movers. You don’t see many during the day, but they are more active at night and can be disturbed wandering across the floor just as you turn a light on. Somehow they can survive without food or water for a month which in this climate seems amazing. They make a quiet sort of hissing sound but stop when flattened by a flip flop… like thisssssssss one.

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Next, something silent but stingy…

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The Yellow Indian Wasp hovers like a silent hang-glider

Now these little blighters are quite scary. Firstly, they are almost completely yellow, secondly they are silent and thirdly, they are bigger than the average wasp and the sting is severe to mind numbingly super painful. You can be relaxing quietly when you are suddenly aware of one hovering, ready to swoop silently on you. Beware.

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Not sure if it is a male or female mosquito

So I started with the Gekko which is our friend, can be slightly alarming at first, the barking chirp is mildly annoying after a couple of hours trying to sleep but they eat the evil enemy known as the mosquito, the deadliest animal family in the world. This drawing actually is the most scary of the three I have attempted and seems to have some of the menace they give out. It is the female that bites, the male doesn’t. I have also heard that the male makes a whiny noise, the female doesn’t.  So the next time you are falling asleep and you hear a mosquito close to your right ear, don’t worry, relax … but if you hear nothing, there could be a female just about to bite you! Useful? I hope so.

A whole new world down under

There are many challenges in moving to a new country, some you have no choice to face, others can be tremendous fun as I found out when I recently learnt how to dive. After all, crystal clear, turquoise lagoons, a coral reef that almost entirely circles the island and a sea temperature rarely below 25 degrees is quite appealing. So I signed up for the open water diver course and I discovered and experienced that Mauritius is a brilliant place to learn how to dive!

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Having parted with some rupees and filled in a few forms, signing away any personal liability, you get one of these manuals with  instructions to read and remember Section One (77 pages) and answer all the test questions at the end of each sub-section. The manual was a combination of physics, biology, fashion and plumbing.

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“Very important, don’t forget the rules!” I have never actually reached 50 bars let alone drunk in all of them.

The first lesson was in the pool at a nearby luxury hotel but I had to get kitted up first.

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I never imagined wearing rubber before, well unless it was shiny and red

You need a snug fit as the water seeps below the surface of the neoprene shortie wet suit and keeps you warm. Now the mask.

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Supersavers, Vision Express or Bailey Nelson it is not!

I had always had problems with leaking when diving before (from the face mask). The advice was that it should just stick on your face if you just put it there. I found one that did and did not have to strap it on as tight as I had put masks on before. Good tip!

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Hmm. Now have they got my size and favourite colour?

Size 43 blue fins now checked for size, time for that jacket thing. Good tip number 2, peel the heel of the fin back down, it is so much easier to put on.

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Waistcoats are in this year and black is the new black

The jacket, or BCD as they call it, was surprisingly comfortable. This is great, I thought, it will be easy to swim like this underwater. I had forgotten the most important part, the cylinder, the regulator (breathing system) and weight belt.

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Oh yes, this goes on the back

The golf ball is to make me stand out from the other qualified divers. That actually was not too difficult!

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This strap-on increased my weight by 3kg

And finally, the weight belt to counteract ‘positive buoyancy’!

I set off for the first dive in the luxury swimming pool to learn how to breathe and move underwater, get used to the equipment and manage some safety procedures in case of emergency. Walking the 100 metres to the pool, bent almost double with the weight of the cylinder and equipment was fun and I heard a few giggles from the tourists relaxing on their sun beds.

So, at last, into the pool and my first experience of scuba diving. Wonderful! Cleaning your mask underwater was a vital skill to learn. This involved letting some water in the mask, tilting your head backwards and breathing out through your nose being careful with my contact lenses. I repeated this manoeuvre several times as the two young bikini clad ladies swimming above me were totally unaware of the view they were affording me!

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After a dive, time to give it a thorough wash in clean water and let it dry

The next lesson was in the sea and really good fun where I felt the feeling of being almost weightless underwater, saw lots of colourful fish and coral and practised more emergency measures like running out of air and complete removal of my mask.

The third lesson had to be aborted at there was a terrific and persistent rainstorm. This is a tropical country and when it rains, it rains but it is not cold.

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You can’t go out when the visibility is poor and the sea is rough

Despite being ready and it not mattering that it was wet in the sea already, conditions were just too rough, too windy.

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Time for the first dive boat to come back … fast!
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It was too stormy
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Never mind, time for a nice expresso to warm your cockles

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Now some Mathematics to learn and to understand my ABT from my TBT!

..and after the training, the theory, the dives and the exam you get one of these!

..and finally, after the training, the theory, 244 pages of the manual, the dives and the exam, you finally get one of these! I am proud!

Thank you to everyone at EasyDive, Le Morne, especially the extremely patient Guillame, (..”Now this is very important..”) who helped me get this far.

I have signed up for the advanced course and underwater shots are promised for a future post!

Chinatown Food & Cultural Festival

The 12th annual festival in the Chinatown sector of Port Louis was held for two days and it was well worth attending. I had been promised that several live Chinese Lions would be attending. Pictures say 1,000 words and here they are!

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The crowds were huge, enticed by the street food, chinese lanterns, live entertainment and music. Now where is that lion? In the Mane Road perhaps?

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I thought you said “Lion Dancing”….

This Line Dancing group had come over with their cowboy hats from Reunion Island, 40 miles away. Quite bizarre to see them dancing to authentic Chinese music rather than Achy Breaky Heart! Now where is the Lion Dancing!

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The troupe may look bored but they had been playing for a few hours and had two more to go…the lion was enjoying it though but where is he?

Here he is!

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This was the first Chinese lion I saw, definitely the most animated, a sort of cross between Rod Hull’s Emu and Animal from the Muppets but bigger and yes, my head did fit in his mouth.

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These guys drummed and clashed cymbals for hours

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Not all the entertainment on offer drew the crowds. This band was really good too!

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The crowd were enthralled by the Magician and his card tricks ably assisted by his two young volunteers: translations supplied by the cheeky female clown below.

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She had been encouraging the crowd to go and watch the 7:00pm magic show,

“Hey, you’re English! Will you come and watch?” she shouted over the crowd at me.

“Yes, of course,” I promised!

“A man keeping to a promise; I will believe it when I see it!”

“It will be magic if I do,” I replied.

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Three princesses selling china. Royal Doulton, perhaps?

Anything and everything was being sold on the streets. No opportunity missed to sell to a packed crowd!

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It was so busy in places you just could not move. That was not bad at all because you could soak in the atmosphere and smell the food too!

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Those crispy things are very filling
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Lai Min restaurant offering their signature dishes for very reasonable prices

The aroma of barbecued pork and duck made me feel ravenous.

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Not sure what any of the snacks are called but they were delicious and I could only get four in my mouth without choking
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No time to haggle over the price, he has the tongs and is going to fill his bag. (A Chinese Tong?)
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Yeo! Naturally I chose to taste several of their excellent products!
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Tamarind is a sour and sweet fruit and a distant relative of the string bean. Surprised that Yeo do not sell milk.

Including this one as all the food had made me thirsty.

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Every home should have one! A painted chicken. I wanted a crispy fried one.

He had another 800 chickens in his checked bag but the Father Christmas dolls in his black bag were not selling well.

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“Anyone seen Chi Chi or the bamboo stall?”

It was so crowded, you couldn’t move at times in the main street.  You never knew who you would bump into, even a panda with a balloon.

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It would not be a Chinese festival without an inflatable dragon, now would it? This one was safely inflated in a quiet side street and reminded more of a Welsh dragon than a Chinese one.

Even mice were on sale! (You just have to go to a field to get one for free!)

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Mice to see you, to see you, mice

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No Norwegian Blues on sale, they are too rare, of course, beautiful plumage.  These colourful birds are also being advertised on Twitter

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Mutant Ninja Turtles taking it easy and waxing lyrical about life.

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No they are not slices of carrot!

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Also extraordinary how a shop that can sell general groceries can also suddenly sell handbags when there is late night shopping going on.

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A relief to get in to a quiet side street
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These balloons were on sale at inflated prices.
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Impossible to predict what you might find for sale on the street.
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If you can’t move, just look up at the lanterns
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Not all the side streets were quiet! Family gatherings and a place for a chat
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Great friendliness and good humour in a lovely atmosphere
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Several places to grab and ice cream or a sorbet; better than the ice cream van outside Chinatown still playing “Three Blind Mice”

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This ice cream vendor on a bicycle took the torch off his forehead so I could take a photograph!

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Every table taken for dinner in one of the many Chinese restaurants open. Fortunately, there was a free table in this one!

Having really enjoyed the evening, I set off home and just outside Chinatown I almost fell over all the street traders selling all sorts of things to passers by.

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T shirts for sale. Any size you can find!

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Another street trader outside the Chinatown festival not missing an opportunity

This was a really happy festival, lots of fun, food and festivities celebrating Chinatown, the local community and its heritage. “Zhùhè!”

I look forward to next year.