The Hira gasy, the Malagasy opera

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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Vakodrazana or Hira gasy is a popular show in Madagascar similar to popular theatre or operetta.

In the highlands of Madagascar, the "Hira gasy" designates a mass show not to be missed at festive events. Attending this opera with Malagasy sauce is both a pleasant relaxing activity and a very instructive teaching session. Throughout the show, real facts, tales of yesteryear, speeches and sermons are hummed in a languorous or rhythmic way. After a few hours, children and adults alike are overjoyed to have spent a beautiful recreational day.


The popular art of the Malagasy highlands

The "Hira gasy" or Malagasy opera is a popular art of national and international renown. It is an open-air show animated by about twenty peasant artists, about ten women and the same number of men or more.

Whatever the term used, real facts, tales of yesteryear, speeches, proverbs and biblical verses appropriate to the subject are amalgamated and elaborated into script and then transformed into song lyrics to serve as moral lessons and awareness tools dedicated to the community.

During performances, the "mpihira gasy" sing and dance to the beat of a trumpet, 2 or 3 drums, a few flutes and one or two archaic accordions, without the help of any electric instrument suitable for open-air performances. No microphones or sound equipment.

Usually, the show begins with an introductory speech by the leader of the troupe. This is followed by a long sung script, spiced up with rhythmic ensemble movements and seasoned with acrobatic gymnastics by 2 or 3 young artists or an adult.

The costumes of the mpihira gasy

With the "mpihira gasy", it is customary to go barefoot on stage. For the clothes, elegance is the order of the day.


The wearing of well-cut long dresses in bright colours is de rigueur for pretty artists. They are lightly made up and their hairstyles are carefully braided and arranged in "tanavoho" (hair divided into two braids crossed at the nape of the neck). As for the men, they wear "malabary" (long flannel shirts with large checks) or brightly coloured redingotes. Each of them has braided hats on their heads, decorated with a wide ribbon of fabric taken from the women's hats.


The "mpihira gasy" costumes reflect the love of the people of the high plateaux of Madagascar for fashion. As for the show, it has nothing to envy the folklore of others. The proses skillfully sought after and seasoned with songs and dances are the joy of all.

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