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NEWS | March 7, 2024

Maurice mo pays: NAVEUR-NAVAF Band connects with Mauritian audiences and culture

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs and U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) Topside Brass Band played eight engagements in four days across the Republic of Mauritius in support of the ongoing East African maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2024, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and facilitated by NAVAF.

A continuation of their exhilarating performances in the Seychelles the week prior, the Topside Brass Band played for a variety of audiences across Mauritius from Feb. 28 to March 2, from a street performance in Port Louis’ famed Umbrella Alley, to a Radio Studio performance alongside two local pop artists, an event at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, and an evening concert at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, among others.

A unique ability of the NAVEUR-NAVAF Band, and other branch and service Bands, is the fact they can make important and lasting connections with local populations in a way other units and military personnel may not be able to. It is commonly said that music is a universal language, a language well-received and practiced by the citizens of the Seychelles and Mauritius.

“We have had the great fortune of being embraced by the most excited, supportive, and attentive audiences we could ask for. The people of Seychelles and Mauritius have been with us through rain, wind, and sunshine; eagerly listening and dancing along with our music,” said Musician 3rd Class Andrew Duncan, a saxophone player in the Topside Brass Band. “I have had a joyous experience and look forward to continue performing for and learning from our audiences.”

As in other trips, the Topside Brass Band learned a bit of local music, as well. The team studied Creole music and even tried their hand at a special kind of music called Sega, a major genre in Mauritius and nearby Réunion.

A highlight of this musical exchange included learning and performing a ballad entitled “Maurice mo pays,” by legendary Mauritian artist Serge Lebrasse, which the Band performed with Serge’s son Toto.

“It was great to have the Navy Band here in Mauritius, and playing Maurice mo pays with them was an experience I will never forget,” said Lebrasse. “The Navy musicians are so talented and so committed to not only performing for local audiences, but learning about them and paying tribute to them as well. I am very grateful for their time here.”

Lebrasse explained that Mauritian music is typically performed in Creole, the most common language used in the Indian Ocean islands. He also described Maurice mo pays as “Musique Des Iles,” or Islander music, consisting of a beat set close to a 4/4, meaning four beats in each measure. Sega, said Lebrasse, is more frequently being played in a 6/4 beat.

The Band also played for the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) at an event that included the President of Mauritius Prithvirajsing Roopun and the Secretary General of IORA, Salman Al Farisi.

A common thread across all of these events in Mauritius, in addition to the eight performances, or “gigs,” they played in the Seychelles, was the appreciation and enthusiasm of local audiences, and a fervent desire for the NAVEUR-NAVAF Band to return and play with and for local audiences again.

“We really enjoyed the awesome performance from the U.S. Navy Band. It was so fun and we screamed our lungs out to sing along,” said Orphelia Silvio, the Youth Manager at Caritas Grand Gaube, which teaches traditional Mauritian music, instruments, and dance. “We are also very happy we got to share our musical culture and traditional dance with the Band. We hope to see them here in Mauritius again very soon.”

As the curtain closed on their final engagement in support of Cutlass Express, Band members, including Musician 3rd Class Bobby Novoa, a vocalist, and Musician 3rd Class Elvis Yang, a Tuba player, reflected on the 17 gigs the team performed across the Seychelles and Mauritius in only 10 days.

“Each and every experience here has been so amazing. I can tell from the audience reaction that we are really making a huge positive impact,” said Novoa. “When we first arrived to Mauritius, we performed at a Music Conservatory. The people we met there enjoyed our performance so much that they also attended many of the performances that followed. It meant a lot to see familiar faces, because it really highlighted the meaningful relationships we are building through our performances and presence here.”

Yang left Mauritius with many of the same lasting impressions.

“The people of Mauritius were so excited to see us in their country,” Yang said. “They would say that they would see us at the next performance. It was really heartwarming to see familiar faces coming to multiple performances, and that we are touching and impacting lives in a positive way that words cannot, through our music.”

The U.S. shares a common interest with African partner nations in ensuring security, safety, and freedom of navigation on the waters surrounding the continent, because these waters are critical for Africa’s prosperity and access to global markets.

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the USEUCOM and USAFRICOM areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.

For more information on Cutlass Express, visit <> , <> , & <> .