Recollecting from the Past [Betsimisaraka (on the northeast coast of Madagascar) & Antandroy (on the far south coast of Madagascar)], 2-4

pp. xv-xvi pronunciation













title of chapter



Background on Tamatave



Spirit practices






Materia media






Power, resistance?



Vazaha spirits



Style as iconicity of aisthetics



Illness, healing, and abnormality



Imagining Antandroy


pp. 219-222 terminology






spirit, soul, personality



Antandroy funerary caerimony



"Merina re-burial practice"






Antandroy accordion









ritual or oratory












competent, capable



performative aisthetic






to pray



Antandroy breath/song-chant









healer, seer, advisor



collective body of ancestral spirits



talk, speech



the past



story {cf. skt. /TANTRA/}









ancestral spirit



sacrificial caerimony













pp. 43-45 inviting a spirit

p. 43

Betsimisaraka "began to tend a small tray of burning emboka, an aromatic wood ... that is set to smoldering to appeal to tromba and to alert them that they are being requested to appear at the present ceremony. While the scent of burning emboka lures ancestral spirits into the present, it also ... affects the tromba-istes themselves. Its sweet odor can evoke the goings-on and moods of other tromba ceremonies, thus sometimes placing tromba-istes into other occasions or bringing those occasions into the experiential present. For instance, one older woman who was a spirit medium at his ceremony told ... that the smell of emboka brings up for her strongly emotive and detailed recollections of ... tromba ceremonies".


"much preparation and performance was required to call tromba spirits. Musical performance, though, was not needed throughout the island, not even throughout Tamatave, to invoke possession."

p. 44

"Betsimisaraka tromba-istes insist that ancestral spirits prefer to have many other tromba present so that they can mido^la, or play together."

p. 45

"Tromba enter through a mediumís head."

p. 45 dreams & pains suggestive of a patientís aptitude for becoming a spirit-medium

"The first communication between a tromba and its intended medium is commonly through dreams. In the case of royal tromba, a powerful man dressed in red, for instance, might make varied demands upon the dreaming person. Illness, difficult dreams, or other problems are often diagnosed by ombiasa as signs from tromba that they want to inhabit a particular person. Unless they are invited into the present with an elaborate ceremony, ... tromba could plague that person with illness and bad fortune and might perhaps even cause her or his death. ... inexplicable body pains are usually interpreted to be caused by tromba wanting to inhabit the afflicted person."

pp. 46-48 entry of spirit into medium; dressing the spirit in garb; formal dismissal of a spirit at the end of the caerimony

p. 46

"A spirit entering the body usually cases the medium to emit rapid, forceful voiced exhalations, a repeated "hooey" coming from deep in the diaphragm, along with rapid hyperventilating. Some mediumsí heads would snap around, ... or their bodies would convulse uncontrollably and rapidly. Several times, upon observing the bodily signals of the arrival of a tromba, ... some of the kaiamba players or those participants who were clapping hands would hasten to the side of the medium about to be possessed. They would play and clap forcefully toward the mediumís ears and head ... as an enticement to a tromba to enter that body."


"Dressing and redressing in the proper garb desired by particular tromba as they arrive are crucial processes in Betsimaraka tromba ceremonies. Betsimaraka mediums bring ... satchels with the wardrobes of their

p. 47

various tromba to each ceremony. There was one elderly woman ..., not a tromba medium, whose duty it was to assist mediums in changing costumes as different tromba came to them. ... Some tromba demand privacy for dressing, so a white lamba has to be held up by the attendant(s) as partition from the rest of the participants. ... Among Antandroy, ... [there doth not] the role of a dressing attendant exist."

p. 48

"The various tromba ... eventually departed to a composition played ..., ... explained later as a "returning home tune" (hira andeha hody)."

pp. 47, 50, 52 various manifestations of spirit-possession

p. 47

"Dancing also would occur in a ceremony only after possession."

p. 50

"Once a tromba had arrived, [a female spirit-medium]ís body would begin to spasm and quiver with an extremely rapid frequency. Her facial expressions and bodily posture would change drastically and convincingly."

p. 52

"When possessed by tromba, ... mediums, both Antandroy and Betsimaraka, take on ... extensive knowledge of varied herbs and tree barks used for healing, the ability to see into the future and back into varied pasts, and the wisdom to advise and to settle problems."

pp. 48-50 limitations on possessions by spirits

p. 48

"the spirit of this manís wife had not come because the man had unwittingly ignored [an] order to take several purifying baths."

p. 49

"Antandroy tromba ceremonies ... are characteristically much smaller and more characteristically solemn than those of Betsimisaraka, which are often quite boisterous in character. ... only one tromba spirit at a time would come into the present in an Antandroy ceremony ... . Betsimisaraka ceremonies would rely more upon direct engagements between numerous powerful Others."

p. 50

"Musicians did not become possessed by tromba while performing, though they might become spirit mediums in other contexts in which they were not performing music."


"[An Antandroy female spirit-medium] would sometimes become possessed by one particular tromba spirit named Moany. This spirit was incapable of speaking (moana means mute ...)." {cf. Polynesian /MOANa/ Ďoceaní, realm of the [Maori] god Kiwa.}

pp. 51-52 uses of musical instruments

p. 51

"During an Antandroy tromba ceremony the valiha (often called maro tady or maro vany [many strings] by Antandroy ...) was commonly passed from person to person, for there were numerous accomplished Antandroy valiha players in town."

p. 52

"Once possessed, ... Antandroy mediums often positioned themselves eventually in front of the performing musician and laid their body upon the valiha or their head upon the gorodora (accordion), swaying, quivering, or shaking in synch with the music."

pp. 49, 52 spirit-caused sickness as motivation for being initiated into spirit-mediumship

p. 49

"When [the Antandroy female who later became a spirit-medium] was a teenager, she suddenly began to have severe recurring pains in her right forearm, along with troubling dreams in which an elderly non-Antandroy Malagasy man would make demands upon her. An Anrandroy ombiasa in Ambovombe diagnosed these symptoms to be signs that a tromba spirit was interested in her. Thus, she would need to perform an initiation ceremony to formally instate herself as a spirit medium. This ceremony included ... musical performance, ... needed to sacralize the event, and to coax the particular spirit interested in [her] into arriving in her body for the first time."

p. 52

"a young Antandroy had come complaining of severe shoulder pain. One of [an Antandroy female spirit-medium]ís spirits revealed that he himself had caused the pain, because he wanted this man to become his medium. [The Antandroy female spirit-medium]ís mixed a complex combination of herbs and shaved tree-barks and instructed the man to drink it. The spirit than told the man that he would need to buy some lamba ..., bring in musicians, and perform a tromba ceremony to formally become his medium."

pp. 55, 57, 60, 62-63 sacred seeds; Indian shopowners; maresaka; vazimba

p. 55

divination : "About sikidy, ... the razana could communicate with the living through formations of voafagne (seeds), flat round grains from the seed pod of a tree held to be sacred by Antandroy."

p. 57

"Indian shopowners in particular are often called Karana in Malagasy, a term likely derived from Koran". {a more likely source of /KARANA/ could be Sanskr.ta /KARAN.A/ Ďcauseí}

p. 60

"Maresaka calls for the ... commotion of ancestral spirit interacting and celebrating joyously in the present with the living. Maresaka created by the living can then also call upon ancestral spirits to dance, drink, joke, and converse with one another as well."

p. 62

"The most powerful spirits in tromba ceremony are usually Sakalava royalty from the northwestern regions of Madagascar or Merina royalty from the central Haut Plateau region."

p. 63

"the first inhabitants of the island, called vazimba" : "Malagasy commonly describe vazimba as composite beings, in which disembodied spirit characteristics combine with human ones." {similarly described are the earlier "Root-Races" in Theosophical-Society literature}

pp. 65-67, 69-72 musical pulse, phrase, & metre; musical genre

p. 65

"musical manipulations ... in tromba ceremony ... evoke a subtle alternating in- and then out-of-phase rhythmic orientation between valiha and kaiamba that commonly imbues ceremonial musics in Tamatave. ... The valiha can shift independently of the kaiamba to move in and out of phase with its pulse. ...

p. 66

While the occurrence and frequency of kaiamba pulses remain consistent, metric and rhythmic elements of valiha phrases shift frequently throughout this composition known as mira feo ... . ...

p. 67

Antandroy music can rely upon frequent alterations in rhythmic emphasis as instruments shift in and then out of phase with one another. ... A valence is obtained by contrasting and imbricating varying phase relationships."


"The very rhythmic essence of temporal and spatial shifts between kaiamba shaker and valiha or accordion is based upon another mode of combining, here of a polyrhythmic sense that integrates, in varying combinations, metrical groupings of ... pulses."

pp. 69-72, 75 genres of musical maresaka

p. 69

"There are accordion compositions, called morceaux by Betsimisaraka, which are specifically for tromba possession; ... particular spirits have specific favorite tromba morceaux to which they respond. ...

p. 70

Antandroy do not use the term morceaux when speaking about their musics. ... Furthermore, the term morceaux is used only by Betsimisaraka accordionists, not valiha players."


"The major mode diatonic scale and playing within it is called manontolo, which means "as a whole" or "all in one." Manontolo also refers to an effectiveness and appeal to all the ancestral spirits. A specific motival segment called tabelo is commonly played in manontolo at the commencement of a tromba ceremony. ... when one wants to call tromba, tabelo would be the first thing played on valiha."

p. 71

"two elaborations upon the opening tabelo ... were slight transformations in melodic and rhythmic content ... as shift in motif ... . These altered motives were called be goreve and mampitagny, and ... these two segments are used to appease angry or displeased tromba.


... several other such motival divergences from the opening tabelo, [are] associated with particular tromba. For example, Andriamisara is the name of a powerful royal tromba who comes to both Antandroy and Betsimisaraka, as well as the title of the valiha segment that calls this spirit. ...

p. 72

Komiverika, Kokolampy, Mandalanaka, and Ray Mandenta, all names of specific spirits or types of spirit entities, are as well titles for other motival segments in manontolo. ...


[A musician] said that at some point in a ceremony a tromba might say to him {through a duly authorized spirit-medium}, "Mahatavy resaka," which is an other to "make the musical conversation thicker." ... This called for a shift of tonic to the second scale degree and so to a minor modality. Within mahatavy resaka there are also numerous motival divergences; some of these are

kamoro (morona neans a boundary of spatial edge ...),

Tsarerirery (the name of another tromba),

namana (friend),

Toliara (southwestern province of Madagascar ...), and

maro havana (many kin).

With a shift to the fifth scale degree as tonic, [the musician] played "Salama tompoko," a greeting directed to tromba, and "Andeha hody izaho," (Iím going home now), a tune used ... as a send-off to a particular spirit who is departing the present ceremony."

p. 75

"Some Antandroy compositions, like "Andeha hody izaho" (Iím going home), which has no text, could implicitly convey messages without words, in this case that a tromba is leaving the body of a medium to return to its tomb."

pp. 76-78 musical improvisations for valiha and for gorodora

p. 76

"the mira feo mode is "karaha ilay feo grorodora" (like the voice of the accordion). This is in part because mira feo contains a doubled fifth scale degree Ė both left hand

p. 77

and right hand on the valiha have access to a string tuned to this degree Ė which allows one to produce a continuous drone or ostinato as could also be produced on reconditioned Antandroy accordions ... . ... there are well-defined divergent motives to perform within mira feo, such as one entitled sejirina, which is specifically meant to mampiso^ma tromba, to incite tromba to dance or to party."


[improvisation for tromba performance among Betsimaraka :] "In tromba ceremony, the left hand on the accordion consistently pumps a constant driving

p. 78

accentuation of each eighth note of the 6/8-like component of the tripartite rhythm ... . With the right hand, short meloic motives are replicated numerous times, always with subtle motif-internal micro-poetic improvisations".

Ron Emoff : Recollecting from the Past : Musical Practice and Spirit Possession on the East Coast of Madagascar. Wesleyan U Pr, Middletown (CT), 2002.