Everything you want to know about Madagascar and never dared to ask

Antsirabe The Red Island´s Coldest Place February 27, 2012

Visiting Antsirabe was on of our planned activities, firstly because it is one of the few touristic places in Madagascar, secondly because I´ve got family there. And more importantly, we were invited to a wedding. The daughter of a cousin got married and we were part of it. I was so looking forward to being there and I was glad my husband would experience a genuine Malagasy wedding. More about the wedding in the next post.

The last time I was there was in 1998 visiting my family. This time I was accompanied by my husband and a very good friend of his, Tony, coming from Australia. We only had an afternoon to see the town, so we passed on the typically touristic places and the market and decided to make a tour on a pousse-pousse. The worst thing was to escape from the pousse-pousse owners who were waiting for us to come out of our hotel and rushing at us the minute we were out. They did their best to force us to choose their vehicle. Madness! We were saved by our helpful chauffeur who scolded them from being so rude.


Our room at the hotel Les Camélias  was neat and clean. Unfortunately, the Malagasy had never heard of isolation. Antsirabe is situated in the centre of the island in the high mountains. In July, it´s winter. We were freezing all the time. It was the only place during my whole vacation where I did not sleep although I had three layers of clothes and lied under two wool blankets. It did not help.

However, it did not keep me from taking pictures, so I photographed everything around. More flowers from the hotel´s garden, the people on the streets, the pousse-pousse  owners pulling us heavy westerners and the craftsmen doing an extraordinary job.


When nobody saw me I would take out my camera and shoot. Otherwise, I would keep a low profile, but it was not so easy when you are flanked by two white men. Two vazahas *. Everybody looks at you all the time. And most of the time it is unbearable.


People were even more interested in me than in my husband. I could read a lot of questions on their faces. Where does this Malagasy looking girl come from? Is she rich? Of course she is since she managed to come here by plane . Where did she find those two vazahas ? What did she do to “get” them? And so on.

Despite a feeling of general discomfort, it was really enjoyable to discover the town by walking or by sitting in a pousse-pousse. This would have been impossible in Antananarivo.

Interesting links

Information on Antsirabe´s pousse-pousse (French)

* Don´t know what vazaha means ? Check this blog:

If you live in Stockholm and want to buy those little cars, you can buy them at this great little shop specialized in products from Africa:


An Ode to My Family January 2, 2012

Filed under: Antananarivo,Family,Nyheter — madakanto @ 7:07 pm
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Since we are still in the spirit of Holidays, which is the best time for family reunion, I am going to tell you more about my own family and what a Malagasy family usually looks like.

Let me start from the beginning or from two generations backwards. First, my grandparents.

On my father´s side I give you Isidore and Marie-Jeanne who had a daughter and son.

my father´s fatherMy father´s mother


The daughter, my aunt had seven sons, which means luck in the Malagasy culture, because when the sons get married they end up having seven sons and seven daughters. I guess it is partly true, because all my cousins find their right ones and they are all happily married and I when I visit them I always feel surrounded by a huge amount of love. Nevertheless, life did not spare them and they also got through difficult times, but I can say that it did not kill their optimism. Always rebounding.

The son to my grandparents, that is to say my dad, had two daughters, my sister and I. It was quite rare to have only two children in the late 60´s.


On my mother´s side you had Felix and Esther (I love her name), whom I never got to know. My grandfather, who was a Protestant pastor, died when I was a baby and I had already moved to France, when my grandmother passed away. But,…they were very productive. They got three sons and seven daughters and my mum was among the three youngest children. Then, each uncle and aunt got between one and six children. You can easily do the math…I have more than fifty first cousins.

Fifty cousins equal fifty siblings, because the word cousin does not exist in Malagasy.

All cousins are brothers and sisters; the word cousin does not exist in the Malagasy vocabulary. So, when two of my cousins came to France and lived with us, my parents treated them exactly as their own children and my sister and I got two more siblings.

All the children are under the authority of the elders. Parents, aunts, grandparents share the responsibility for the children. There is no such thing as a nuclear family in Madagascar. If a child does not behave, ANY adult, parent or relative who is physically near has the right to tell off. This would be unconceivable in Sweden. If I were to say something to a kid sitting next to me in the tube with its feet lying on the opposite seat, her mother would give me the don´t-you-dare-traumatizing-my-child-look or mind-your-business-look. There is no need to fear such a reaction in Madagascar and I think it is cool.



The most respected people are the oldest, the grandparents and the ancestors. They are listened to vary carefully and everybody tries to learn from them. It is not like in the Northern and Western countries were they are just considered as used garbage that do not have anything left to bring to the society.

At a second place come parents and especially mothers. Madagascar is a matriarchal society. I never thought of that before, but it suddenly struck me that all the ladies in my family inclusive myself are the decision makers in our respective homes. But in a nice and subtle way of course…I cannot say I do not like it!

In those very sad times of scandalous retirement homes it would be great to get inspired by other cultures – see in Asia and Africa – who treat their elder citizens as human beings and not just as juicy bank accounts.




Read this, an interesting chronicle by Jonas Gardell

Vad bäger en kissblöja?

Article about Madagascar on

A general presentation of Madagascar: 


Madagascar Finally There ! November 12, 2011

Filed under: Antananarivo,Restips — madakanto @ 6:50 pm
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I apologize for not writing so often, but I have just been so overwhelmed by a thousand things I had to do and no time for myself. But, I´m back and we are going backwards. I´m going to tell you more about all the things that happened to us last summer, our long journey and adventures.

I have not been in Madagascar for 13 years. The last time I was there was in 1998. You may wonder why I waited so long. The main reasons are a very busy life and a bad financials. How many times did I tell myself, “now you´re going! “, but it never happened and if our friend Nathalie had not invited us to her birthday party we would never have taken the step.

This year was also quite special because I travelled with my husband instead of my parents and my sister. And for the first time I was a real tourist. I did not stay the whole time in the capital Antananarivo. I actually had a very limited point of view on the situation. We did pay a visit at my relatives, but we had much more time to see around and discover.

How did it go? It was a very eventful trip. Every day came with its surprises and adventures. We rented a four-wheel drive car with the driver, or took a plane when the distances were too long and the roads too bad. The most frightening thing was to drive the car on a raft to cross the river. But the driver did it with panache. Having a chauffeur and taking a plane gave me that strange feeling of being spoiled in comparison with the residents. You should never take something for granted in Madagascar. Not everyone has a house with a bathroom. At my aunt´s, there was only running water in the evening and hot water is definitely a luxury.
Anyway, we had a lot of fun, when we were with our friends, discovered so many new things and met wonderful people. I even spoke German on a small paradise island Ile aux Nattes.

But I will tell you more very soon. Here am I doing some shopping.


A Family of Jazz October 25, 2011

There is always a musician or a singer in a Malagasy family. In my own family for instance, we all play an instrument or sing. Your honourable blogger used to play the piano and sang in a choir with her sister. Her sister played the violin, her dad also plays the piano, her mum sang and her godson played the trumpet. We could have an awesome orchestra altogether.

Don´t worry, I am not going to bother you with the history of my family. After I had met Kilema, I realised how lucky I was to be surrounded by real professional musicians and this blog gives me the opportunity to write about them, to promote them.

Two of my cousins are actually so active that they have become quite famous in the music field. Two brothers, one in Madagascar, one in France. My cousin Haja Ravaloson, who plays himself various instruments, has a wonderful crooner of a voice and is a very popular guitar jazz teacher, is member of the board of the International Festival Madajazzcar. This Jazz festival has just ended last week after two weeks of intensive program. It always takes place in Antananarivo andevery year the best jazz players from all over the world come to Madagascar to be part in this fantastic event.

If you love music and jazz especially I advise you to take a flight to Madagascar or if you´re broke just take a look at the festival´s website Madajazzcar.

Here are some of the big names : Trio Esperança , Mônica Passos (Brasil), Didier Lockwood,, Louis Winsberg, Michel Portal, Linley Marthe, Omri Mor (Israel), Sadao Watanabe, Mario Canonge (Martinique), Håkon Berre (Norway)  and all the wonderful Malagasy artists who live abroad: Nivo and Serge Rahoerson, Lalao and Jeannot Rabeson, Rabary Rabeson, Tony Rabeson and many more…

My other cousin Andry who lives in Lille, is a guitar player of great renown. I think everyone in Northern France knows who he is. He has become one of the most popular guitar players and a beloved music teacher, not only because he plays extremely well, but also because he is one of the nicest and funniest persons I know. And I don´t say that because we are related. His main band is Andry Ravaloson Quartet, but he plays with everybody who needs a good guitarist. He even plays the harmonica and the guitar bass. He can play anything any style. His brother Bara plays the contrabass and the  saxophone and other instruments as well. The thing I found most irritating is that they never learnt playing at a music school, unlike me who attended boring music theory courses and played hours and hours of piano technique. They just started playing and improvising and they are just so good at what they´re doing! I´m just jealous, but I´m also a very lazy girl. Too lazy to learn the chords by myself.

Anyway, here are some videos of them, Andry, the brother and the nephews. Enjoy!

Andry, Bara, Tohery and Vaika another nephew at AFT during Madajazzcar 2010:

I could not finish this article by paying a tribute to my late cousin Onisoa who passed away when she was only 14. Horrible cancer!

Rest in Peace Onisoa.

Music composed be Andry Ravaloson.

Andry Ravaloson Quartet on My Space:

Madajazzcar, site official:

Madajazzcar Festival Official – Facebook:


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