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Rajery

Madagascar's Rajery (pronounced Rajer, his full name is Germain Randrianrisoa) is a Renaissance man. Not only is he a master of the valiha, the island's tubular harp, and leading his own band, he's also a founder of modern valiha orchestra and the author of a book, The Secret of the Valiha. It's a remarkable achievement for someone who had to overcome huge odds to play the instrument in the first place. Born in Analamihantona, at the age of 11 months his parents took him to a wedding ceremony. There, he was handed a piece of poisoned meat, which he grabbed with his right hand. Within a couple of months, the fingers on that hand had fallen off. For a person with one hand, the future looked bleak. However, his parents sent him to the Malagasy capital, Antananarivo, for school, and when he was 14, Rajery decided to learn the valiha. At 17, he joined his first group, Tsilavena, where he developed his individual technique, picking notes with the fingers of his left hand, and strumming strings with the stub of his right, in addition to learning to play the bass. In 1983, he gave his first solo performance. But he also continued his education and when he was done, wrote The Secret of the Valiha, and began teaching. He formed a group with his valiha students, called Akombaliha, which would eventually become a valiha orchestra, harking back to the glory days of such ensembles earlier in the 20th century. But he wasn't about to confine himself, also putting together a small band, a quartet which saw him backed by guitar, bass, and percussion. In 1999, he released Dorotanety -- on which he played every instrument -- and followed it in 2002 with Fanamby, to coincide with his first U.S. tour. ~ Chris Nickson
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