It’s a family affair: Within a band of sisters and brothers, Lala developed her deep, warm, trance-like voice with its rich timbre. Born in 1958 in the southwest of Madagascar, she grew up among Asian, Arabian, African and Western cultural influences. She was surrounded by antsa, the traditional musical style from her home area which was mainly played in ceremonies for the purposes of entrancing its participants. A typical antsa ensemble consists of four to five musicians with two (female or male) lead vocals and a marovany, a kind of a steel string box zither though some reckon they are filtered via the now-declining squeezebox tradition. At the same time, Lala listened to contemporary African and American singers such as Miriam Makeba, Aretha Franklin or Ike & Tina Turner and was very much influenced by the celebrated traditional singer Mama Sana who was living in the neighborhood. As her whole family was into music, it was natural that some of the (fifteen) children in the early seventies formed a band named Lucka-Razah with Lala among the lead vocals and the father as their manager. They played many concerts all over the island and released two singles scoring national hits.
With the socialistic period in Madagascar life conditions got more and more difficult and the group split up in the beginning of the eighties. Lala moved to the capital Antananarivo for her job as a teacher, but still continued singing in bands. In 1986 she moved to Belgium where her husband – a lawyer and music aficionado – produced her first single. Lala kept on singing in different bands.
Her younger brother Dozzy, a guitar player, singer, composer and producer, moved to Belgium in 1989 and proposed in the early nineties to form the band Njava with Lala and her sister Monika as lead singers and the brothers Pata and Maximin. With their blend of Madagascar’s rich musical heritage and European and American pop music influences the group became a big success. The five brothers and sisters recorded two CDs for EMI (“Vetse” and “Source”) and have been awarded prizes from Radio France Internationale, Voice of Asia or Womex. They toured throughout Europe and performed at leading world music festivals in North America. Before the recording of Njava’s second album, Lala started another project and joined the band Deep Forest for their CD “Comparsa” (Sony Music France) which reached gold status. Later, she worked also with Frederic Galliano and his project African Divas.
As Lala is concerned about what is happening in Madagascar, she founded the nongovernmental organization “Dames d’Amour” in 2003 with her sisters Monika and Nicole in order to support children and women there. In Brussels they opened the shop “D’âme d’amour” where among others they are selling Madagascan handcraft and in doing so they are helping families with small loans or communities to build new roofs for schools or water supply wells.
Lala’s first solo album “Malagasy Blues Song” released by Riverboat in spring 2013, reveals all the complexity of her voice, and is grounded deeply in Madagascan music tradition. The album features a Western rhythm section and strong trance, afrobeat and blues elements which lead into groovy dance songs and smooth ballads. The famous Madagascan accordion player Régis Gizavo, well known for his work with Cesaria Evora, Lura or Manu Dibango, gives some of Lala’s songs his own special musical handwriting. The album’s photos were taken by the internationally awarded Pierrot Men. He illustrates the contemporary character of “Malagasy Blues Song” as well as Lala’s lyrics: She sings about politics as in “Pardon à l’Afrika” where she claims that Europe never apologized for colonisation of Africa, about forced marriages or about two lovers who belong to different ethnic groups and are therefore not allowed to get married.
With “Malagasy Blues Song” Lala is telling her story which is rooted in Madagascar and becomes an international experience. And once again, it is another family affair: Almost all songs are written, arranged and produced by Lala and her brothers Maximin, Pata and Dozzy who all appear as musicians on the cd and on stage.
And, quite typical for Lala’s social commitment: She is donating some of the revenues from her CD to the NGO “Graine de Vie” to support the planting of trees in Madagascar.
Gabrielle « Lala » Raharimalala est née à Madagascar. Issue d’une famille de quinze frères et sœurs, elle est la huitième. Ainsi, elle grandit dans un cadre familial simple et rythmé au son de la musique faisant partie intégrante de la famille depuis plusieurs générations. Telle une tradition ancestrale, Lala chante depuis son plus jeune âge cet héritage musical précieux.
Découverte par RFI (Radio France International) en 1996 avec le band familial Njava, Lala enregistre pour le label anglais EMI/Hemisphere un 1er album intitulé « Vetse ». Le succès immédiat auprès du public et des spécialistes de la world music mène le groupe sur les routes durant 4 années successives pour une tournée mondiale sans interruption (France, Espagne, Canada, US, Japon, UK, Suède,…). De festivals en festivals (Womad, Transmusicales, Festival de Montréal,…), la famille Njava contribue de manière significative à la reconnaissance internationale de la musique malgache.
Dans la foulée et sous le charme de sa voix originale, Eric Mouquet, producteur artistique de Deep Forest propose à la chanteuse de rejoindre le groupe pour l’album « Cumparsa » (Sony music-France 1998) ainsi que pour la tournée mondiale qui s’en suivra. L’album sera rapidement disque d’or avec plus de 100.000 copies vendues à travers le monde. Cette aventure musicale se clôturera avec un « Live in Japan ».
Le groupe Njava quant à lui, poursuit sur sa lancée et enregistre un deuxième album intitulé « Source » (EMI/Hemisphere-2001). En parallèle de son activité musicale intense, Lala et ses soeurs fondent en 2003 l’association Dames d’Amour, une fondation à vocation humanitaire développant les rapports d’aide et de partage entre la Belgique et Madagascar.
En 2005, le DJ français, Frederic Galliano l’invite à rejoindre les « African Divas ». Ce projet sera primé la même année aux Victoires de la musique en France.
Depuis, l’artiste n’a cessé de chanter que ce soit avec la famille Njava ou encore pour le projet musical « Tanjona-Tany » à l’initiative de Greenpeace.