What Seychelles’ Most Famous Musician Taught Me About Dreams.

I decide to call it a night after an indulgent Creole dinner. Why didn’t you dance? a distant voice calls out to me. I turn to face the night’s live musician. I don’t know then that I’m confessing  I have two left feet to one of Seychelles’ most famous artists! I hear him say, sometimes you should just close your eyes and let the music take you, and I know I shouldn’t call it a night just yet.

Georges Payet grew up in a time when every boy in Mahe, the ‘capital island’ of Seychelles, dreamt of the day he would get his own fishing boat. Mahe was a sleepy village back then; the days moved slowly, and those who didn’t fish didn’t do much else. The ocean was all we had, he says wistfully. And when the ocean always looks like something out of a postcard, who would want to be anywhere else?

Seychelles island, Seychelles beaches, Indian ocean
Who’s heart wouldn’t belong here?

Much like India, the Seychellois people believe in large closely-knit families. He grew up with seven siblings, and fondly recalls their trips to La Digue, an island where locals still choose to remain car-free! La Digue had no electricity in those days. The fishermen would return home before nightfall, and their families would cook, light candles, sing and dance the night away. Those were his earliest memories of Creole music, which came to Seychelles via the Portuguese colonists and their slaves from Sri Lanka and Africa.

Seychelles culture, Seychelles life, La Digue
Cycling along the by-lanes of La Digue.

To keep him from running away to the sea unwatched, his mother bought him a small guitar at age ten. It turned out to be his calling; he recorded his first song at age fourteen. The eight siblings got together to record an album  as the ‘Clan’, and when his sisters got married, three brothers formed ‘Saturn’. Their band would record the most popular New Year song in Seychelles, and co-write the islands’ national anthem. A local I  met later joked that most Seychellois didn’t believe New Year had arrived until Georges song had been sung.

But in a small place like Seychelles, success means selling a thousand CDs. Despite being a famous musician, he made little money, something that many Seychellois people identify with. From a local’s perspective, the facade of living in a paradise destination is just that; the Seychelles economy is close to bankruptcy. Locals suspect the government to have sold off several islands to rich Russians and Italians, but there are no accounts. That explains why, in his older years, Georges still does regular gigs in hotels.

seychelles music, creole music, georges payet, saturn band
A picture Georges shared with me, of the Clan playing in 1986.

Georges  could have lapped up the success and moved to another country, or given up music and worked in the tourism industry. But instead, he chooses to continue living here, teach the children’s choir in Mahe, and translate some of his Creole songs to English so the world will celebrate Seychelles. Music is what he loves, and Seychelles is where his heart belongs.

That night, while listening to his soulful tunes on my iPhone, I realized that Georges’ story resonated a little with mine. Some day, we all come face to face with our dreams. To follow these dreams is a choice we eventually have to make.

creole music, seychelles music, georges payet, saturn seychelles
Click on the image to listen to this Creole collection on 8tracks.
Seychelles music, Seychelles people, Seychelles culture
Georges Payet and me.

Have you met people on your travels who’re following their dreams against all odds? 

Note: I travelled to Seychelles on invite from the Seychelles Tourism Board.

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  1. Trust you to “dig out” hidden treasures everywhere… 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing about your time there, Pallavi! Seems like not much at all has changed since your trip.

  2. Wow, that is quite a post, love it when you combine your travelogue posts with personal stories of people from these places. The entire human angle to the posts make them so relatable.

    1. Thanks; I’m glad you liked it and could relate to it 🙂 I think the people are what make even paradisiacal places like Seychelles feel real!

  3. Wow! This is such a wonderful lil gem you’ve uncovered! For something of a wannabe musician, I can totally relate to his tale…

    1. It literally found its way to me, Sanket 🙂 And I know exactly how you feel. It’s meeting people like Georges that always make me realize that people who do choose to follow their don’t have it easy, but they persevere. And that’s what makes the difference.

  4. Oh wow..what a lovely story, Shivya! I haven’t met anybody so interesting, but it’s nice to see people so much into their dreams. Such experiences make your travel even more rewarding!

    1. Absolutely they do, Renuka! I was craving local interaction in Seychelles since we didn’t get much of a chance to break away from the group, and what can I say, it kind of found me 🙂

  5. Your description of Mahe reminds me of my month long stint in the sleepy town of Male in Maldives, a decade back. There’s a Mustard fish preparation in Creole cuisine which is a tough competition for the Bengali Mustard fish. Great reading your travels:)

    1. A month? Wow. Now I’m jealous. Really regretted not extending my trip in Seychelles for fear that it would be too expensive. But I hope I’ll go back soon.

      I heard from someone in Seychelles that the Creole food even among the Indian Ocean islands varies quite a bit. The Creole food in Mauritius for example, has a lot more Indian influence in the way spices are used, whereas Seychelles has dominant African influences. I’ll have to wait till I visit Maldives to compare the cuisine there. Will look you up for recommendations if and when I do end up going!

      1. Always available to share my culinary travel journeys. Enjoy your travels and keep on sharing:)

  6. This is beautiful, Shivya! Music speaks to the heart, irrespective of where we are and it’s so heartening to read the story of such a humble and talented musician miles away.

  7. hi…
    this is my first comment on your posts. I have been visiting your site couple of days now and truly inspired by your travelogues. I read how you left your job and moved forward to live your passion.
    I also have passion for travelling and inspired by your story I also made a step forward to live my dreams by creating my blog “Rediscover Your Dreams”


    I would love to hear your comments and suggestion on my blog.

    Thanks for inspiring….!!!!

  8. I come to your blog for something to pick me up on seemingly meaningless days, and you never let me down. Thank you, Shiya, for doing what you do. 🙂

  9. It’s easy to appreciate inspired posts such as this..Thanks Shivya!

  10. Pingback: A Song From Seychelles. | The Talking Sloth - Asia
  11. One of the best parts of travelling is meeting new people and learning different things!

    Love your blog … Keep writing the way you do and you will continue to retain your fans 😀

  12. I find your stories from the streets eye-opening shivya….. thanks for giving an insight of what is happening with people around the globe with no filters. it feels like im listening to them myself…. cant wait to read more of such stories !!! Bombay to Barcelona was incredible…. it reminds me of THE WHITE TIGER …. can imagine what his life could have been and what courage can make people experience… …!!!

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