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An Indian Ocean Dance Party

An unexpected bonus of teaching English overseas.

When I signed up to teach English on an island off the coast of Africa, I can’t say that I expected to find myself jumping up and down to the remixes of Major Lazer. But surprisingly, the British electronic group does go out of its way to play shows on small French-speaking islands in the Indian Ocean. So I spent a night with three other English teaching assistants—from England and the US—dancing to the beats of Major Lazer, La Fouine, Kalash, Mike one and VJ Awax. But this concert was not quite the same as what I had experienced before at concerts in Canada.

First off, the concert started at 7 p.m. sharp. If you’re one to arrive to see the openers, that means dinner at 4 p.m., with drinks starting at about 5. After all the openers, Major Lazer came on stage at about 11. The music included remixes of American pop songs and Réunionnaise, Ghanaian and other African music that I didn’t recognize.

Secondly, the concert was sponsored by McDonald’s. That might not sound that different from an event in North America sponsored by well-known multinational company, but when I went to search for a drink after the first few songs, the place was dry. All I could find were Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and Coca-Cola. Not a single food or drink to buy that didn’t have the Mc, Mac or Happy attached to the name on the menu.

Forget about finding alcohol, this show was all-ages. And that doesn’t just include 17-year-olds, that also includes 6-year-old children and younger (accompanied by their parents of course). I was a bit surprised and uncertain of what to do when I turned around to someone tapping my soldier to see one of my students from the high school that I work at.

After listening to four French-speaking artists, Major Lazer came on stage. Very few people on Reunion Island speak English, so when Major Lazer tried to get the crowd riled up with the shout out, “Let me see you TWERK!” it was reciprocated mostly with silence and a few hushed conversations in French and Creole.

After two and a half hours of dancing, we stopped to take a breath of fresh air and also to give in to the delicious aroma of McDonald’s grease that filled the arena. (I would like to note that a Big Mac meal on Reunion Island costs a whopping 11 Euros. As one of two fast food chains on the island, I assume they can charge a pretty steep price for a meal that is considered trendy. But if you’ve been dancing like a sweaty, hungry 22-year-old in a foreign country, McDonald’s for 11 euros will have to do.) Even though I’ve never been a huge fan, it did make for a nice evening picnic on the grass.

Before Major Lazer finished their show, most people had already gone home, or were more interested in their own circles of dance competitions than the actual music. The area was half empty before Major Lazer had even got to their most well known, probably Grammy-worthy, “Bubble Butt.” And after four and a half hours of dancing, cheering and picnicking, we took a cab home and looked back to an empty arena littered with half-eaten McDonald’s meals, Big Mac wrappers and stepped on Coca-Cola cups.

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Cora Siebert

Cora Siebert recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and is working in the overseas department of France, La Réunion for seven months as an English Language Assistant.

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