Maloya is one of the two major music genres of Réunion, usually sung in Réunion Creole, and traditionally accompanied by percussion and a musical bow. Maloya is a new form that has origins in the music of African and Malagasy slaves and Indian indentured workers on the island, as has the other folk music of Réunion, séga. World music journalists and non-specialist scholars sometimes compare maloya to the American music, the blues, though they have little in common. Unlike the blues, maloya was considered such a threat to the French state that in the 1970s it was banned.
Traditional instruments include:
The indigenous music and dance form of maloya was often presented as a style of purely African origin, linked ancestral rituals from Africa ("service Kaf" and Madagascar (the "servis kabaré"), and as such a musical inheritance of the early slave population of the island. More recently, however, the possible influence of the sacred drumming of the Tamil religious rituals has been introduced by Danyèl Waro, which makes Maloya' heterogeneous African Malagasy and Indian influences more explicit.
Maloya was banned until the sixties because of its strong association with creole culture. Performances by some maloya groups were banned until the eighties, partly because of their autonomist beliefs and association with the Communist Party of Réunion Nowadays, one of the most famous maloya musicians is Danyèl Waro. His mentor, Firmin Viry, is credited as having rescued maloya from extinction. According to Françoise Vergès, the first public performance of maloya was by Firmin Viry in 1959 at the founding of the Communist Party Maloya was adopted as a medium for political and social protest by Creole poets such as Waro, and later by groups such as Ziskakan. Since the start of the 1980s, maloya groups, such as Ziskakan, Baster, Firmin Viry, Granmoun Baba, Rwa Kaff and Ti Fock, some mixing maloya with other genres such as séga, zouk, reggae, samba, afrobeat, jazz and rock, have had recognition outside the island.
Maloya was inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO for France.
This musical form was the subject of a 1994 documentary film by Jean Paul Roig, entitled Maloya Dousman.