From musician and student to the political heights of his career, David André, current Mayor of Victoria, Seychelles, has lived a fascinating and often intriguing life, with a history that one might not expect from such a well-loved politician. With a massive fondness for the classical guitar and a passion for politics, there’s more to this mayor than meets the eye.
Born in the district of Mont Buxton in Victoria, Seychelles, in 1958, David André began his life embroiled in the rich and vibrant culture of this Seychellois area. Welcomed into a family of two brothers, two sisters and loving parents, André has fond memories of his childhood, with his father working as a prison warden at Prison’s Department in Union Vale while his mother cared for himself and his siblings.
André describes his childhood as one with numerous learning experiences, many of which were directed by his Catholic schooling, in what is a religious country: “I went to the St. Claire’s Primary School in Le Rosier in Victoria, which was directed by the Roman Catholic Church at the time. I studied there until Primary 6 and then spent one year at St. Dominic’s Savio School, Belony, in the District of Victoria as well. Then I succeeded in the entrance examination to go to the Seychelles College of Mont Fleuri, the grammar school at the time.”
Following that he spent time in a variety of different institutions of learning, André went on to complete his O-Levels, before entering the world of work as a Radio Officer, learning Morse code with the telecommunication company, Cable and Wireless. With his committed work ethic and interest in
furthering his education, it wasn’t long before André found himself travelling to England to complete a course in telecommunications, which concluded in 1976.
The pull of music and a French sojourn
André recalls that the French government in the mid-1970s had a particular focus on the development of young people with a variety of different scholarships: “I was always interested in music, so I applied, and to my surprise, I was accepted. Although I never had any formal music training in Seychelles, I suppose because of my academic background and being a student from Seychelles College at the time, you had a very sound academic knowledge, so I was sponsored.”
This scholarship opened up a new world for André, pulling him away from the field of telecommunication and throwing him into the arts, with a focus on learning and reading classical music, as well as mastering an instrument. This education started with a stint at Aix-en-Provence near Marseilles, where the future musician learned the basics of the arts and developed a love for one instrument in particular – the classical guitar.
After one year studying in France, André was called back to Seychelles due to political concerns. He reminisces: “Eventually, because of, and unbeknown to me, political issues arose between Seychelles and France, and what these issues were, I was not sure. I was ordered to return to Seychelles. I came back.”
Musical development in Seychelles and return to France
On his return André had a short-lived career on a radio station team, during which time he became even more interested in classical music, collecting songs by artists from days gone by and which particularly resonated with his evolving musical taste. He describes this as an fortunate period of time that allowed him to preserve a part of musical history, explaining: “We recorded [music] for the radio archives, which actually I think, it’s a good thing we did that, because all of this music is nowhere to be found anywhere else now.”
Strangely, soon after his Seychelles return, André was once again given a chance to develop his musical knowledge with a second scholarship in France, this time at the Le Conservatoire de Noisy-le-Sec, Seine-Saint-Denis, in the leafy suburbs of Paris. This musical scholarship lasted five years and afforded him to develop his musical prowess and widen his experience. He left Paris with not only that increased knowledge but also a Diplôme De Professeur de Musique, allowing him to teach music formally. His specialisation was in classical guitar.
Initial governmental work
André had returned to Seychelles by 1984 and embedded himself in the Ministry of Education. The now-mayor remembers that his experience in the department as one that was key in shaping his later life and beliefs, as a member of the Creative Arts section, working alongside a famous artist, Mr. Peter Pierre-Louis. André recollects his stint in education as both practical and revolutionary, explaining: “I was in charge of the music programme. We set up the first school of music, which was in an old building at La Bastille, Union Vale, and then got the students involved and interested in the subject of music.”
Back focusing on music
Following his time working alongside the prestigious Ministry of Education, André once more took the opportunity to further his musical education with a Commonwealth Scholarship at the Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Two years later, he was awarded a degree in Music Education, and progressed to a postgraduate programme in Curriculum Design and Development. He notes that this time as the perfect way to learn: “It taught you how to write programmes for the schools, and how to train music teachers.”
André then helped form a group of teachers who worked exclusively with primary school-age children, providing them with new musical outlets and an introduction to music. He describes the programme as: “[A way to ensure] every child has the opportunity to learn music and to participate in musical activities.”
André’s decision to choose music as his career path was simple – and based on years of exposure to music, that slowly developed into a love for the genre as a whole. When he was a child, his musical choices were eclectic: “I grew up in an environment where people were playing music, folk music, folk songs, kanmtole band, and listening to songs like all these folk singers.” Later in his life, he become more aware of the music around him, from the radio shows he listened to, to other sources of music he experienced.
Love for the Classical Guitar
But why guitar? To André the choice of this medium, that straddles both classical and modern, was an easy decision. He explains: “I chose the classical guitar because the guitar is an instrument which has been readily available in Seychelles. Every young boy who wanted to play music would play the guitar, playing songs, Bob Dylan, you name it, Beatles, and so I thought I would study the guitar. In France I discovered the classical guitar, it was a kind of magic.”
This connection with classical music served André well when it came to his later career in the musical field and led to the creation of many new compositions and songs, both solo and in collaboration with other artists of the time. He has a full library of songs making up the history of his career: “I played classical guitar but also wrote songs in Creole, in French, in English, and worked with different fellow artists, Jean-Marc Volcy, Jeny Letourdie, Patrick Victor, Joe Samy. I mean we worked together on different songs, but I also had my own creations.”
From music to politics
Following many successful years encouraging the youth of Seychelles to develop a connection with classical music, André retired from the world of teaching in 1997, with over 200 successful students having been taught by him and his team. From piano to guitar, clarinet to violin, his innovative programmes helped many students to evolve their skills in music and develop a further understanding of this specific artform.
This unique perspective and innovative approach to education and development have helped David André succeed later in life. As he turned his gaze away from the world of music and towards a political role, which eventually resulted in his appointment as the Mayor of Victoria – the first male in history to hold the prestigious post.
In fact, Mayor André intends to utilise his classical background to enact positive change and artistic developments within Victoria. Stating in one of his many interviews: “With my artistic background I can bring in new elements and make our town more welcoming and vibrant and [to] make it reflect the true essence of its motto, which is ‘Victoria, the capital of the Creole world,’”.
A challenging yet exciting role, André’s appointment will be a new direction for the popular singer-songwriter.
Support from the President and the government
André was appointed by President Danny Faure, with the support of members of the National Assembly, and representatives of the Victoria area. His unique star power is what is likely to provide him with a novel perspective when it comes to his mayoral duty – and he admits he himself is better known as an artist than a politician within his community.
For essential influencers in the Seychelle’s government, such as the Minister St Ange, the choice of David André was a positive one. St Ange commented: “Some musicians are calling it a cultural revolution, but from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture we know that when a country is exporting its culture it is delivering for its people because the country has reached maturity and it has overcome the any negativity associated with its past,”.
Local and National focus
One of the hallmarks of a good politician, and who is also an outstanding artist, is André’s commitment to his country of origin. Much of his guidance and musical choices are rooted in the broad culture of the area, including his latest work known as Zilwa, which has an intense focus on local artistry and talent as opposed to global work. This focus on local culture is why André could be considered an excellent individual for the role, having his country’s interests and needs close to his heart.
Replacing Jacqueline Moustache-Belle in the mayoral seat, André described the opportunity: “It is a privilege and honour to be nominated because I believe it is an interesting and challenging job,”. While also promising to continue the great work of his predecessor, he adds, “I have certain ideas for the town, but I will have to analyse everything first, and once this is done I will be in a better position to make suggestions.”
As well as his commitment to his music and mayoral duties, André also shows great commitment to the Seychelles’ artistic culture in general, stating: “From what I can see, if we don’t do something about it, it will die. It is about making something meaningful that will last beyond the fame.” This especially applies when talking about local bands, groups and musical performers, claiming it’s time that those in the industry should, “Get serious about promoting serious musicians on the international music scene”.
This unique blend of passion for his place of birth and education in such a competitive industry, has placed, David André, uniquely, to create something new for Victoria, and he has many ambitions to carry those ideas through to fruition. On the subject of tourism, André’s wish isn’t for an urban environment ideal for tourists, but rather, “An unchanged Seychelles and Victoria. I wish that it remains simple, nice and welcoming.”
André’s bold commitment
André has also stated his commitment to the way of life of Victoria, saying, “Seychelles is a very, very small country, and if we do not pay attention to our cultural heritage, Seychelles will be gone … and I mean it. It can happen very fast.” This is his stark warning for future politicians and residents as to what could happen to their unique way of life if they allow their modern lives to get in the way of their history.
André’s final wish for Seychelles is to safeguard the Creole culture: “We have to be brave, and we have to be reminded that if we are of Creole culture, a Creole people, we all have a role to preserve this heritage, this culture, don’t wait for the Mayor, or for the Minister of Culture, or for the President to make a statement once in a while, how to do this, how to do that. We should need to be reminded that we, ourselves, all individuals, have to safeguard our heritage, our culture.”
A musical artist or political figure? David André touches the lives of people. He is an extraordinary personality, not one to be forgotten quickly, thanks to his commitment to local culture and understanding of what his people need and his ongoing passion for everything musical. André is one to watch into the future, for sure.