Jean-Louis Rafidy, the trigger for the career of the Surfs

On July 30, 1963 in Antananarivo, a big surprise for us Les Béryls (Rabaraona 6 mianadahy). We announced our participation in a television show in Paris for September 8th. The French Radio Television (RTF) invited us to the International Radio and Television Show organized at Porte de Versailles for the inauguration of channel 2, with a possible show in Luxembourg. It was news that had the effect of a bomb.

Two weeks before our departure, the government had appointed Jean-Louis Rafidy, the golden voice of national radio at the time, as our guide during our short stay in France. Two weeks before our departure, he flew to Paris to prepare for our arrival. On Thursday, September 5, 1963, we took the Antananarivo-Paris flight at Arivonimamo international airport. Around eight o’clock the next morning, the Air France Boeing 707 had landed at Paris Orly airport. As soon as we got off the plane, Jean-Louis Rafidy had welcomed us and taken care of us. The time to check our passports at Security and collect our suitcases, he took us to the Foyer Universitaire Malgache de Cachan where we were going to stay during our stay in Paris.

The day before the show, Jean-Louis Rafidy introduced us to the producers and staff of the future second channel. Arriving in Paris well before the group, he had already discussed with them, presented our repertoire which had been accepted. Our chosen songs were in order: “Les trois cloches”, Petite fleur”, “Marin” (from our record on the Rex label), and a song by Henri Ratsimbazafy, “Le lamba blanc”.

After the rehearsal in the television studio, Jean-Louis Rafidy took us for a few walks in the streets of Cachan, just to get some fresh air. Later, he took us to a restaurant for a little snack before joining the Foyer Universitaire Malgache de Cachan. He acted with us like a big brother, a zoky be.

Sunday, October 8 was the big day. The end of our performance was greeted at length by the animators and the guests present on the set. Behind the scenes, you could see the joy and pride of Jean-Louis Rafidy.

During our short stay in Cachan, we were invited to participate in radio programs for Madagascar, especially at the Office de Coopération Radiophonique (OCORA) in Maisons-Laffitte (Yvelines). Barijaona and his wife Odette Suzanne, a very famous Malagasy singer-songwriter duo, received us for interviews, singing a capella. Jean-Louis Rafidy had programmed this meeting during his presence in Paris. In a good mood, we had the privilege and the chance to meet our idols whose songs were constantly on the airwaves of national radio: Vorona ô, Manimanina, Andeha hilalao, Bako, etc…

But the biggest surprise of our stay came from Jean-Louis Rafidy himself. Barely a week after our performance at the Porte de Versailles, he announced an appointment with a record company in Paris while we were in full preparation for our return home. Since he had organized our entire stay before our arrival, I had therefore concluded that he had largely taken advantage of it to try to find a place for us in the world of French entertainment. He firmly believed in our talents after all these successes that we had reaped in the country, and he was surely waiting for that of the Radio and Television Show to concretize everything and have solid proof of our talents. One morning, arriving by the RER B train from Cachan to St Lazare station and then by the metro, always accompanied by Jean-Louis Rafidy who served as our adviser this time, we headed for our appointment. The chosen record company was the Disques de France Festival, located at 3 rue de Grammont in the 2nd arrondissement. In a waiting room, we expressed our worries in low voices, and I felt a nervousness invade the family. It was the first time that we were going to meet those who, perhaps, would be responsible for our future artistic career, but this time in France.

But Jean-Louis was close to us and, like a big brother, passed on his confidence in us. A few minutes after our arrival, a gentleman came in, greeting us with a smile. He presented himself as the artistic director of the house: Roger Marouani. After having addressed a few words of welcome to us, he led us towards the office of the general manager, André Chagneau. We were asked a bit about our group, which we liked. And Jean-Louis added his positive comments to testify to our talents. In a small studio adjacent to the office, in order to know our way of singing and our style, we did a mini audition with songs from our repertoire. The two leaders listened to us with great interest and attention and smiled from time to time as if to express their satisfaction. Excited, they asked us if we would be interested in signing a contract with the record company, promising us that we would be great stars of the song. Jean-Louis Rafidy explained to them that, the Malagasy customs being anchored in us and also because of our studies, we should ask the authorization of our parents before signing any professional contract. With this contract, we would be obliged to stay in France for an indefinite time and that we would also have to give up our studies. André Chagneau and Roger Marouani were very aware of this. After putting our minds at rest, and with Jean-Louis Rafidy’s suggestions, André Chagneau would pick up his phone and start calling Dad at his office after he had received his contact details. Probably surprised on the phone, Dad had spoken with the general manager for a very long time, asking for clarification and relevant information before verbally nodding. Jean-Louis Rafidy also addressed a few words of confidence and encouragement to him. On the verge of tears of joy, we thanked dad each on the phone, promising him that everything would be fine and that we would take good care of us. On September 26, 1963, the contract was finalized. All that remained was to oppose dad’s signature for paternal authorization, Nicole being still a minor. Already, the machine was started. Back in Cachan, we each expressed ourselves on this wonderful experience and on this agreement of the contract with the Discs of France Festival. Jean-Louis Rafidy was proud of us, congratulated us and told us that his mission as guide would end soon. He was going to stay a few more days with us, just to be sure that everything would be fine and when we would be able to take ourselves in hand with the help of Roger Marouani. A real zoky be. I had understood that he was returning to the country without us. It made me a little sad because we had become attached to him. While waiting for the departure of Jean-Louis Rafidy, we had to find a hotel not far from the record company to facilitate our travels. From then on, we also had to get used to calling ourselves LES SURFS. And the rest, we know it.

Thank you Jean-Louis Rafidy for believing in our talents. Thank you for introducing us to this international artistic world. Thank you for directing us, advising us like a big brother, a zoky be, during our first steps in France. Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for having accomplished what you wanted to make of us: great international stars.

For you, Jean-Louis Rafidy, our zoky be, it’s mission accomplished for a long time. We can tell you now: “Now you can go”.

Rest in peace, you deserve it. We pray to God that He may accept you by his side. We will never forget you.

To your family, we offer our deepest condolences. We are here in thought with you to alleviate your sadness and your grief.

Rocky A. Harry Rabaraona

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