Justin Vali (Real name: Justin Rakotondrasoa) ranks among the greatest living players of traditional Malagasy music on the valiha, a bamboo tube zither considered the national instrument of Madagascar. He also performs on the marovany box zither of central and southern Madagascar. Vali contributed to several compilations in the late 1980s before beginning to release his own albums in 1990. He played the Valiha on the songs The Red Shoes and Eat The Music. He also played the kabosy on the latter track. In 1994 he recorded Ny Marina (The Truth) at Real World Studios under Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. In 1999 he released The Sunshine Within, a collaboration with Paddy Bush.

In 2008 he collaborated with Eric Manana and other prominent Malagasy artists to record an album as the Malagasy All Stars. Vali resides in Paris and performs regularly on the international world music festival circuit, including performances on several continents with the WOMAD festival. In 2006 he was awarded the Grand Prize for Traditional Music by Société des Auteurs Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique, the French songwriters’ guild.

Justin Vali about Kate Bush

I became involved because she enjoyed my first album. She then telephoned me and invited me to London. Her hit song ‘Eat The Music’ was inspired by a track from my own album, track number 9, ‘Sons La Touma’ (‘The Holy Bible’) [on Rambala]. (…) She listened to and sang the song all night and she then, I think, composed the music on the piano. She insisted that I sing with her but because my English is so poor she had to teach me each word and it took us all night! We had a very warm, friendly and spiritual relationship, because Kate is very into the spiritual side of things.

Matt Adams, ‘Justin Vali’. Homeground 55, Spring 1995