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Madagascar (/ˌmædəˈɡæskər, -kɑːr/; Malagasy: Madagasikara, pronounced [ma.da.ga.si.kʲa.ra]), officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara, Malagasy pronunciation: [repuˈblikʲanʲ madaɡasʲˈkʲarə̥]; French: République de Madagascar) is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel. At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi), it is the world's second-largest island country, after Indonesia.

Home to around 30 million people, it consists of the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world) and numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent around 90 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, it is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is endemic.

Human settlement of Madagascar occurred during or before the mid first millennium AD by Austronesian peoples, presumably arriving on outrigger canoes from present-day Indonesia. These were joined around the 9th century AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel from East Africa. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into 18 or more subgroups, of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands. (Full article...)

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Jaojoby outside Le Bus nightclub in Antananarivo, 1999

Eusèbe Jaojoby (born 29 July 1955), commonly known by his surname Jaojoby [ˈdzodzubʲ], is a Malagasy composer and singer of salegy, a musical style of northwestern Madagascar. Critics consider him to be one of the originators of the modern salegy style that emerged in the 1970s, and credit him with transforming the genre from an obscure regional musical tradition into one of national and international popularity. Jaojoby also contributed to the creation of two salegy subgenres, malessa and baoenjy. Jaojoby has been called the most popular singer in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands, and is widely referred to as the "King of Salegy". His success has earned him such honors as Artist of the Year in Madagascar for two consecutive years (1998–1999) and the role of Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund in 1999.

In 1970 Jaojoby began singing in the northern coastal town of Diego-Suarez. He performed with bands that were experimentally blending American soul and funk with the Malagasy musical traditions of the region. The artist gained popularity and toured regionally, producing four singles with The Players before the band broke up in 1979. After a short break in the 1980s to pursue a career in journalism, Jaojoby resumed his musical career and rose to national prominence with his 1988 hit "Samy Mandeha Samy Mitady". He then reoriented his career toward music, recording his first full-length album in 1992 and becoming a full-time professional musician the following year. He has since released eight full-length albums and has toured extensively in Madagascar and abroad accompanied by his wife and adult children, who perform in the band with him. (Full article...)

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Westland Lysander of the RAF over Madagascar in 1942

Madagascar, then officially known as French Madagascar, was a French colony at the outbreak of the Second World War, having been under French administration since 1885. It played an important role in the war due to the presence of critically important harbors, the contribution of Malagasy troops, and was also the scene of fighting between Allied and Vichy French forces in 1942. After the fall of France in 1940, Madagascar became a crucial flashpoint in contention between the Free French movement and Vichy France. The island was also consequential in the Pacific theater of the war as Imperial Japanese naval forces operated unopposed off the island for some time.

In 1942, the British and several other Allied forces launched an invasion of Madagascar, seeking to protect its position as an important juncture in Allied shipping and deny its use to the Axis. In addition to its role as a key link in the Allied supply lines and major provider of troops, Madagascar was also briefly considered as the solution to the Jewish Question by the government of Nazi Germany who openly floated deporting Europe's Jewish population to the island in 1940. This scheme known as the Madagascar Plan never came to fruition because of the British takeover. The island was officially handed over from the British to Free France in 1943 under whose control it remained for the remainder of the war. (Full article...)

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Three Horses Beer (better known locally as THB) is a pale lager that has been brewed by Star Breweries of Madagascar since 1958. It is the highest selling beer in Madagascar and has been described as emblematic of the country. THB is sold nationwide and since 2005 has been exported to such markets as France, Reunion Island, Comoros and Mayotte. The Malagasy beer is produced at two breweries in Madagascar, the first centrally located in Antsirabe and the other in the northern city of Antsiranana. THB Pilsener, the most common variant of THB, has a light taste and is produced from mostly local barley, corn and hops. Star Breweries also produces THB Fresh (a shandy with less than 1% alcohol), THB Special (6.2% alcohol), and THB Lite (1% alcohol). Recent investments in Star Brewery infrastructure have allowed a 20% increase in production since 2011.

After advertising alcohol in the media was banned under former President Marc Ravalomanana, Star Breweries has increasingly promoted THB through unconventional means. These have included sponsoring the THB Champions League, Madagascar's national football championship, and holding annual beer festivals. In addition, THB is a regular sponsor of local musicians through major annual festivals and tours. Star Breweries has also hired musicians to perform in music videos specifically created to promote the beer. In 2014 the THB label was significantly redesigned, and in 2015 a new slogan, "THB eo foana e!" ("THB always!") was promoted alongside the beer's longstanding trademark Soa Ny Fiarahantsika ("The Pleasure of Being Together"). The beer is regularly promoted by Malagasy musical stars and other public figures. (Full article...)

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Rice fields
Credit: Bernard Gagnon
Rice fields near Ambalandingana, Madagascar.



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Credit: Henry Trotter

The city of Tôlanaro, Madagascar from the top of a mountain.

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