No.1 The French Caribbean, Zouk music, and Kassav
Guadeloupe is a little-known Island in the Caribbean,
Which has made an undeniable impact in music over the past half century, and some may argue even longer. This French Island, named as “Karukera” – The Island of Beautiful Waters, by the native Arawak, and renamed by Christopher Columbus as Santa Maria de Guadalupe, now Guadeloupe, is home to the music genre called Zouk.
Guadeloupe is located at the point where the Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Situated in the Leeward Islands chain and part of the Lesser Antilles, it is nestled in the middle of its northern neighbours Antigua and Barbuda, Monserrat and Dominica to its south. It is a French department/territory and includes more than 12 islands, with its main island Basse -Terre shaped like a butterfly.
Guadeloupe is also home to the prolific band called “Kassav” whose music style is “Zouk”. Zouk and Kassav’s music travelled the world and were quickly and passionately embraced by its fans. While many may know the Caribbean for other influential music genres, such as Reggae, Ska, Calypso and Mento to name a few, the impact of Kassav’ and zouk music around the world is second to none.
Kassav’ released their first album “Love and Ka Dance” in 1979. This album’s success made them one of the most requested bands through the French speaking world. In 1984 they released their hit song “Zouk-la-sé Sel Médikaman Nou Ni” The 6:24 min song is so widely known and loved; it is not uncommon to still hear this tune in a modern Caribbean party! The song title translates to “Zouk is the only medicine we have”.
Kassav’s live performances were so highly regarded, they were able to release 6 live albums as part of their catalogue of 31 albums. For its time, their live performances were very theatrical with stage spectacles and more, and Kassav’s shows also contributed to the artform of zouk dance which was heavily featured within their shows.
This genre has laid down the foundation for many to follow. It has been sampled and adopted by other countries across the world with its influence seen in modern Kizomba, Bouyon music, Brazilian zouk and more.
Jacob Desvarieux, the co-founder and distinctive voice of Kassav, grew up between Martinique, Guadeloupe and Senegal. He is described as having a communicative smile, a natural kindness and exceptional modesty. Jacob was a unique artist with an atypical career, beginning as a rock guitarist living in Paris.
Today we hear of the passing of Jacob Desvarieux; A great loss to the world of music, the Caribbean and Zouk fans worldwide.
We echo the sentiment of the president of the departmental council of Guadeloupe, Guy Losbar who states “This evening, the whole of Guadeloupe mourns one of its greatest ambassadors, whose immense talent, values, kindness of soul and visceral love for his country made him shine far beyond the artistic sphere”.