As the new music hype “Zouk Bass” is flooding the music blogosphere, the origins of “Zouk” might be unclear to many. So let’s open the book and digg some history knowledge. For a start we go back to the motherland of Zouk – the Caribbean island Guadeloupe.
Although all french creole speaking islands – Haiti, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia – are part of the story, it was mainly Guadeloupe where Compas (Haiti), Cadence / Cadence-lypso (Dominica) and local traditions (Gwo-ka, Beguine,..) merged into a new sound.
The Cadence band “Vikings de la Guadeloupe” of the 70s is the precursor of the band Kassav (Pierre Edouard Decimus founded Kassav later in Paris together with Jacob Desvarieux), which is said to be the inventor of Zouk. The word “Zouk” though is derived from a dance which came from Poland – mazurka/mazouk.
The classic Zouk sound (nowadays called “Zouk retro”) had it’s peak in the late 80s and early 90s, so no suprise most of the featured songs here are from that period.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a spotify-supported country, we’ve set up a zouk playlist:
Unfortunately not all songs are available on youtube, but most online music stores should carry it – here’s a selection:
Kassav – Soleil
It’s impossible to pick a favorite Kassav song.. there are just way too many. This one would be in my Top3 Kassav tunes list: the incredible voice of Jocelyne Berouard singing “Soleil”. The instrumental version by Kassav which appeared on the single B-Side and some compilations has surprisingly the same magic as the vocal version.
Kassav – Zouk La Se Sel Medicament Nou Ni
This is the Kassav song everybody knows – or let’s say must know. The hypnotic steel pan solo in the middle of the song still makes people go crazy on every party.
Francky Vincent – Alice ça glisse
Very successful Zouk artist who became famous with his comical and explicit lyrics. His videos are always fun to watch, even if you don’t understand the lyrics.
Ralph Thamar – Polisson
Big hit by Ralph Thamar, who is also singer of the band Malavoi.
Experience 7 – Goudjoua
Another band from Guadeloupe who started in the 70s playing Cadence. In the mid-80s two members of Experience 7 founded Zouk Machine.
Tanya Saint-Val – Chalè
Singer from Guadeloupe who started singing very early – her first album came out when she was 20. It was very successful and enabled her to tour Europe with Experience 7 and Zouk Machine.
Vikings De La Guadeloupe – Misic À Nèg
Not a Zouk tune but a very nice example of the 70s Cadence sound which paved the way for Zouk.
Jeux De Dames – Famn Fo
One of the many Ronald Rubinel projects: Jeux Des Dames. This is an anthem for women (the title means “strong women”).
Zouk Machine – Maldon
Okay, this one is known worldwide, even your mom can sing-a-long to – charting #1 for 9 weeks in France and charted also in many other countries.
Let me know which songs you liked best and which of your Zouk favorites are missing.
If you want to hear more Zouk, especially the uptempo Carnival face of it, tune into my podcast Riddims Tropicale #30 – The Guadeloupe & Martinique Edition.