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9.16.2021: Laurie on the Band Kassav and Zouk Music

Laurie writes about the band Kassav and what their music means to her and her family.

A few weeks ago a very famous Guadeloupean singer and guitarist based in Paris called Jacob Desvarieux passed away due to Covid 19. Jacob was part of a French Antillean band called Kassav which is very famous in many French speaking countries such as France and the French Antilles which includes Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy. The passing of Jacob Desvarieux was devastating for people all over the world because he was one of the founders of Kassav and pioneer of Zouk which is a musical movement that the band pioneered in the 1980´s that is inspired by another style of music from Haiti called Konpa (Konpa and Zouk are most of the time impossible to distinguish). 

Not too long ago my mother was telling me a story of how she sneaked out of her house with her cousins to go to Kassav´s concert in Haiti when she was younger and when I asked her why, she simply responded ¨It was Kassav!!!¨. My father also grew up listening to Kassav in Haiti so if one day you see him with his eyes closed, his head shaking and his fingers playing an invisible guitar, he is probably listening to Kassav. This band has impacted the lives of many generations with their songs and they continue to do so after so many years. This blog about Kassav and Zouk is in honor of the great Jacob Desvarieux and the band Kassav for their amazing work and for bringing happiness to the lives of so many people around the world. 

The French Caribbean band was formed in 1979 by two Guadeloupean artists named Jacob Desvarieux and Pierre-Edouard Décimus and later on Martinican artists Jean-Claude Naimro, Jean-Phillipe Marthely, Jocelyne Béroard and two other guadeloupeans Patrick St-Eloi and Claude Vamur joined the band. The band became very popular over the years all over the globe especially after their international hits like Zouk la se sel medikaman nou ni  which means Zouk is the only medicine that we need.  And if you ask any Antillean/ Caribbean person like myself they will tell you that Zouk and Konpa are in fact real medicines :D. Zouk blends many different styles of music like Caribbean, African, North American music styles and most of them are very energetic (check out the live concert below and the list below). The instruments that you are most likely to hear in a Zouk song are drums, guitar, and bass.

Most of the songs are in Creole but there are a lot in French too and some in English. French-based Creole is a language that emerged from the communication between French masters and African slaves during the time of colonization. It is spoken in many countries in the Americas but each Creole language has differences. The word Zouk comes from the Creole language word zouke or sekwe. These words are from the French verb “Secouer” which means “to shake”. Whenever you hear the word Zouk, know that it is time to have fun/ to party. Since the 1980´s, Kassav has sold a lot of albums including solo albums by the members of the group. Later on, Zouk also became a Caribbean dance style very popular in Latin America, Europe and Africa. 


Watch a FREE live concert of the band: 


Some of my favorite Zouk songs of Kassav (they are in Creole): 

  • Rété 
  • Banzawa 
  • Kolé séré
  • siwo
  • Mwen ale
  • Pa bizwen palé
  • Zouk la se sel medikaman nou ni 


Other Zouk and Konpa songs not from Kassav (In French, Creole) 

    • They will never know- Oswald (it’s in French, Creole and English)
    • La déchirure – Real limit (Creole)
  • Tu me manques- Harry Diboula (in Creole and French) 
    • Premyé fwa – Antonny Drew (in Creole)
    • Tu es mon soleil- Princess lover
    • Va dire a ton ex – Dadju
  • Je voudrais le garder – Léa Galva
    • Tu disais – Leila chicot, Jocelyne Labylle et Sonia Dersion
    • A tes cotes – Tina et Richard Cave
  • Jolie madame – Joé Dwèt Filé


To learn more about zouk and kassav: