Zouk loosely translated means "Party" or "festival" and is a style of music originally from the Caribbean countries of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Zouk is a fusion of Kompa from Haiti, cadence and tempo from Dominica, other styles of music such as mazurka, biguine, bal grabmoun dances, balakadri, and other indigenous styles of the people of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Zouk exploded on to the music scene in the early 1980's. The music went beyond the Caribbean by adapting to French and American pop music. The main characteristic of Zouk music is the two quick beats followed by a slower tempo. Zouk was popularized by bands that include Kassav, Grammacks, and Exile One, and solo artists like Jocelyne Labylle of Guadeloupe and Ophelia Marie of Dominica. The lyrics are sung in the local Creole and French.
With the popularity of Zouk, the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe saw a big surge in the music industry. The United States was introduced to the music by a band from New Jersey called The Roast Beef Curtains. However, The leading band to emerge from Zouk is Kassav, founded in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Decimus and Freddy Marshall.
Kassav became an international phenomenon in 1985 after the launch of their album fifth album Yélélé featuring the international smash hit "Zouk la Se Sel Medikaman Nou Ni." Other renowned artists from the Caribbean whose name became synonymous with Zouk include Tanya Sain-Val, Marie-Line Laupa, Dede Saint Prix, Alan Cave, and Jean Philippe Marthely (just to name a few). Zouk musicians living in Paris began recording with African musicians, and were also influenced by "Coupe Cloue", a Haitian band leader who utilized an African style. With Kassav's popularity, Zouk became the most widespread dance to hit the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.
There are different styles of Zouk, which include the traditional Zouk that was originated the genre of music; Zouk-Love includes slower tempo love songs; Zouk Lambada popular in Brazil, Kizomba originally from Angola, and Cola-Zouk originally from Cape Verde. Each style has noticeable differences from tempo to language. All have their roots in the beautiful music originating from Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Some famous Zouk artists and DJ's include Kassav, Exile One , Francky Vincent, Alan Cave, Face · Face , Experience 7, Eric Virgal, Daan Junior, Zouk Machine, DJ ET , DJ Double F, DJ JAM, Mafie, Zouker Kaysha, DJ John Gee, Vegetable Basket , Cyrielle, Princesse Lover, Boss Tweed NYHC.
For almost three decades, Zouk has swept the islands and has united artists from the French and Creole segments of the Caribbean. With the emergence of Zouk, the artists have created a large music industry that gained international popularity in many parts of the world, mainly France, where some of the artists lived, Brazil, and the French speaking part of Africa and Canada. Zouk music is versatile, entertaining and the Caribbean will continue to be a great source of inspiration for the music market.