The musical genre known as zouk, since its conception and launch by Pierre-Edouard Decimus, Jacob Desvarieux, and Kassav’ in 1979, has become a phenomenon of worldwide proportions in the forty years that followed. This milestone in musical expression, cultural affirmation, and transnational identitarianism was marked by an international series of concerts in 2019, headlined by an anniversary concert by Kassav’ at La Défense Arena in Paris on the evening of May 11. In the interim, zouk—and Kassav’ in particular—has played an indelible and incontrovertible role in articulating the key tenets of Franco-Antillean cultural identity, both at home (principally in Guadeloupe and Martinique) and abroad (among the more than 800,000 citizens of Antillean birth or descent living on the metropolitan mainland and in numerous other postcolonial Francophone sites from the Caribbean to sub-Saharan Africa). Indeed, zouk can be said to embody the concrete articulation of Antillean cultural identity through structure, language, and performance and can trace its origins and form to an insistence on valorizing the multiple musical and ethnocultural heritages of the French Caribbean. Identifying the immutable nature of this fandom and understanding how and why these complex rhythms came to be central to the cultural identity and sense of belonging of so many will require our entry into the contemporaneous philosophical, artistic, and cultural inscription of creolization and créolité as arbiters of the Antillean experience across a broad range of artistic expression.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Literature and Literary Theory