My 10 essential artists for discovering Caribbean music
Gone too soon, Eugène Mona remains an important figure in West Indian culture more than 30 years after his death. A vocal and committed singer, throughout her life she has sung about the pride of her native Martinique and its rebellion against injustice, in a powerful voice that is recognizable among all.
Advocating a return to nature and tradition, he is completely against the whims of today’s modernity. His music features the hill flute, a bamboo instrument which he plays virtuoso, but also the drum, a symbolic instrument if it existed in the French West Indies.
If you are often seen as a singer of traditional music, Mona is more accurately seen as a pioneer and creator. This may explain why he is so respected by the younger generation, but also by the jazz world. Among the flagship titles that are now part of the Martinican heritage, we can mention Ti Milo, mi moin mi ou, My mother told me, Doudou Menard or Siano and Mango and a. Mona’s titles are frequently covered, a testament to the durability of her work. Discover the Eugene Mona universe on Deezer.
Also to be found: Ti Céleste, Dédé St Prix, Valerie Louri, Anzala, etc.
Born in Martinique, Victor O experienced, like many other young West Indians, an exodus to the Paris area when he was 11 years old. This repeal inspired him with one of his most beautiful titles, Diasporaavailable on albums Diaspora (In Tempore Conquestus).
Victor O’s music mixes and blends African rhythms, zouk, drums, in a Creole-inspired pop that is sometimes danceful, sometimes melancholy, sometimes demanding. Listening to a Victor O album sounds like an invitation to travel. We feel in the lyrics a desire to recapture its culture, like searching for a lost paradise.
What is striking in his discography is the way he moves from style to style with a form of evidence found with few artists. To be more aware of it, I invite you to find the album collectors that brings together its main titles, a real treat.
Also to be found: Kali, Kolo Barst, Beethovas Obas, etc.
A lot of water has flowed since the release of his first album Kreyol mosaic. The Guadeloupean, who grew up in Boissard, a hot district in the heart of Pointe-à-Pitre, has for many years been one of the main players on the Reggae Dance Hall scene on a local, national and even international level.
Admiral T’s music is remarkable for being urban, committed, heavily influenced by traditional sounds (especially gwo-ka) and relatively transgenerational. His eclecticism can be found in his collaborations, among which we can find Wyclef Jean (ex Fugees as a reminder) as well as Kassav or Silence.
As he himself said, Admiral T made Dance Hall sober with lyrics that made sense. For discovering the universe and its incredible energy on stage, look no further than the DVD of his 2011 concert at Zenith.
Also to be found: Paille, Fuckly, Daly, etc.
Boss! La Perfecta, Marius Cultier, Kassav, Sakiyo, Malavoi, Fal Frett, he has collaborated – as member or guest – with all the important artists and groups of West Indian music for over 35 years. Falling in love with the rhythms of his native island of Martinique, Tony Chasseur is also a big fan of black American music and jazz.
More active than ever, he was the co-creator (along with Thierry Vaton) of the first Antillean Big Band, Mizikopeyi, and one of the main figures of the Creole Jazz movement. Always gifted to surround himself and his insatiable cultural promoters, he produces concerts, writes, sings, hosts radio shows, works as an artistic director, with his constant accomplices, but also by giving great exposure to talented young artists.
For several years now, Tony Chasseur has offered, under his own name or within Mizikopeyi, a jazzy vision of West Indian musical standards alongside complex and melodious personal compositions. As a very big fan (seen already?!), I advise you to discover without delay his live concert Lakou Misic.
Also to be found: Mizikopéyi, Claudine Pennont, Tricia Evy, etc.
Coming from a family of musicians, Guadeloupe diva Tanya St Val has her future mapped out. Gifted with a powerful voice and renowned for her professionalism, Tanya Saint-Val is one of the rare Caribbean artists to have remained at the top relentlessly for over 35 years!
His career is interspersed with hits, prestigious collaborations, musical adventures in different styles. Tanya is known for her well-prepared concerts where she showcases her vocal richness but also her high need.
A thousand leagues from a certain zouk “kleenex” singer whose talent lies more in their looks than their voices, Tanya Saint-Val is truly at home on the stage, where she has learned her craft. Singing primarily zouk, a genre that has become one of her icons since her debut, she is also very comfortable in traditional, soul and variety music.
Also to be found: Dominic Coco, Edith Lefel, Volt-Face, etc.
Soft is a group from Guadeloupe consisting of three musicians, Philippe Sadikalay who plays saxophone, Joël Larochelle who does double bass and the charismatic Fred Deshayes, singer, guitarist, composer. Born in 2002, Soft enjoyed great success in the West Indies with his albums Sometimes a peyi laexcellent practice in style all in balance, banter and vocal and instrumental virtuosity.
Soft’s strengths are a certain elegance in composition, text with social impact and portrayal of Guadeloupean culture, and finally careful production. If I had to sum up Gentle in one word, it would be harmony. But Soft is also a delicious live experience, with Fred Deshayes playing with his audience and bringing them into his world.
Producing little (4 albums in 20 years) but only contenting themselves with excellence, Soft is a group that manages to reach a large audience by making music that isn’t strictly commercial, which isn’t cheap for everyone! For discovering their music, no one is better than the best of them.
Also to be found: Erick Pedurand, E.Sy Kennenga, K’Koustic, etc.
La Perfecta is without a doubt the most emblematic Martinique orchestra of the golden age of West Indian music. Born over 50 years ago (!), this group still exists, although its founding members have long since left it.
Out Of Darkness, Divinity, A Youskous pa fè fou, All Bagay Paré, Now Alle, Baille Chabon, help me baby, Yo Ke Save, She must, etc., the list of hits that entered the musical heritage of the Caribbean is too long. Particularly under the encouragement of the piano genius who became its conductor, the legendary Daniel Marie-Alphonsine, Perfecta gave his nobility letters to Martinican music. Titles from the period 1978 to 1982 were the most successful in this regard and bear witness to the jaw-dropping modernity of the time. The repertoire consists mostly of rhythm titles (the genre originates from the Haitian compass), but also includes beguines, boleros, salsas, etc.
As pioneers in many fields, the group remains immensely popular across the diaspora and continues to attract huge crowds while performing. Unsurprisingly, the group’s songs have rocked many West Indians of all ages, including you.
Also to be found: Vikings from Guadeloupe, Aiglon, Simon Jurad, etc.
When we speak of the French-speaking West Indies, we think of Guadeloupe and Martinique, but we too often forget that French is one of Haiti’s two official languages.
If the island has given us a million compass groups, a genre that had long dominated the Caribbean music scene before the arrival of the zouk, the Tabou Combo is a special case. By its longevity, first of all, because the group has existed for 55 years! Better yet, some of the members of the first line-up are still in service, starting with the wildly popular singer Shoubou, present as far back as 1967.
The Tabou combo offers a Haitian compass with a slightly festive funk accent. The group has generations of dancing fans spanning decades. Young and old, West Indians know the timeless hits by heart New York City, View Installed, Down Down, mabouya, Bolero Jouc li Jou, Jojo nan’s Carnival, Juicy Lucy, In the West Indies, Taboo Phenomenon, and much more. The group has many albums, to be found with the top titles on Deezer.
Also to be found: Magnum Band, Djet-X, Dejean Brothers, etc.
Malavoi is a Martinican group whose original formation dates back to 1972. Still active, Malavoi is a singular group whose music is instantly recognizable, particularly due to the presence of a string section, which is to say the least uncommon in Caribbean music.
Mazurka, biguine, quadrille and salsa are the main styles found on many of Malavoi’s albums. Malavoi sings about love, everyday life, and his native Martinique, whose culture the group introduces by giving concerts around the world.
Many of Malavoi’s works became classics, incl Filo, Grams to Grams, Lucia Box, The caressed Mwen, Jou Ouve from the late Paulo Rosine or even Ababa with the unique voice of its historical singer Ralph Thamar. Compilation Important things will allow you to discover the main titles of the group and to understand why this group holds a special place in the hearts of West Indians.
Also to be found: Fal Frett, Alain Jean-Marie, Marius Cultier, etc.
His accidental death at the age of 35 in 1999 shocked many fans of this brilliant singer-songwriter. Incredibly talented, he started very young and cut his teeth in several groups, including Guadeloupe’s two most famous formations, Viking and Aiglon.
Gilles Floro, like the much missed Patrick Saint Eloi, was one of the pioneers of the Zouk Love genre. Commercial success was there from his first album, the excellent Blue Dream, and did not contradict himself throughout his all-too-short career. Blessed with a keen melodic sense, his music reflects requirements and rigor that sadly seem out of date.
Title like Ten Kuts, A pas Pawol en lè, At Douce, Diamond Deben, Blue Dream, Caramel, Bel Pawol pou en famn (with Jean-Claude Naimro de Kassav) and many others testify to the talent of the man who will remain one of the most gifted of his generation. To learn more about his music, find the page dedicated to him on Deezer.
Also to be found: Eddy Marc, Jean-Luc Guanel, Patrick Saint-Eloi, etc.