|Labels||GD Productions/Sonodisc, Epic, CBS, Warner France (distribution)|
Patrick Saint Eloi|
Pierre Edouard Décimus
Kassav' is a Caribbean band formed in Guadeloupe in 1979. The core members of the band are Jocelyne Béroard, Jacob Desvarieux, Jean-Philippe Marthély, Patrick St. Eloi, Jean-Claude Naimro, Claude Vamur and Georges Décimus (who left to form Volte Face and returned). Kassav' have issued over 20 albums, with a further 12 solo albums by band members.
Kassav' was formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Décimus (former musicians from the Les Vikings de Guadeloupe) and Paris studio musician Jacob F. Desvarieux. Together and under the influence of well-known Dominican, Haitian and Guadeloupean kadans or compas bands like Experience 7, Grammacks, Exile One, Les Aiglons, Tabou Combo, Les Freres Dejean, etc., they decided to make Guadeloupean carnival music recording it in a more fully orchestrated yet modern and polished style. The name of the band is Antillean Creole for a local dish made from cassava root.
Music of Guadeloupe and Martinique:
Most authors credit Décimus, his brother Georges, the band's bassist and Desvarieux as its inventors. Their first album, Love and Ka Dance (1980) had a good sound. The band gained popularity in their much-heralded live performances in Paris's Club Zenith and toured widely. For a band ostensibly operating in a "narrowly focused" Caribbean dance-based new genre, their success and influence on other artists was remarkable, although they were most influenced by a veritable cornucopia, of other styles as noted above.
Kassav' continued to gain popularity both as a group and by several members' solo recordings, eventually peaking in 1985 with Yélélé, which featured the international hit "Zouk la sé sèl médikaman nou ni" (meaning "Zouk is the only medicine we have" in French Antillean Creole). With this hit song, zouk rapidly became a widespread dance craze in Latin America and the Caribbean, and was popular in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Zouk performers became known for wildly theatrical concerts featuring special effects, stage spectacles and colorful costumes. One important contribution of Kassav' in concert was the appearance of featured dancers on stage with the band; these dancers were in many ways as much a part of the band as any musician. Kassav' has been noted by its acolytes and aficionados as a dance band par excellence.
Among the strengths of Kassav' that helped lead to the group's success were and are its members' superior musicianship, songwriting and production skills, and worldwide audiences eager for lively dance music more sophisticated than the disco/techno-based styles that otherwise dominated dance music charts in that era. The especially gravelly singing voice of Desvarieux, Décimus's driving bass, Naimro's and Joseph's inventive keyboards and superior drum-machine-based and Vamur's solid jazzf-inflected live percussion, along with dance party-inspiring simple French-creole lyrics are among unique Kassav' "trademarks". During his tenure with Kassav', St. Eloi's soaring vocals were another unique ingredient, and the romantic vocals of Marthely and Naimro's as well as Béroard's very strong vocals, a plethora of fun songs, and significant guest appearances including by Stevie Wonder and others are important parts of the Kassav' mix.
They have appeared with Admiral T, a famous reggae dancehall singer, and many other popular artists. Singer-songwriter/keyboardist Jean-Claude Naimro also appeared with world beat artist Peter Gabriel. Lead vocalist Jocelyne Béroard has also had a number of successes both solo and as a guest with other artists, being the first woman artist in the Caribbean to win certain music awards; she continues to perform with Kassav' and as a solo artist.
Jocelyne Béroard's stunning "amateur" photography of natural scenes and people seen from her unique traveling-artist perspective's island-paradise visuals could be cited among their songs' inspirations. The band's songs with a "political" edge or insinuation are typically double-entendre in the African-American and calypsonian traditions well known in Caribbean dance music from which the music of Kassav' evolved.
Kassav' released another compas CD in 2007: All U Need Is Zouk to substantial acclaim with another successful world tour. Nearly 30 years later the same musicians are still arguably great performers .
Originally formed solely of Guadeloupean artists (Decimus, Desvarieux, St-Eloi), within a few years Kassav' also embraced band members of Martinican ancestry (Béroard, Naimro, Marthely); their music is mostly compas that delved deep into synthesized sounds after exploring many acoustic timbres, with rhythms based fundamentally in a gwo ka (French Caribbean folkloric drumming/chanting) context, especially in earlier recordings. It has been suggested that their success was largely outside of the large U.S. music market due to a nearly total absence of English lyrics; instead, they use a very localized version of Créole Français unique to Guadeloupe and Martinique, very distinct from European French or even Haitian French Kreyòl. Their choice of language however did not limit their artistic vision, and it remains carnival-like and eminently danceable; the success of Kassav' is ongoing in the 2010s.
|2007||All U Need Is Zouk||58|
|1989||"Sé dam bonjou"||45|
|Year||Album / EP||Credited to|
|1982||Oh Madiana EP||Jacob Desvarieux|
|Misik Ce Lanmou|
|1983||La Vie EP||George Décimus|
|Ti Coq||Jean Philippe Marthély|
|1984||À la demande||Patrick Saint-Éloi|
|Yélélé||Jacob Desvarieux & George Décimus|
|1985||Touloulou||Jean Philippe Marthély|
|En Balatè||Jean-Claude Naimro|
|Bizness||Jean Philippe Marthély & Patrick Saint-Éloi|
|1986||Gorée||Jacob Desvarieux & George Décimus|
|1996||Marthéloi||Jean Philippe Marthély & Patrick Saint-Éloi|
|1997||Digital dreads||Jean-Claude Naimro|
|O péyi||Jean Philippe Marthély|
|1999||Euphrasine Blues||Jacob Desvarieux|
|A l'Olympia||Patrick Saint-Éloi|
|2002||Live en Martinique||Jean Philippe Marthély|
|2006||Koulè lanmou||Jean Philippe Marthély|
|2008||Kolo ka||Claude Vamur|