Tag Archives: French Caribbean music

3 Choons Currently Blowing Up My Radio in Martinique…and others now blasting out of speakers across Port-of-Spain

I really love the music I hear in Martinique.  Old and new. As people across the Caribbean from Haiti to Trinidad and Tobago and many of the islands in between, and the region’s many coastal nations all gear up for the most spectacular of our Caribbean traditions, carnival, I thought I’d share some of the (admittedly non-carnival) sounds that are just unavoidable in Martinique at the moment.

1) Soprano – Fresh Prince.  This track’s joy comes from a mixture of 90s nostalgia, dancing ‘à la Carlton’ and comedy lyrics like ‘Jeffrey, bring us some ice!’ Seriously catchy.

2. Lycinaïs Jean – Aimer (to love).  If the last big zouk tune you heard was a Kassav tune from the early 90s, catch up here.  This song has dominated the airwaves for MONTHS.

3.  E.sy Kennenga – Comme Si (As if).  As in…dance ‘as if’ no one’s watching, sing as if no one’s listening, live every day like it’s the last day of my life, as the lyrics suggest. Another catchy number with a video produced by fan-generated content. If you’re not in a place where dancing, drunkenness and disorderly or ‘no’ behaviour in the capital’s streets will be socially acceptable for the next 7 days, enjoy this taster of some of this French Caribbean island’s contemporary popular music.

If you’re not feting hard but you wish you were, this selection of the biggest, latest soca tracks from Trinidad Carnival 2015 is for you (from DJ Private Ryan)

Happy Carnival!

Anniversaries and Artistes

I’m in hyper-reflective mode this week as my one year anniversary since arrival in Martinique approaches.

But while I prepare to reveal my innermost thoughts on that occasion, I thought I’d share some more local music on the same theme of anniversaries.

Namely the first music I interacted with upon arrival in Martinique; Taime’s La Ka Lité.  The video absolutely wowed me when I first saw it, such was the creativity with no millions behind the artist.  I hadn’t been in Martinique for 24 hours.

Taimé is certainly a talented young fellow and his skills as a cartoonist and filmmaker are on impressive display here, along with the extremely catchy tune.  Check it out and tell me it isn’t cool…at least the lil Lion…

Keeping to the theme of anniversaries…

So image manipulation is like in the family it would seem for this young artiste.  Turns out that Taimé is the godson of none other than Euzhan Palcy.  She’s his ‘marraine du coeur.’  As in the patron of London’s Images of Black Women film festival.  As in an early black female writer-director.  As in the internationally renowned iconic black filmmaker.  Who just happens to be Martinican, or a martiniquaise.

While her name might not ring a bell, hopefully her film Black Shack Alley aka Sugar Cane Alley aka Rue Cases Nègres, an award-winning black film classic celebrating 30 years of acclaim and general awesomeness this year is familiar.

If you don’t read French, this is the one time where checking out the film instead of the book – Rue Cases Nègres by Joseph Zobel – is perfectly respectable.  It’s a powerful coming of age story set in 1930s colonial Martinique and is well worth watching if you’ve not seen it yet.  I personally love the Medouze character, and José’s relationship with the old man, but I’m especially partial to a well-spun yarn.

In the absence of a decent trailer, instead you should check out this 10 mins montage of various scenes which gives a taster.  It’s French so it starts with the credits. The opening voiceover sets the scene nicely ‘It was the summer holidays.  All the kids from Black Shack Alley were waiting impatiently for the adults to go to work in the cane fields so that they could be alone and free all day long.’

I first saw Rue Cases Nègres a decade ago and I loved it instantly because it seemed to represent an image of the Caribbean childhood of my parents and the stories I’d heard about my grandparents’ lives.  Which I’d never seen on screen.  And certainly not from their perspective.

Taime’s work was less personally affirmative.  However it did introduce me to the concepts of creole hip hop, and top-quality music videos for unsigned artists.  Thus a serious eye-opener!

With no further ado, I present two pieces of Martinican artistry which I’m fond of, produced some 30 years apart.

Enjoy!

Ooh la la! One crazy month in Martinique!

It’s not a huge secret that I love Martinique.  I try and play it cool like it’s a place like any other, with its good and bad, people and places.  Just another Caribbean island but with a French twist, but that’s a lie.  The truth is that I love this complicated place despite myself.  And several seemingly unconnected innocuous events will help me explain why.

First, there was the night I debated and discussed until I fell asleep.  Exhausted, we all crashed out on our sofa.  Me, and the husband and wife creative team I’ve been calling housemates this past summer.  The subject?  The private view had of Hélène Raffestin‘s art exhibition ‘Sois belle et plais toi’ which I’ll translate as ‘be beautiful and make yourself happy’ (‘please yourself’ has distinctly sexual connotations in English).  The title had intrigued my housie who noticed the play on the play of words on the charming French expression ‘Sois belle et tais toi’ aka ‘be beautiful and shut up’.  Who says the French aren’t romantic?  We were both looking forward to seeing how her desire to look at ‘the role of women in our contemporary society’ would manifest itself in her art.

She did a good job.  Art is supposed to provoke debate and emotions and she certainly did that.  According to the flyer, Raffestin lives and works in Martinique, did her first art school here, and we infer was born here.  The picture of her is shadowy, so although she looks ‘kinda white’ she could also be mixed.  Why is that important?  Because this is Martinique.  The personal, the impersonal, the private, the public, it’s all political!  Martinique, an ‘overseas region of France’ exists as a complete anachronism.  A colony in the classic Age of Empire sense of the world in the age of 21st century necolonialism.  And it retains many of the features of a colony, such as skin colour as an arbiter of social class.

Raffestin’s critique of women in ‘our contemporary society’ threw up immediately the question of ‘which society?’  Continue reading