Sunday, December 7, 2008


You know whats sad and sort of endearing?
The amount of hits ive gotten recently from poor souls searching "lalala halehelohalow" like "english translation for lalala halehelohalow", "lalala halehelohalow helabalahehelebalo meaning", "arab money hook halehelohalow", "main chorus arab money halehelohalow", etc. I have no idea why he thought he could get away with that chorus in this day and age..

Over @ Ben Loxo, Matt recently had a guest post about Zouk, a genre worth defending. The english wikipedia zouk article is meh (but the french article is fun) ex:

"Zouk is a style of rhythmic music originating from the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and the former French colony of Haiti. Zouk means "party" or "festival" in the local creole of French with English influences. In Africa, it is popular in franco/luso countries, while on the African islands of Cape Verde they have developed their own type of zouk. In Europe it is particularly popular in France, and in North America the Canadian province of Quebec."

Im no expert, but does 'rhythmic music' mean anything?

Usually id post all my fav videos, but I doubt i'll win any converts. Sadly zouk is not a genre about to be featured in Fader. Esp zouk-love. The most saccarine of afro-carib 'post-colonial pop', to me its the panultimate slow dance music, influenced heavily by other sweet musics like Compas (and :. cheesy french chanson music) as well as american RnB. Its a music I probably wouldnt dig if it hadnt been such a staple in west african clubs, accompanied by riskee-for-senegal intricate grindin.


There are a number of reasons zouk is fun for me to dig a bit into. For starters, im always curious as to how music spreads thru spheres, and zouk in particular leaves me with a million questions. Why does zouk travel across francophone and lusophone countries but completely misses bordering language spheres? If the music isnt bound by one language sphere (sharing french and portuguese) why has it practically never crossed into anglo or spanish speaking territory? - especially when zouk has been so localized /adapted and embraced differently by various regions in these spheres, as Neva Wartell says:

"Today we can hear the influence of zouk in dance rhythms around the world, from Brazilian lambada to Caribbean styles as diverse as merengue and soca; from Cameroonian makossa, Congolese soukous and Cape Verdian funana to zouglou from Ivory Coast and even zouk-mbalax from Senegal."

Zouk-Mbalax : Philip Monteiro - Gainde njaay

Cape verde and west african zouk are closely linked, sharing some of the same artists (similar location, not language?). In Angola, zouk is known as Kizomba and shares a similar dramatic dancing style with brazilian zouk (language link, not location?) West African and Angolan zouk operate totally independantly (um, continant not country!) Also, Zouk is popular in France, with many crossover hits and steady influence on french RnB, but is much less visable in Portugal (France is closer linked to former colonies?). Finally, some stars tour thru / crossover everywhere. Congo-Brazzaville Zouk/coupe-decale star Kaysha's 'REPRESENT' tees and tour locales are give a good image of the widest possible zoukosphere, or Coupe-Decalesphere.

I also hear zouk in Akon's singing, subtly influencing while being influenced by the current sounds of hip-hop and RnB. Not just in its super slick vocals, but also because along with rai, zouk is something I associate with interesting autotune uses, esp as its becoming an RnB staple, as it has been in zouk for the past ~ 7 years.

old pop-zouk french crossover hit, sweet video : zouk machine - maldon

gotta say, those ladies are pretty rad..


w&w said...

post density!

zouk nation unite!

a few things:

1) good point re: "rhythmic music." there is very little music that does not have rhythm. events happening in time usually imply some sort of rhythm, unless one purposely tries to create arhythmic music (an avant-garde gesture usually). but i think what the author of that phrase wanted to say was that rhythm seems foregrounded in zouk. even so, i think such a notion too frequently tips into a kind of afro-essentialism, so it's worth calling out.

2) zouk is definitely an interesting limit case for the whole global g-tech convo. i think you're right that it's a little too sweet to appeal to certain corners.

3) for more on zouk, u should definitely check the work of ethnomusicologist jocelyne guilbault, perhaps starting here:

Birdseed said...

I'd agree that it's a limit case for the ggt stuff, and a fairly revealing one at that. The ggt crowd has a major issue to deal with, I think, in its unreflecting celebration of the "hard" over the "soft", the "hip-hop" over the "r&b", the "traditionally male-oriented" over the "traditionally female-oriented". (I've been guilty of this as well, I'm sure.) There are definite gender issues at play, not least, and I think that it's something that needs to be looked closer at.

In Sweden there's been a bit of a counter-movement recently which openly celebrates R&B over hip-hop. Which leads me to thinking about the idea of a "world R&B" as a riposte to the "world hip-hop" of ggt. Besides zouk it would include the softer soppier side of reggaeton, dancehall, etc., European R&B, plus a whole load of great African and Asian musics. I'm slowly building up a library to make a podcast/mixtape of this kind of stuff in the future, and I'd love to get any tips on what to include.

rachel said...

wayne re: rhythmic music - yeah it just sort of put me off, because I just read the wikipedia article on hot97 (biggest nyc hh/rnb station), which also described it as a 'rhythmic music station'.

johan re: global RnB! thats an idea ive been thinking about a lot lately, esp as hh in general seems to becoming more 'the current expression of american pop', melded with rnb and techno than a niche / separate genre - something everyone's concerned reactions to Kanyes new album suggest to me. global rnb seems on the rise, there are a ton of new African RnB stars:

Zouk always struck me tho b/c clubs in the us dont really play rnb, but zouk is sort of separate from rnb in that its definitely a dance music, warping the idea of what people think of as African dance music, or what g-tech looks like / functions.

ill prolly do a post soon on my fav global 'rnb' chicas

rachel said...

oh btw wayne, that book is great, ive browsed parts of it before via google book search (yay) but its from 1993!! and there seems to be like ZERO other books / articles on zouk, at least that i can quickly find online..

Birdseed said...

Awesome! I'm looking forward to it.

"Rhythmic" in the case of radio stations is marketer's jargon for "black", I think. Part of the tradition of "race", "sepia" and indeed "rhythm & blues".

Birdseed said...

No wait, actually wikipedia claims it's a bit more complex than that.

Radio station formatting is a strange and elusive part of the music industry, I think.

mrzouk said...

Since zouk / kizomba music is still developing an audience in the mainstream music business. I tend to also call it "Tropical RnB" as a way to break down the barriers.
I've started a new blog on it.

james gyre... said...

more posts please, this blog is great!

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