Archive for March, 2013

Dublin get ready, Zil’oka is coming!

Posted in Ziloka News with tags , , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by ziloka

Last year in November, Zil’oka was invited to perform at a Caribbean Cultural day in Dublin organised by the Caribbean association Ye Krik! It was a lot of fun, we played, danced, told stories and apparently you liked it because we have been re-invited by Ye Krik and the Alliance Francaise for another French Caribbean krik

We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with you Ines Khai and we cannot wait to show you what the “Indisciplines” of Zil’oka can do

We are of course working extra hard to deliver a fantastic show, high energy workshops and great children stories. We cannot wait to see you all on the 22nd and 23rd of March!

Lot’s of Love!


A Tribute to our Women, pillars of Tradition: Mrs. Marie-Victoire Persani a Danm Bèlè.

Posted in French West Indian Culture with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by ziloka

maloya_danseuse_03A danm Bèlè, or “lady of Bèlè”, is a creole expression that defines a female Bèlè dancer. This very respectful address indicates the reverence that La Rond Bèlè (the circle where Bèlè is played and danced) has for women. Graceful, creative and daring, the danm Bèlè plays a crucial role in La Rond. If she dances well, the drummer will follow her steps, the singer will comment on style, her partner is compelled to match her moves. A danm Bèlè is therefore an inspiration, primordial to the artistic creation in Bèlè. Among the women who have title is Mrs. Marie Victoire Persani.
Marie V 2

In January 1949, in Bezaudin, the same neighbourhood of Ste-Marie where Edouard Glissant grew up, was born Marie Victoire Persani from a notorious Bèlè family: the Persanis and the Caserus. She is indeed the younger sister of the celebrated Bèlè singer Ti Emile Caserus, and the daughter of the illustrious “Man St-Ange” a great Danm Bèlè whose style has impacted all Bèlè dancers from Ste Marie.

From age four, Marie Victoire was introduced to the Bèlè world by her mother. She had the opportunity to learn from the greatest singers, drummers and dancers such as Dulténor CASERUS, Emile LAPOSTE (who initiated her to the dance kalennda), Féfé MAROLANY, GALFETE and Michet MARCELLIN. With such illustrious teachers and models, Marie Victoire has developed a particular style where the technique Bèlè is supreme. Her steps are always well marked. She stomps the ground with force and precision. Her skirt is an extension of her person. Her style is succession of fluid moves and breaks, which make it unpredictable and very entertaining. She is really impressive, but instead of me going on and on about her technique, watch her in Edmond Mondesir’s “Manze Tala”, where she is the main dancer with the cornrows, and the pink skirt.

In addition to her talent as a dancer, Marie Victoire has also played a great role in perpetuating the Bèlè tradition in Martinique. In her earlier years, she was an active member of what I call the “Bèlè renaissance”. This was the time when the journalist and ethnologist Anca Bertand was promoting Bèlè on the local and International scene and when Martinique started to recognise this dance and musical genre as a legitimate cultural heritage. She was everywhere with her brother Ti Emile dancing and singing in various dance groups. In the late 1980’s she founded the group MATJOUKANN, a Bèlè reference that was active over a decade. She was also the owner of one of the most popular “kay Bèlè” (Bèlè house) of Ste Marie: “Anba Tol La”. Along with the “Pitt Caserus”, “Anba tol la” was a convivial place where men, women, children came to share the Bèlè experience. Very welcoming and pleasant she always had a nice word or treat for the children making everyone feel at home in La rond Bèlè and by doing so, planting the Bèlè seed in them.

Nowadays Marie Victoire is still very much active in the Bèlè world as she is a member of Coordination Lawonn bèlè, an association organising and promoting Bèlè and making sure that the tradition is transmitted to the next generation. A daughter, a sister, a mother, a Danm Bèlè, Mrs. Marie Victoire Persani is a true Pillar of our culture and we, at Zil’oka, we salute her.

Marie victoire

By Nathalie Montlouis

Zil’oka’s Workshop at the Queens Park Community School

Posted in Workshop with tags , , , , on March 9, 2013 by ziloka



Last year for Black History Month, we have been kindly invited by Queens Park Community School in order to deliver a talk/workshop on Gwoka and the cultural resilience of the African-Caribbean people.

We presented the 7 rhythms of Gwoka to the assembly and then gave a percussion workshop to a selected few.

We had a great time! Young people and teachers loved it as we celebrated this aspect of history.

If you want us to come to your school, do not hesitate to contact us at !






A tribute to our women, pillars of tradition: Mrs. Siméline Rangon, the Malfanm.

Posted in French West Indian Culture with tags , , , , , , on March 5, 2013 by ziloka

femme noireThe Creole word Malfanm usually defines a powerful and successful woman. If we look closely at the word, we can note the prefix mal, which could be translated by male and the root fanm, which means woman. It is therefore possible to say that a malfanm or a “malewoman” is someone who has managed to succeed in a male dominated arena, and this is exactly what Mrs.Siméline Rangon has done.

Musically speaking, Gwoka and Bèlè are largely male dominated genres. Traditionally, in la rond Bèlè (the circle in which Bèlè is danced and played) men are lead singers and tambouyés (drummers), while women are dancers or part of the repondè (chorus). If one has heard the names of Esnard Boisdur, Ti Emile, Vélo and Galfétè, few are the female names that have impacted the sound of Bèlè and Gwoka. However, even if they are few, these women do exist and for the International Women Month, Zil’oka has endeavoured to run a series of articles to celebrate these women, who have contributed to shape, sustain and pass on our cultural heritage. Controversial, witty and strong, meet our fellow women, our mothers, our sisters, our masters, our pillars of tradition.


Today, we will take you to Martinique where the voice of the late Siméline Rangon still lingers in the swaré Bèlè. Siméline Rangon, is the only woman to carry the title Master of Bèlè. Witty and creative, her songs are social commentaries, filled with double entendre, from which one could retrace, major historical events as well as local gossip. Along with her compositions, Siméline truly mastered the traditional repertoire and passed it on to us with a style unique to her.

Mrs Siméline Rangon was born in 1925 in Reculée, a very green neighbourhood of Ste Marie, Martinique. In spite of the fact that Bèlè and its practitioners had a very bad reputation at the time, (do check out our article on Bèlè here) Siméline’s family did not object to her heavy involvement in la rond bèlè. Indeed, although Siméline was a remarkable dancer, health problems prevented her from performing the physically demanding steps of Bèlè dance. Yet, Siméline did not give up and from age 12, she made her début in Bèlè solo singing.

As it was said earlier, women are not expected to be lead singers, and even nowadays, men still greatly outnumber women in this role. The functions in La rond Bèlè are still very much fixed by gender and some people, in this century, are still very much horrified to see women drummers. Therefore for a teenager circa 1930’s to have had the opportunity and the audacity to enter this circle as a lead singer-especially at a time where Bèlè was not regarded as a valuable aspect of the Martiniquan culture-is truly baffling. This says something about her character and the ever changing and accommodating nature of Bèlè.

If we know that she has succeeded in this path that she had chosen, her journey as a women lead singer and the challenges that she may have faced are unknown to us. We can call for the elders to revive their memory and tell us her story, but for now we will remain silent about her life and listen to her voice. What is certain and what we celebrate today is that Mrs. Siméline Rangon was a Malfan, a recognised singer, respected by both men and women. Her musical genius was  recognised at home and abroad while academics  compared her to an aoidos, the oral epic poets of ancient Greece. She has paved the way for the women singers of today and kept our tradition alive in her own unique way and  against all odds.

A friend, a wife, a sister and a Master of Bèlè, Mrs. Rangon has joined the ancestors on November 3rd 2008, but her legacy lives on. Man Sim, Zil’oka is very proud to open this series with you. Lonè èk rèspé.

by Nathalie Montlouis

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