Archive for the French West Indian Culture Category

JOUNÉ Kréyòl

Posted in Creole Language, French West Indian Culture, Workshop, Ziloka News with tags , , , , , , , on September 16, 2016 by ziloka


Hi All,

The Black History month is already next month and as always Zil’OKA wants to bring an event for you, your family and friends to make this day a memorable day.

Zil’OKA would like to invite on :

——-1PM TO 11PM——-
Tulse Hill Estate

A day of creole culture with diverse activities:

– Dance gwoka workshop
– Children activities: introduction to creole with storytelling
– Traditional games
– Creole dictation
– Caribbean quizz
– Domino game
– Artist performances
– Retro zouk party

>>>>>>>>>>>>>> GUEST ARTISTS <<<<<<<<<<<<<

– Ines Khai (Creole Soul)
– S.Rise (Reggae/Hip hop)
– Ka Fraternite (Gwoka music)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>> EXHIBITORS <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<


Come along for an amazing day of celebration around Creole culture! This is a family friendly event.

£5 : Entry
£12 : Entry+Meal+Drinks
£12 : Entry+Workshop (advanced booking required)
Children under 12 go Free

The event is ready to share on facebook (do not forget to click your intention)



4 questions to Ralph Richer, Zil’oKA’s Project Manager

Posted in French West Indian Culture, Ziloka News with tags , , , on November 26, 2013 by ziloka


Ahead of our Christmas Party/Chanté Nwèl on the 14th of December, we spent a bit of time with Zil’oKA’s member/musician but also Project Manager Ralph. Good occasion for us to ask him about the Chanté Nwèl preparation…

Zil’oKA: Hi Ralph, can you quickly introduce yourself?
Ralph: My name is Ralph Richer, I am from Le Vauclin in Martinique. Before I moved to the UK in 2000, I studied 3 years in Guadeloupe and that’s where I first discovered Gwoka. That’s about it, really.

Zil’oKA: Can you tell us why joined Ziloka?
Ralph: Since I arrived in the UK, I was always looking for opportunities to drum. I frequently played along side DJs in Clubs, Bars and private parties but mainly on House music. I joined Zil’oka in 2010 because It made a lot more sense to me. Being with Zil’oka gives me a chance to share with the world my love for my roots and my passion for Carribean traditional music and dance.

Zil’oKA: How are the Chanté Nwèl preparation going?
Ralph: Great! It is shaping up to be our best Chanté Nwel to date. People have already started booking their tickets for the Gwoka dance workshop. I’m so excited, I can’t wait to share the patés, cakes and pain au beurre chocolat with everyone!

Zil’oKA: Tell us why we should attend the Chanté Nwèl?
Ralph: To me Ziloka is a big family! When we host an event we do it the Caribbean way, meaning a warm welcome, plenty of food and rum to go around, engaging activities including dance workshop, domino games and story telling for the young ones and last but not least mesmerizing songs and rhythms which I guarantee will keep you swinging days after the event!

For more information about the Christmas Party, click here

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

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

8th of December Chanté Nwèl Venue Update

Posted in French West Indian Culture, Ziloka News with tags , , , , on December 6, 2012 by ziloka

Chanté nwèl_new

Hello Beautiful celebrating people!

Fear not, BsB and Zil’Oka are still hosting a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Chanté Nwèl this Saturday 8th of December with traditional Caribbean Christmas delicacies*!
However we have had to unexpectedly change the venue (the joys of event organisation).

So please note that the Chanté Nwèl will take place at:
Island art Studio 290 Milkwood Road, London, Greater London SE24 0E.
Closest station Herne Hill or Brixton
Buses: 3, 196, 37, 68, 201, 322, 468

The programme is still spicy and juicy. Just note that we will now start at 5pm so you have ample time to get there!

5h00-6h15: Children Activities: storytelling, games and initiation to Gwoka percussions.
6: 15-6h30: Secret Santa gift presentation**
6h30-7h30: Gwoka dance workshop £5
7:30-8:30: Chanté Nwèl PART 1
8h30-9h00: Raffle (do get your tickets!!)
9h00 10h15: Chanté Nwèl PART 2
10h15-11h00: mini party

We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this last minute change of venue. Do spread the word so we can all have fun together!

*Characteristic Caribbean Christmas treats will be available to purchase.
**Parents are advised to bring a small gift to be exchanged at the secret Santa gift presentation

Gramatikal a Léwoz: Codes and protocol within Gwoka

Posted in French West Indian Culture with tags , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by ziloka

July is usually a very eventful month in the Gwoka world. It is indeed the month when the Gwoka Festival invades the streets, the beaches and the air of the little town of Sainte-Anne in Guadeloupe. This year, the festival was a very interesting mix between conferences, debates, dance and music. Zil’oka was there, of course, and eager to share the experience with you.

Amongst all the festivities, the pic-nique at the Geoffroys was of particular interest to us. it was indeed a great occasion for Zil’oka to get an update on the ongoing procedure to inscribe Gwoka on the UNESCO ‘s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This endeavour, initiated by the association Rèpriz, Centre for Traditional and Popular Music and Dances, sparked a great controversy, as many did not understand or see the benefits of such a step. However, after one year of debates, idea-sharing and hard work, the application has finally been completed and sent to the UNESCO on March 26th 2012.

This is great news. This Guadeloupian “Matrimony” is being protected and regarded as a precious heritage to be passed on to the generations to come. We are now far from the days when “respectable” members of the community could not perform Gwoka. This change of attitude has been recorded by Marie-Helena Laumuno, who on that day launched her book Et le gwoka s’est enraciné en Guadeloupe (And Gwoka has been rooted in Guadeloupe).

The current concern is now to device appropriate methods to transmit the Gwoka protocol. It was argued that if Gwoka had undeniably become popular and was attracting people from various social, economical and ethnic backgrounds, many schools were failing to teach the “gramatikal a Lewoz”, which is the structure, the codes, the meaning of Gwoka. In the video below, Mr. Dorville is explaining what is meant by the expression Gramatikal a lewoz.

The inscription of Gwoka on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity could be a very good way to preserve and pass on these codes to the generations to come. We are not saying that these codes are the beginning and the end of Gwoka; we are just suggesting that the gramatikal a lewoz must be used as a platform for one’s creativity, imagination and self-expression in Gwoka. At Zil’oka, we are committed to it.

Zil’oKA is now an association: celebrating our ancestors!

Posted in French West Indian Culture, Ziloka News with tags , , , , , on June 3, 2012 by ziloka

Zil’oKA is definitely moving forwards and many changes and new trials are coming ahead.

It started with the constitution of Zil’oKA as an association last month, followed by the first election for the committee which saw Hervé Despois elected President. He will be helped along in his task by Jessy Mullings (Vice-President), Nathalie Montlouis (Secretary), Gaël Couppé de K Martin (Treasurer) and a host of other members taking various other positions in support of Zil’oKA’s growing ambitions.

As we prepare to bid farewell to Zil’oKA’s previous manager, Yamide Dagnet, as her professional life is taking her over the pond for a while, our eyes are set firmly on the horizon with various projects. They include the Greenwich Dance Festival at Eltham Palace on the 1st of July, a trip to visit our Irish counterparts, thanks to the Caribbean association Yékrik and the Gwoka Festival in Guadeloupe in July 2013.

We invited our friends and supporters on the 26th of May to present our vision for our association and had a wonderful time surrounded by all the lovely people who came to support us, dance, sing, play music with us, look to the future and commemorate the past as we were also celebrating the abolition of slavery in the French colonies.

We are fully aware of our mission and of the challenges that are now facing us, particularly the raising of serious funds to help us accept our invitation to Guadeloupe next Summer, but we know that we can count on all our friends to help us along the way.

Many thanks for you support!

Written by Jessy Mullings
Pictures Manu Louisor

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