Archive for guadeloupe

A Weekend to Remember: celebrating the resilience of our ancestors 25th of May 2013

Posted in Ziloka News with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2013 by ziloka


Hello friends!

Zil’oka is very proud to invite you to our series of events that we are organising to commemorate the abolition of slavery. Come and celebrate with us, we can guaranty you that this will be a weekend to remember.

We will celebrate, sing, dance, drink, eat and tell you stories. Stories about our ancestors so you can understand and appreciate why/how we are here.
We will also have fun – Lots of fun actually. Please see the updated program we have put together for you below:

Saturday 25th of May
This will be the main event of the weekend! Not to be missed out! 10 mins walk from Brixton Station!
Some yummy appetisers & nibbles on sale: French Caribbean patties…and traditional hot chocolate & bread.

Address: Brixton Community Base
Brixton St Vincent’s Community Centre
Talma Road
London SW2 1AS
Closest Train Station: Brixton (Victoria Line) or Herne Hill.

2pm – 2.30pm: Creole dictation, ‘dikté kréyol’
2.30 – 3.30pm: Caribbean Quizz – How well do you know the Caribbean history, geography
3.30pm – 4pm: Break – Prize for winners
4.15pm – 5pm: Ziloka Story telling – The Story of the slave Romain
5.15pm – 6.15pm: Gwoka Dance Workshop – Liberation Dance with Sarah (£5 on the day)
You can book your place for the workshop online for £4
6.30pm – 7.15pm: Singing & Dancing with Zil’oKA
7.15pm – 7.30pm: Networking
7.30pm: End of the Event.

Sunday 26th of May
We will gather in Brockwell Park from 1pm for a lazy Sunday…but we will always have our drums, of course!
Please bring your own food as we will share with each other.
On that day, you will be able to buy traditional French caribbean Sorbet au coco (Coconut Ice Cream) and play belotte & Dominos!

In the Park! We will be close to the Brockwell Lido building!
Norwood Road
London SE24 0PA

Monday 27th of May
On the Monday Bank Holiday, we have planned to gather in Southbank from 2pm to play and dance!
We will then perform the Liberation Dance learnt on the 25th of May during the workshop.
Dress Code: All in white!

We would like to thank our partner London Macadam for supporting & promoting the event ‘the Weekend to Remember’!

See you all there!


Zil’oka is recruiting !!

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

Zil’oKA is looking for musicians to play the boula drum, the chacha and other light percussions.

About the Boula drum:

Gwoka is much more than just a dance and every single element of the circle, music+voice+dance is essential. The Boula drum is responsible for keeping the rhythm. In Gwoka, we have 7 main rhythms which carry 7 different emotions. Without the rhythm, the singer cannot sing and the dancer cannot dance.

Role description:

You will be in charge of playing the boula with our team of musicians.

you may be required to play the chacha and other light percussions.

You will have the opportunity to take part to the various Zil’oka performances.

Herve Despois, Zil'OKa drummer in action on the South Banks


To keep the circle going in London, we need committed people.

-Interest in Gwoka and French Caribbean culture Essential.

-Availability on Sundays Essential.

– must be 18 or have a parental authorisation.

-No experience needed. We just want dedication and a willingness to learn.

-We welcome men and women! We also welcome people from any ethnic background, Zil’oka only cares about your willingness to learn and play!

Have a look at a  Boula drummer,  involved in the song…really really involved ( ok you do not have to be so passionate, but  this is just to give you an idea)



You will be part of the only French Caribbean band of the UK.

You will meet amazing people.

You’ll have the opportunity to travel.

Gwoka is a fantastic way to stay fit.

Your creativity is welcome.

We have a lot of fun.

You can bring your children in rehearsal (they can play too!)

We have great costumes!


This is not a paid position, Zil’oka is a non for profit organisation. if you are interested, send us an email on

Come, join the circle!


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.

The Chanté Nwel Tradition in the French Speaking Caribbean: the Spirit of Togetherness

Posted in French West Indian Culture with tags , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2011 by ziloka

If for many of us in the UK, Christmas is synonymous with a roasted turkey and all its trimmings, public transport disruptions, presents and overdrafts, in the French speaking Caribbean, Christmas is decidedly the celebration of life.

I say celebration of life because if one goes back at the beginning of the 20th century (I am not an historian, I can only tell you what my grand-mother told me), Christmas was not about presents but about the pleasure of being together as family, as a community. Indeed, a majority of the Martiniquan population at that time came from very modest and rural milieu. Very often, one did not have the means to buy presents for children. What was generally longed for and expected, was the Chanté Nwel.

From the 1900’s to the 1960’s (roughly), the Chanté Nwel, particularly in the rural areas, consisted in groups of revellers with music instruments such as drums, chacha, ti-bwa and even accordions. These musicians would go from house to house, in a similar fashion with the Jamaican Burru players (Reckord, 1998, 234), singing French Christmas Carols arranged in a Caribbean style. They were experts of the tradition as they knew what song were suitable for l’avent, period covering a few weeks before Christmas, and what ought to be sung on Christmas day. For instance, my grand-mother always told me that the song Minuit Chrétiens had to be sung at midnight on Christmas day.

If a family desired to keep the musicians in their house for the night or for a while, they would give them rum, Christmas fruit liquors and Christmas delicacies such as paté cochon (pork patties), sorrel syrup or ham. When all these offering were consumed, the revellers would go to another hospitable house. These families did not have much, but they really strived to prepare food and drink for everyone to share. One usually took great pride to have been able to host a Chanté Nwel. These festivities would go on for the entire night, strengthening the connections between the family and the community.

With the urbanisation of Martinique, this form of Chanté Nwel has disappeared. I believe that the tradition would have totally died out if it had not been for elders such as Mano Loutoby and Loulou Boislaville. In the 1980’s, the young journalist Mano Loutoby experienced a Christmas Parang in Trinidad. Parang is the Trinidadian Christmas tradition product of the Amerindian, African and Venezuelian influences of Trinidad. In the small community of Paramin, the “house to house” parang format was still practiced, impacting greatly on Mano. Back in Martinique, he endeavoured to revive the Chanté Nwel tradition. He came up with the Mano Noël concept which could be regarded as a Christmas caravan. Mano, with his friend Loulou boislaville (notorious talented musician, beacon of the traditional music) would go from village to village attracting throngs of people. The villagers would come with their cantiques (carol book) and sing along with the band. The leader would shout beforehand the page on which the song was to be found keeping everyone on board. The ritournelles (saucy chorus added to the religious songs, usually commenting on local gossips) , the rum and Christmas delicacies were not forgotten, creating a convivial and informal atmosphere.

Mano Noel caravan have unfortunately stopped, but the tradition has not died as groups such as Mazincoin, Ravine Plate, Cantique des Mornes have taken up the tradition. If their compositions are arguably mostly profane and commercial, the spirit of togetherness is preserved as French Caribbeans still gather, wherever they are, with their cantiques to celebrate the Nativity.

Enjoy this Chanté Nwel 2011!

By Nathalie Montlouis

Work cited:
Reckord,V. (1998). From Burru Drums to Reggae Ridims. In N.S., Murrel, A. M., Wiliam.D., Spencer (EDs). Chanting Down Babylon. (231-253). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Learn more about Mano Noel on the website :

AEROKA WEEKLY Sunday Adult Classes

Posted in Kiltika, Ziloka News with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by ziloka

KILITIKA is very pleased to announce the launch of their Weekly Get Fit Through GwoKa Dance Technique classes.

If you want to be transported somewhere exotic but only have a few hours of spare time on Sundays then come and join us for a bit of FUN and REWARDING time every Sunday from 18:00-19:00 at the Brockwell Lido, Brockwell, BrixtonLondon

During this 1-hour weekly session you will be able to enjoy a full work out and GwoKa*dance routine.
*GwoKa* is a vibrant traditional music & dance from Guadeloupe. As such classes will include
-a bit of traditional singing
-lots of dance
-tribute to ours masters
-live music

To find out more please check our 5-What’s On page

Kréyol Day 2009! Ziloka will be there!

Posted in Ziloka News with tags , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2009 by ziloka

Kreyol Day 2009 Flyer front

This is the kind of event you just can’t miss: The Kréyol Day 2009 will take place on the 27th of september at the Conway Hall 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL from 12 to 9 pm.

The event, hosted by the French Caribbean Association MBMB will gather the Creole community (Haiti, French West Indies, Reunion, Mayotte, Cap Verde…) around tasty food, lovely music and live performances along with a large number of stalls.

Ziloka will be there to bring traditional music and costumes from Guadeloupe and Martinique.
This is not to be missed!

For more information, feel free to check the MBMB website or to contact us through our contact page

Roots of Guadeloupe Culture: Gwoka!

Posted in French West Indian Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2009 by ziloka


Speaking about gwo ka is speaking about the soul of Guadeloupe, its personality, its originality. It is both a musical expression, which was born in the suffering of slavery, which was prohibited, repressed, “marooned”, but which also resisted to accompany its people in its destiny, like its language, creole. Gwo ka is also a “reason of being, walking, talking, dancing” and also convey a sense of spirituality.

Gwoka is a music born in Guadeloupe during the dark period of slavery. Created from African rythem, it has geniously developed seven fondamental rythms.

– Toumblak
– Graj
– Mendé
– Woulé
– Granjanbèl or Pajambèl
– Kaladja
– Léwòz


The instruments

Gwo ka is played ideally with at least 3 “Ka”: 2 “boula” and 1 “makè” both having more or less the same size. A “Ka” can be described as being made of:
– 1 baril called “bouko” in créole language
– 1 goat skin (po a kabrit) male for the “boula” et female for the “makè”.
– 2 “sèk” to maintain the ropes
– 2 “klé” to squeeze all
– the rope called zoban.

The calabash, called “chacha”(emptied, dried then filled with grains) often accompany the “Ka”, more than the “tibwa”.

Rythms and dances of gwoka

Gwoka takes its origin essentially from African dances (Congo dance, snake dance) and evolved giving predominance to soloist or couple dances, as was the “Kalenda”.

Gwoka is the union of music dance and spirit, a trilogy of sounds: two low-pitch and one high-pitch:
– The two boula as the base of the seven musical environment of gwoka
– The “Makè”, unique is placed at the centre to follow, feel, discuss, whisper and mark any of the dancer’s gesture, matching the rhythm and energy of the dancers, becoming their shadow, and establishing a real dialogue between the sound and the gestures.


The rhythms of Gwoka were further elaborated over the years. It is made of 7 basic rhythms, which correspond to 7 ways of singing and dancing, such as:
The Tumblak: (most famous), which is the dance of love, fertility and joy, and suggestive postures. It become “Tumblak chiré” when the rhythm is accelerated.
– The Graj: dance initially associated to work, evoking the different phases of the making of the manioc flour. It is similar to the Tumblack, but slower and more accentuated. It is used by woman dancers as a seductive dance. Unlike the Tumblack, the “repriz” is marked three times.
– The Mendé: this is the rhythm and dance associated to the carnival. It symbolize the collective evasion, incite to the walking pace of demonstration/defile.
– The Woulé: the only rhythm on 3 times. It is a kind of airy valse, also called “balloon” (Balon), and was in the past danced with a foulard. This is also associated to work.
– The “Granjanbel” or “Padjanbel: originally associated to the work in the plantation, it has become the dance for the warriors.
– The Kaladja: Slow rhythm; express pain, reflection, sorrow. It can also been danced as a “couple dance”.
– The Léwòz: the more complex and difficult rhythm to play. It is a dance for incantation, and originated the rebellion in of the XVIIIth century. There are two type of Léwoz, one of them is the “Léwòz indestwas”. .

Generally, in gwoka you could find two types of dance: dance for entertainment such as (such as Tumblak, Tumblak chiré, Léwoz, Mendé, Woulé, Granjanble, Kaladja) martial dances (Mayolé, Sové-vayan, Chatoux, Koévalin, Bènaden). Each is accompanied by gwoka ensemble and call-and-response singing.


There are other rythms in gwoka than the traditional seven basic and martial ones. They include: Sobo, the 6/8, the Takout, the Grap a Konngo, and the “Command” Lewoz (Léwòz au commandement ) where a leader would command the dancers as done for the quadrille.

The rhythm Léwòz should not be confused with the Swaré- Léwòz, where people join in a space (generally a circle) of expression mixing fascination, improvisation. The Swaré- Léwòz is formed of:
– a vocal space dedicated to the choral (chantè and repondè), story tellers,
– a space dedicated to the sound with the musicians called tambouyè
– a space for the body, for the dancer (dansè)
– a space defining the relationship and energy
– a convivial space where spicy meals, rum give you the strength to pursue the party (la ronde) until the sunrise.

Furthermore, gwoka is also embedded in funeral wakes with two contrasting traditions. Outside the house, men perform bouladjèl (mouth drum), a call-and-response, competitive percussive vocalization. Song leaders shift frequently as singers challenge one another. Inside, women sing kantikamò (French cantiques à la mort), also in call-and-response form. The men arrive on their own and support the mourners; the women are invited, and their songs dedicated to the dead and the spiritual world.