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Title: Kassav  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ragga, Dancehall, Music of Martinique, Music of Guadeloupe, Music of France, List of Caribbean music genres, Music of Dominica, Soukous, Kaysha, Compas music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Origin Paris, France
Genres Zouk and Compas music band
Years active 1979–present
Labels GD Productions/Sonodisc, CBS, Warner France (distribution)
Members Jocelyne Béroard
Jacob Desvarieux
Jean-Philippe Marthély
Jean-Claude Naimro
Georges Décimus
Past members Patrick Saint Eloi (deceased)
Pierre Edouard Décimus
Claude Vamur

Kassav' (Antillean Creole for a local dish made from cassava root) is a Caribbean zouk and mostly compas music band formed in Paris in 1979. The core members of the band are Jocelyne Béroard, Jacob Desvarieux, Jean-Philippe Marthély, Patrick St. Eloi, Jean-Claude Naimro, Claude Vamur and Georges Décimus (who left to form Volte Face and returned). Kassav' have issued over 20 albums, with a further 12 solo albums by band members.


Kassav' was formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Décimus (former musicians from the Les Vikings de Guadeloupe) and Paris studio musician Jacob F. Desvarieux. Together and under the influence of well-known Dominican and Guadeloupean kadans or compas bands like Experience 7, Grammacks and Exile One, they decided to make Guadeloupean carnival music and record it in a more fully orchestrated yet modern and polished style. Kassav' created its own style by introducing an eleven-piece gwo ka unit and two lead singers, tambour, ti bwa, biguine, cadence-lypso: calypso and mostly cadence or compas with full use of the MIDI technology. In the 1980s they took Caribbean music to another level by recording in the new digital format.

Kassav, which music repertoire is 80% compas music, is considered the creator of the zouk style of its period appearance and style for the new era. At the time, before the birth of the group existed primarily as musical styles in Guadeloupe and Martinique:

  • The Gwo ka , traditional music of Guadeloupe, of which there are 7 versions (rhythmic).
  • The Bélé , traditional music from Martinique, of which there are 11 variants (rhythmic).
  • The Biguine, music of Martinique.
  • The Mazurka
  • The Cadence-lypso (Calypso and Cadence), Dominica cadence by Exile One with Gordon Henderson and also interpreted by groups such as Grammacks with Jeff Joseph as a senior member. Experience 7 was a Guadeloupean cadence band formed in the mid-1970s, led by Guy Houllier and Yves Honore.
  • or simply The Kadans, by local groups such as Les Aiglons (with the singers and Alain Pierre D'Alexis, Alexis Michel D'conductor valve trombone, tenor sax Michel Nerplat composer of their greatest success kuis The ) Typical Combo de Guadeloupe (with singers for the late Georges Plonquitte , Daniel DIMBAS Iver Abidos and most recently Marcel Rodrigue ...).
  • The Kompa, a modern Haitian meringue popularized by Nemours Jean-Baptiste in 1955 very popular across the French-speaking Antilles.

Kassav' was the leading band to emerge from the formative years of zouk; most authors credit Décimus, his brother Georges, the band's bassist and Desvarieux as its inventors. Their first album, Love and Ka Dance (1980), established the new sound of zouk, a Parisian concoction unlike anything else, island-based or otherwise to come onto the global scene. The band gained popularity in their much-heralded live performances in Paris's Club Zenith and toured widely. For a band ostensibly operating in a "narrowly focused" Caribbean dance-based new genre, their success and influence on other artists was remarkable, although they were most influenced by a veritable cornucopia, of other styles as noted above.

Kassav' continued to gain popularity both as a group and by several members' solo recordings, eventually peaking in 1985 with Yélélé, which featured the international hit "Zouk la sé sèl médikaman nou ni" (meaning "Zouk is the only medicine we have" in French Antillean Creole). With this hit song, zouk rapidly became a widespread dance craze in Latin America and the Caribbean, and was popular in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Zouk performers became known for wildly theatrical concerts featuring special effects, stage spectacles and colorful costumes. One important contribution of Kassav' in concert was the appearance of featured dancers on stage with the band; these dancers were in many ways as much a part of the band as any musician. Kassav' has been noted by its acolytes and aficionados as a dance band par excellence.

Among the strengths of Kassav' that helped lead to the group's success were and are its members' superior musicianship, songwriting and production skills, and worldwide audiences eager for lively dance music more sophisticated than the disco/techno-based styles that otherwise dominated dance music charts in that era. The especially gravelly singing voice of Desvarieux, Décimus's driving bass, Naimro's and Joseph's inventive keyboards and superior drum-machine-based and Vamur's solid jazzf-inflected live percussion, along with dance party-inspiring simple French-creole lyrics are among unique Kassav' "trademarks". During his tenure with Kassav', St. Eloi's soaring vocals were another unique ingredient, and the romantic vocals of Marthely and Naimro's as well as Béroard's very strong vocals, a plethora of fun songs, and significant guest appearances including by Stevie Wonder and others are important parts of the Kassav' mix.

They have appeared with Admiral T, a famous reggae dancehall singer, and many other popular artists. Singer-songwriter/keyboardist Jean-Claude Naimro also appeared with world beat artist Peter Gabriel. Lead vocalist Jocelyne Béroard has also had a number of successes both solo and as a guest with other artists, being the first woman artist in the Caribbean to win certain music awards; she continues to perform with Kassav' and as a solo artist.

Jocelyne Béroard's stunning "amateur" photography of natural scenes and people seen from her unique traveling-artist perspective's island-paradise visuals[1] could be cited among their songs' inspirations. The band's songs with a "political" edge or insinuation are typically double-entendre in the African-American and calypsonian traditions well known in Caribbean dance music from which the music of Kassav' evolved.

Kassav' released another CD in 2007: All U Need is Zouk to substantial acclaim with another successful world tour, so in addition to being the recognized progenitors of zouk nearly 30 years later the same musicians are still arguably its leading exponents.

Originally formed solely of Guadeloupean artists (Decimus, Desvarieux, St-Eloi), within a few years Kassav' also embraced band members of Martinican ancestry (Béroard, Naimro, Marthely); their music is an original danceable Caribbean French Creole mix that delved deep into synthesized sounds after exploring many acoustic timbres, with rhythms based fundamentally in a gwo ka (French Caribbean folkloric drumming/chanting) context, especially in earlier recordings. It has been suggested that their success was largely outside of the large U.S. music market due to a nearly total absence of English lyrics; instead, they use a very localized version of Créole Français unique to Guadeloupe and Martinique, very distinct from European French or even Haitian French Kreyòl. Their choice of language however did not limit their artistic vision, and it remains carnival-like and eminently danceable; the success of Kassav' is ongoing in the 2010s.



  • Keyboards: Philippe Joseph (1994–present)
  • Drums: Hervé Laval (2009–present)
  • Saxophones: Claude Pironneau (1999–present)
  • Trumpets:
    • Freddy Hovsepian (1982–present)
    • Fabrice Adam (1994–present)
  • Trombone: Hamid Belhocine (1982–present)
  • Backing vocals: Marie-Céline Chroné et Marie-Josée Gibon


  • Drums: Claude Vamur (Temporarily replaced by Hervé Laval, although Vamur did not leave the group)
  • Percussion: César Durcin
  • Saxophones: Claude Thirifays
  • Trumpets: Jean-Pierre Ramirez
  • Trombone: Claude Romano
  • Backing vocals: Catherine Laupa
  • Keyboards: Douglas M Bida
  • Bass: Frédéric Caracas, Guy n Sangué et Stéphane Castry
  • Vocals: Patrick Saint Eloi 1982 - 2002 (died 18 September 2010)[2]


  • Vocals: Zouk Machine, Jean Luc Guanel, Princess Lover, Tanya Saint Val, Shoubou, Philippe Lavil, Daly, Passi, Tony Chasseur, Jocelyne Labylle, Tribal Jam, Ralph Thamar.
  • Backing Vocals: Claudine Pennont, Suzy Trébeau, Sylvie Aïoun, Jean-Jacques Seba
  • Drums: Jean-Philippe Fanfant, José Zébina, Jérome Castry
  • Percussion: Dédé Saint Prix, Albert Vigne
  • Keyboards: Ronald Tulle, Thierry Vaton, Didier Davidas
  • Guitars: Thierry Delannay, Rico Loza, Jean Christophe Maillard
  • Saxophones: Allen Hoist, Alain Hatot, Bruno Ribeira



Studio albums
  • 1979 Love and kadance
  • 1980 Lagué mwen
  • 1981 Kassav n°3
  • 1982 George Décimus with Kassav' (joint album George Décimus / Kassav')
  • 1983 Kassav
  • 1983 Kassav n°5
  • 1983 Passeport
  • 1984 Ayé
  • 1985 An-ba-chen'n la (2x Gold)
  • 1987 Vini pou (Gold and Platinum)
  • 1989 Majestik Zouk (2x Gold)
  • 1992 Tékit izi (2x Gold)
  • 1995 Difé
Year Album Peak positions
1996 Cho 43
2000 Nou la 41
2004 K Toz 31
2007 All U Need Is Zouk 58
2013 Sonjé 32
Live albums
  • 1987 Kassav au Zenith
  • 1990 Le Grand Méchant Zouk
  • 1993 Live au Zénith
  • 1996 Kassav cho
  • 2005 Carnaval Tour 2005 (FR #124)
  • 2006 Le Grand Méchant Zouk
Compilation albums
  • 1987 Les Grand Succès de Kassav vol.1
  • 1987 Les Grand Succès de Kassav vol.2
  • 1998 Kassav Gold
  • 1998 Un toque latino
  • 1999 Le Meilleur de Kassav : Best of 20e anniversaire
  • 2002 Les Indispensables de Kassav
  • 2003 Légendes Kassav
  • 2006 Best of
  • 2006 Kassav: Les années sonodisc
  • 2009 Saga (3 CD with 53 remastered numbers and 4 unedited) (FR #45)
  • 2012 Le meilleur de Kassav' (FR #20)


(Selective, charting)

Year single Peak positions Album
1988 "Sye bwa" 19
"Solei" 40
1989 "Sé dam bonjou" 45
1990 "Wép wép" 44
"Ou lé" 43


  • 1999 Les 20 ans de KASSAV à Bercy
  • 2005 Carnaval tour
  • 2006 Le grand méchant zouk
  • 2008 All u need is zouk tour
  • 2009 Nuit créole les 30 ans de KASSAV au Stade de France

Discography (members)

Year Album / EP Credited to
1982 Oh Madiana EP Patrick Saint-Éloi
Misik Ce Lanmou
1983 La Vie EP George Décimus
Banzawa Jacob Desvarieux
Ti Coq Jean Philippe Marthély
1984 À la demande Patrick Saint-Éloi
Yélélé Jacob Desvarieux & George Décimus
1985 Touloulou Jean Philippe Marthély
En Balatè Jean-Claude Naimro
Bizness Jean Philippe Marthély & Patrick Saint-Éloi
1986 Gorée Jacob Desvarieux & George Décimus
Siwo Jocelyne Béroard
Milans Jocelyne Béroard
1992 Bizouk Patrick Saint-Éloi
1994 Zoukamine Patrick Saint-Éloi
1996 Marthéloi Jean Philippe Marthély & Patrick Saint-Éloi
1997 Digital dreads Jean-Claude Naimro
1998 Lovtans Patrick Saint-Éloi
O péyi Jean Philippe Marthély
1999 Euphrasine Blues Jacob Desvarieux
A l'Olympia Patrick Saint-Éloi
Délikatès Jean-Claude Naimro
2002 Live en Martinique Jean Philippe Marthély
2003 Madousinay Jocelyne Béroard
2006 Koulè lanmou Jean Philippe Marthély
2008 Kolo ka Claude Vamur
Joint with others
  • 2006 Partie pour zouker (Lorie & Jacob Desvarieux)
  • 2007 Fòs a péyi la (Admiral T, Jacob Desvarieux & Jocelyne Beroard)


External links

  • Official Website
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