|Cultural origins||Saint-Pierre, Martinique|
|Derivative forms||Biguine vidé|
|Music of Martinique|
|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
|National anthem||La Marseillaise|
Biguine is a rhythm-centric style of music that originated from Saint-Pierre, Martinique in the 19th century. It fuses Bèlè and 19th-century French ballroom dance steps with African rhythms.
Two main types of French antillean biguine can be identified based on the instrumentation in contemporary musical practice, called the drum biguine and the orchestrated biguine. Each of these refers to characteristics of a specific origin. The drum biguine, or bidgin bèlè in Creole, comes from a series of bèlè dances performed since early colonial times by the slaves who inhabited the great sugar plantations. Musically, the bidgin bèlè can be distinguished from the orchestrated biguine in the following ways: its instrumentation (cylindrical single-membraned drum (bèlè) and the rhythm sticks (tibwa); the call-and-response singing style; the soloist's improvisation, and the nasal voice quality. According to a study by Rosemain (1988), the biguine figured in fertility rituals practiced in West Africa, but its ritual significance has since disappeared in Martinique.
Bidgin bèlè originates in slave bèlè dances and is characterized by the use of bèlè drums and tibwa rhythm sticks, along with call and response, nasal vocals and improvised instrumental solos. It has its roots in West African dances.
The bèlè is also the name of medium size tambour drum. Players sit astride the drum. It is characterized, in its rhythm, by the "tibwa" (two wooden sticks) played either on a length of bamboo mounted on a stand or on the sides of the tambour bèlè. Added to the tambour bèlè and tibwa are the maracas, more commonly referred to as the chacha. The cinquillo is beat out by the tibwa, but it translates very well to the chacha when the rhythms are applied for playing biguine. The tibwa rhythm plays a basic pattern and the drum comes to mark the highlights and introduce percussion improvisations.
By combining the traditional bèlè music with the European dance genres, the black musicians of Martinique created the biguine, which comprises three distinct styles:
- the biguine de salon
- the biguine de bal
- the biguine de rue.
In the 1930s several biguine artists from Martinique and Guadeloupe moved to France, where they achieved great popularity in Paris, especially in the wake of the colonial exhibition in 1931. Early stars like Alexandre Stellio and Sam Castandet became popular in Paris. Between the 1930s and 1950s, the dance biguine was popular among the islands' dance orchestras. Its popularity abroad died relatively quickly, but it lasted as a major force in popular music in Martinique and Guadeloupe until Haitian Kompas took over in the 1950s. In the later part of the 20th century, biguine musicians like clarinet virtuoso Michel Godzom helped revolutionize the genre.
Evolution of biguine
The biguine's evolution can be traced in zouk through the bass drum, the maracas rhythmic pattern played on the hi-hat/cymbals and the tibwa rim shot on the rim of the snare drum, which is identical to the bidgin bèlè. The signature sound of the biguine is the interplay between the clarinet and trombone, both solo and as a duet, which can still be heard today throughout Antilles music, from the most traditional forms like cadence or the pop sounds of today's zouk.
Biguine vidé is an up tempo version of the biguine rhythm (tambour and tibwa), combining other carnival elements. It is a form of participatory music from Guadeloupe and Martinique, with the bandleader singing a verse and the audience responding. Modern instrumentation includes a variety of improvised drums made from containers of all kinds, plastic plumbing, bells, tanbou débonda, chacha bèlè, tibwa and bèlè drums.
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