Zouk is a fast jump up carnival beat style of rhythmic music originating from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, popularized by the French Antilles Kassav' in the 1980s. Too fast, the style lost ground in the 80's due to the strong presence of kadans or compas, the main music of the French Antilles. Today, zouk is the French Antilles compas music, also called zouk-love.
Elements of gwo ka, tambour bélé, ti bwa and biguine vide, including the full use of the MIDI synthesizer and sampling technology, are prominent in zouk.
The word zouk means "party" or "festival" in the local Antillean Creole of French, although the word originally referred to, and is still used to refer to, a popular dance, based on the Polish dance, the mazurka (mazouk), that was introduced to the French Caribbean in the 19th century.
Actually the Creole word zouke, sekwe, zouke, etc. from the French verb "secouer" meaning "shake intensely and repeatedly" was used by Haitian artists who toured the French Antilles during the late 1970s and 1980s.
Zouk was a brief experiment; an attempt to develop a proper local music that would lessen or even eradicate the méringue-kadans or compas influence from the French Antilles. When the MIDI technology came out, Kassav' used it fully creating new sound in both their fast zouk béton and kompa. The Antilleans were all over with zouk, but as other bands from the Caribbean and Africa added the MIDI technology to their music people got use to it. Because it was a jump up beat the fast zouk béton faded away; and Antilleans would continue to play and dance méringue-cadence or compas. After all French Antilleans and Dominicans are important players of the méringue-compas or cadence style. However, the problem is the fact that musicians from Martinique and Guadeloupe have calculatedly labeled compas as zouk in order to stay in the game; creating a big confusion in Africa, Cabo Verde, Angola, Brazil, Portugal and other places. French Antilles Kassav', the originator of the zouk béton is a compas band that has taken kompa to many places.
^Peter Manuel, Musics of the Non-Western World, Chicago press University 1988p74
^Skah Sha and Magnum band were among the first Haitian music groups to use the word souke/zouke in the French Antilles. Magnum band, which toured the Caribbean countless times has once spent two years in Martinique and Guadeloupe. The band leader, superb guitar player Dadou Pasket popularized the word zouke in many live tunes; especially in the album "La seule difference, Ibo Records, 1981, in the song "pike devan" meaning full speed ahead. During the same year "Les Skah sha #1 that frequently toured the French Antilles featured a nice LP album called "This is it" Produced by Mini Records, July 1981. Zouke is the second tune's title