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Begin The Beguine... Roots of Calypso, Compas and Zouk

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Sound Travels to Martinique and Guadaloupe all week to find the roots of the Antillean and to a certain degree, Caribbean music. The style has a name: biguine, and it is pretty much the common denominator of music from the Lesser Antilles and particularly the French Antilles. Rhythm-centric, it began in Martinique in the 19th century. Born in fields worked by Africans and is another example of how fresh music becomes when cultures come into contact.

It became globally known when Cole Porter wrote one of his most famous songs Begin the Beguine in 1935 - a pun in the title, and not at all a biguine song. The style's real fame is that it is the predecessor of numerous modern Caribbean musical styles such as calypso, compas, zouk, Dominican merengue and many others.

Yesterday, we heard some examples of the drum beguine, which as you heard, is centered around a main drum and several sycophants in poly-rhythmic bliss. Today however, it was all orchestral beguine, which adds Western instrumentation drawing from the big band sound that was paradigmatic in the early part of this century when beguine was born. Dope stuff!

Looking to get into that early Antillean vibe? Your caribbean party needs the impressive comp on Soundway Records called TUMBÉLÉ! Biguine, afro & latin sounds from the French Caribbean, 1963-74, you won't be disappointed and you can find many of the songs on this comp in what I played for y'all today.


Robert Mavounsy Quartet "Henri Te Vle Maye"


L'orchestre Jeunesse De Paul Emile-Haliare "La Vie Critique"


Mist Lof & Barel Coppet "Jeunesse Vauclin"


Ensemble Perfecta "Jojo"


Orchestre Combo Zombi "Mussieu A Tet'a Poisson La"


Lola Martin "Edamise Oh!"