Zouk is a Creole word for “Party”. It's a style of music and dance which is developed on the island of Dominica as well as the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The dance has stylistic origins in everything Antillean and much, much more. The music includes elements of Haitian compas, kompa, and kadans, Cadence music from Dominica, Caribbean disco, African rhythms, and Pop music from France and the United States.
The sound of Zouk is hard to describe on paper, but contains a rhythmically and melodically dense mixture of brass instruments, tribal African drumming, electronic synthesizers, and rich vocal harmonies.
The style started in Paris during the 1980’s and by the 1990’s was extremely popular in all of France, Quebec, Brazil, African francophone countries, and throughout Europe.
This dance got its official start in 1979 with the formation of its biggest proponent, the band Kassav. This band was started by Pierre-Edouard Decimus and featured Jacob Desvarieux, Georges Decimus, Jocelyne Beroard, Jean-Philippe Marthely, Jean-Claude Naimro, Claude Vamur, and Patrick St. Eloi.
Kassav performed and recorded their unique blend of kompa, salsa, funk, calypso, and reggae in Paris, spreading their music through Europe.
Kassav’s biggest hit was "Zouk la se sèl médikaman nou ni" featured on their 1979 debut album “Love and Ka Dance”. Kassav last recorded an album in 1985 with “Yelele”.
Other Zouk artists include Zouk Machine, Jocelyne Labylle, Levitasyon, Kaoma, Suzanna Lubrano, and Oliver N'Goma. These groups and musicians were known for wild concerts that featured light displays and various special effects.
Zouk has also spawned many offshoots including the much slower Zouk Love. Musicians in this genre include Alan Cavé, Ayenn, Daan Junior, Edith Lefel, Philipe Monteiro, Suzanna Lubrano, and Gil Semedo.
The styles of dance which accompany Zouk, are about as geographically and stylistically diverse as the music itself.
Caribbean Zouk is based on meringue and primarily danced in Haiti, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, and Martinique. Brazilian Zouk
Brazilian Zouk is a sensual couple’s dance based on the lambada, is characterized by moves initiated by the hips, shoulders, and legs and can be danced to R&B and rock and roll played over Zouk beats. This style is popular in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and throughout Europe.
Other styles include Neozouk, Soulzouk, Lambazouk, Spanish Lambazouk, and Zouk-Revolution.