Stream The Very Best co-founder DJ Tron's 45-minute exploration of 80s French Antillean zouk music in his 'Retro Zouk' mix.
Secousse Radio's DJ Tron, a co-founder of Radioclit/The Very Best, comes through with the 45-minute Retro Zouk mixtape, an exploration into the 1980s French-Antillean zouk style popularized by band's like Kassav (which was recently flipped to birth the underground zouk bass genre). DJ Tron explained his selections in detail to Okayafrica via e-mail:
"I grew up in France in the eighties, an era where certain zouk artists like Kassav, Francky Vincent and Zouk Machine were at the top of the charts. They still are very popular to this day, every single French person knows "Maldon" by Zouk Machine for instance. When you listen to the FM in France today, you can still hear their tunes being played regularly. Paris was definitely zouk city of adoption, it had many record shops, discotheques and radio stations dedicated to it and most of the big artists were based there."
"I was obsessed with hip hop as a teenager," DJ Tron adds, "I went to live in London for eight years for the love of grime and sound system culture, and I started digging heavily into African music more than a decade ago. It is only a few years ago, after relistening for the millionth time to the biggest zouk classic "Zouk-la-sé Sel Médikaman Nou Ni" by Kassav that I felt I should investigate properly with that sound of my youth. I had been playing that tune for a very long time in my DJ sets and there was a few times where Caribbean people would come to the booth to talk to me and ask me for tons of tunes that they were calling 'classics' and that I had no idea about. The more I started getting into other zouk records, thanks to youtube and French flea markets, the more I realized the quality of it. It had two main ingredients that were definitely missing in current dance music: proper musicianship and happy vibes."
"Today I consider zouk a massive influence on my approach to music. I think musicianship, learning how to play an instrument for real (and not just to record 20 seconds and make a loop), and major chords are probably what is gonna shape the sound of tomorrow's clubs. I think it is the message that Daft Punk also delivered with "Get Lucky" and the hiring of Nile Rodgers and so many other fantastic musicians. Which brings me to my last point: the meeting of zouk and disco. You can hear that vibe slightly surfacing sometimes in my mix, like in "Soleil" and "Lague Moin," and it's fantastic."
"Zouk is a ghost in Paris now," he concludes, "most clubs, record shops and radios [that played it] have closed long ago. Modern zouk still being made is not so good I feel. But I'm sure the wave could come back big time."
Stream DJ Tron's extensive excursion into Guadeloupe and Martinique's 1980s zouk style above in 'Retro Zouk.'