The Guadeloupe Islands
Guadeloupeans are unabashedly proud of their African roots, taking pains to preserve that heritage alongside their French nationality. You'll see it in the Creole cuisine, in the lively, colorful markets, in the former sugar plantations turned distilleries, and at museums like the Memorial ACTe, which commemorates the slave trade and Guadeloupe’s tortured history. You will also hear it in the local French Creole language, although French is the official tongue. But more than anywhere else, you will feel the African soul of Guadeloupe in its music. The primary folkloric tradition is gwo-ka (big drum), a high-energy drumming, chanting, and dancing that was born during slavery. A pillar of Guadeloupe’s heritage, gwo-ka (also spelled gwo ka and gwoka) is recognized by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Gwo-ka drummers come out at night on the beaches and will play in the streets on market days, among other occasions. You’ll also hear gwo-ka fused with other music played in the clubs of Pointe-à-Pitre. The other dominant genre of musical expression is zouk, a rapid-tempo, carnival-type beat popularized in the 1980s by internationally acclaimed band Kassav’. Their first hit, Zouk La Sé Sèl Médikaman Nou Ni (which means "zouk is our medicine") took over the charts worldwide in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and even Asia. It's no exaggeration to say that people often travel to Guadeloupe because of its zouk fame. You can listen and dance to live music at multiple nightlife and restaurant venues, the most popular of which are in Pointe-à-Pitre and Gosier on Grande-Terre. For the most raucous cultural celebration, visit Guadeloupe during Carnival, with celebrations kicking off in January.