Interview: Tuning into Zouk Machine ahead of globalFEST 2019

The 16th edition of globalFEST is scheduled to take place on January 6th 2019 at the historic Copacabana in Times Square, New York. This global celebration of music and arts seeking to highlight contemporary traditions and budding innovation in the world of music is great way to kick off the new year. With four stages and dozens of acts, ranging from alternative blues aficionados to funk bass stars, it is bound to be rich celebration of alternative music.

Zouk Machine, the grande dame of French-Antillean Zouk will be performing at globalFEST 2019. This legendary act will be making a huge comeback next year with the show as they bring back the grooves and vibes that led them to international critical acclaim in the late 1980’s. The all-female Guadeloupian band specializes in French-Antillean Zouk and will be bringing back the best of their sound which is a fusion of 80s pop, Latin and Caribbean and the best of folk rhythms from Guadalupe.

Great friend of DANDANO, Sally Vusi spoke to Christiane Obydol, one of the founders of the band ahead of this historic appearance at the festival in a few weeks:

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Christiane Obydol of Zouk Machine

DANDANO: You are re-emerging into a music industry that has changed in significant ways from the 80s, from new distribution platforms to on-demand access to music. How is Team Zouk Machine adapting to this evolution?

Zouk Machine: Zouk Machine has been around since 1986 and signed with BMG. All its albums were distributed by BMG. They also made its tracks available for downloading, and this is how they were duplicate. So the Zouk Machine product continues to sell on all media. Modernity has brought us a lot of visibility and has brought about a retrospective. Up until today in the West Indies, all the radio stations have been playing Zouk Machine as a group to emulate. Young people are also interested and redo the standard songs. Yes, downloading has been beneficial to us.

DANDANO: The anglophone world is not as well versed with Zouk and with the dominance of Afrobeats as our pop music du jour, other amazing genres tend to become under appreciated on our side of the language barrier. How do you continue to produce an authentic sound in such musical landscape and resist the tendency to create work that caters mainly to popular tastes?

Zouk Machine: Zouk Machine was created by my family in Guadeloupe. We are a family of musician-singers. My brother, Guy Houillier, and brother-in law, Yves Honoré, were the founders and the principle composers. The idea was to break into the French national market with this song (with a mixture of French variety on a binary rhythm with Creole melodies and words to respond to a festive call carried by 3 female voices. We were the first girl group in France. We met with success and today Maldon remains the top-selling Zouk song worldwide. It has found a place in French musical history and stayed alive throughout the decades. It has been a very pleasant surprise to see the public’s_ _infatuation with this song that reminds them of the happy times in their life.

DANDANO: How is your tour experience now different from your early career, considering the changes your group has had?

Zouk Machine: Today I tour a lot in France as well as in Africa, Europe, and the West Indies. I find no difference between things when I started out and today because I have always had a festive and convivial public of all ages. On the other hand, with maturity, I can transmit my energy, my joie de vivre, my positive attitude with more self-assurance. During the concerts, I bring a little bit of sunshine, spice and give value to my culture and my island, Guadeloupe, by recalling the West Indian dishes and tastes (fritters, blood sausage, rum, etc.). And it always fills me with a lot of emotions.

DANDANO: With the growing popularity of Afrofuturism, would you consider the “Maldon” video to be an avant-garde example of the diverse visual aesthetics the African diaspora can tap into to create the visual languages of the future?

Zouk Machine: This question seems very interesting to me. At that time, you had to make an impression on the public by putting 3 Afro girls in a setting that resembles their West Indian origins along with the warm colors and an original style. Yes, I think that the clip had a trigger effect. Which goes to show that Africans, who can make use of the media and the charts, have to find innovative ideas and surround themselves with competence and excellence.

DANDANO: The message of Maldon is so pertinent especially with the level of conversation around gender equality in this generation. It must be quite the experience to have created music that is still as resonant today as it was when it first came out.

Zouk Machine: Maldon’s message is effectively about sharing between couples and calls for equality—a fight for women throughout the world.

DANDANO: What can we expect in the coming year from the reborn Team Zouk Machine?

Zouk Machine: I hope that I can make an international tour in order to continue to bring Zouk with its different tempos and trends across borders with my new team. Music that can be both Zouk soft (love) and Zouk festive (roll).

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Christiane Obydol of Zouk Machine

Get tickets to see Zouk Machine here!

Interview conducted by Sally Vusi

Image credit: via Artist.

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