French Ama-soniques

This week we visit the nation that never was but probably should be: Guyane, sur le bord du jungle amazone.

Devil's Island: the Alcatraz of South America

Devil’s Island: the Alcatraz of South America

French Guiana – the only piece of South America still held in custody by their colonial mother-in-law.  The other Guys have all been set free… qu’est ce qu’il y a la France?  Still bitter about losing Haiti?  Oh right, you needed somewhere to build a spaceport.  Politics aside, French Guiana is well worthy of a sonic exploration; and so we find ourselves back in the almighty Amazon, the sacred lungs of our momma Earth.

Though native South Americans still survive in pockets of the rainforest, the quarter-million humans in French Guiana are primarily of African or mixed ancestry, living either in isolated communities where drumming traditions are preserved, or in smallish coastal cities like Cayenne and Kourou, where the traditions mix with modern sounds to form a frenetic hybrid style called aléké.

Still, much of the music has a distinct Caribbean vibe.  Roots reggae is a powerful force in the region, and the best-known local musicians play some variation of it.  The biggest international star, Prince Koloni, plays both aléké and reggae.. perhaps they will one day fuse into a distinctly amazonian sound smash.

Hear drums of focused fury, laid back skankin’, and some unexpected twists on the French Guianese special.

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