The zouk scene evolved from a studio project by Guadeloupian Pierre-Edouard Decimus, who had moved to Paris in the late '70s following an extremely successful career as co-leader of the legendary cadence band Les Vikings de la Guadeloupe. Enlisting the services of his brother Georges and Paris studio wizard Jacob Desvarieux, himself a Guadeloupian, Decimus began to forge a new sound that treated Antilles musical traditions to the state of the art recording technology available in Paris. By 1984 the three had settled on a stable lineup of musicians and singers (now representing both Guadeloupe and Martinique), had made their first live performance (in Guadeloupe), and had achieved their first massive radio success with "Banzawa" from a Desvarieux solo album. Parties in the Antilles are called "zouks," and since Kassav's new records were the music of choice at the zouks, their music came to be called "zouk music." By 1985 nearly every Antilles musician was jumping on the zoukwagon and a whole new style of music was born.
Supported by a horn section, two dancers, extra keyboard, drummer, and percussion, the core of Kassav' is Jocelyne Beroard, Jacob Desvarieux, Jean-Philippe Marthely, Patrick St. Eloi, Jean-Claude Naimro, and Georges Decimus (who quit the band to pursue a career with a new group); Pierre-Edouard Decimus would come and go at whim, never performing live, but often resurfacing as a songwriter. Through the release of Majestik Zouk, the band has released ten studio albums and one live album. Each bona fide member of the band has also released solo albums that include support by the entire band. In fact, since 1987, all re-pressings of the back catalog of solo releases has had the name Kassav' added to the cover in bold letters. Add various carnival projects under the pseudonyms Soukoue Ko Ou and Turbo II, and the total number of Kassav'-related albums approaches 30.
The early releases were certainly experimental in nature as Desvarieux and the Decimus brothers searched for the right mix of musicians and musical elements. The best of the solo and carnival efforts can be found under the discography entries for the particular bandmember or carnival project. It's indisputable that much of the most dramatic groundbreaking occurred on the early to mid-'80s solo releases. Of the official Kassav' albums, all are interesting in that they provide a view into the development of what became the zouk sound. The formula from which the whole Antilles zouk scene evolved had kicked in by the sixth release, so from there on specific preferences are merely a matter of personal taste. ~ Gene Scaramuzzo