Jacques Schwarz-Bart

"His musical path is atypical, to say the least"

Undoubtedly Jacques Schwarz-Bart shares this vision put forth by the writer Patrick Chamoiseau, “The contemporary melting pot of cultures and ethnicities has created a worldwide phenomenon of “creolisation”.. This New York based jazz saxophonist, praised by major American soul artists, raised by a Black Guadeloupean mother and a French Jewish father-, grew up between Switzerland and Guadeloupe… The son of two award wining novelists, Jacques followed an original and sinuous path that speaks volume about his identity.

He was born in the suburbs of Pointe a Pitre on December 22nd 1962. In those days, it wasn’t proper to speak Creole, and playing Gwoka drums was left to Negroes from the woods, “fat heels Negroes”, who kept alive the spirit of the runaway slaves, the Maroons, and celebrated their African Heritage. These were vividly described in the novel “a woman called Solitude” by André Schwarz-Bart (1972), through the story of a slave woman that took an important part in the revolt against the French repression in 1802. In Pointe a Pitre, a statue reminds us of this important piece of history, never mentioned in official French school books, and symbolizes the tenacity of a different identity. It is this different identity that is the soil for Jacques’ inspiration in his new CD.

Jacques Schwarz-Bart comes from this background of parents concerned with Caribbean music, Caribbean history, as shown through their respective works, starting with “Pork and Green Bananas”, co written by Simone and André in 1967: “separation is a great ocean, where many have drowned”. Certainly, this reflection alluding to the tragedy of the crossing of the Atlantic from Africa, was food for thought for Jacques Schwarz-Bart, as it defines a common ground between all societies built on the enslavement of Africans, a common geo-historical space, and, furthermore, a common esthetics. As part of that space, both Gwoka and Afro American/Jazz music attempt to exorcise the “hopes and torments of the creole soul”. Guy Conquete, the great Gwoka poet, foresaw the natural Union of those two musical forms: “Cotton fields, sugar cane fields”.

Says Jacques, “The great common denominator between all the styles I love, being Gwoka, Jazz, or Soul, is that the music starts with the drums. It is all about the feel. The word “Gwoka” comes from N’goka, a word from central Africa that means: the drums. It is interesting that gwoka and jazz even shared the same name at one point: Bamboula. Each of these musical forms offers me an opportunity to express my personal feelings and unique story. I always felt that they needed to come together”.


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