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A foot soldier for tradition and also known by the Creole version of his name Fanswa Ladrezeau, Ladrezo studied the Guadeloupian drumming art of Kà. He considers it a tool to denounce society’s injustices. Considering himself as a deportee because of African forced exodus of the continent, he identifies himself as RasKa (Ka Soldier), and affirms his unconditional commitment to music and its cultural message every day.
Working within his local community he has founded Akiyo, a cultural organization for traditional carnival music along with a remarkable drumming troupe, Alka Oméka. Touring with Alka Oméka in the Caribbean, Europe, and United States to present his works during international festivals has allowed him to share his culture with the world.
We recently caught up with François to discuss controversial labor strikes on the island, drumming and his global reach
Can you say a few words about the 44 days of strikes on the island earlier this year and the situation’s influence on your politics, music and lyrics?
There is a part of the Guadeloupian people who are suffering a lot. Even if you see big houses and big cars here, a lot of people are still suffering. What happened during the 2 month strike had to happen. This time, [the conflicts] exploded, but it was legitimate. Symbolically, we have won something. There is still a lot to do for salaries, agriculture… because Guadeloupe does not export. So we have to build our autonomy, starting by being able to feed ourselves and then export the rest. Because right now, we are not producing anything, so we are behind the rest of Caribbean countries.
It has been a long time since Gwoka singers used to sing about Guadeloupe’s issues. Language is not a barrier. Music is a universal language; it is about the emotion you give. I’ve performed abroad where people did not understand my lyrics, or even my mission; I’ve seen other artists I didn’t understand, but as listeners you feel something deep inside which gives you the strength to face the next day and even the next years.
Do you think that all of Guadeloupe’s sociopolitical issues are also present abroad? Are you like a French Bob Marley?
In each country you will find artists committed to fighting injustice. In Guadeloupe, you had Guy Conquet, Robert Loyson, and I consider myself in the next generation. So I try to do my work authentically so as not to not disappoint the people who have already fought. Gwoka music is an engaged music, a spiritual music, a therapy, a music coming from angels. So you have to play it authentically. I have a mission to accomplish, so I try to do it with all the strength I have.
Much respect for Marley, because he fought for black people and justice most of all. The fight is a fight for justice. When we put races aside our fight is just for justice. There are capitalists and they prey on the entire world.
What do you predict will be the future of Gwoka in Guadeloupe?
In Guadeloupe, I am a musician who plays in the streets. I think there are a lot of people who like what I do. I do it for the ancestors, the ones who fought. I perpetuate their fight. The new generations thirst for identity. Akiyo and Gwoka are a way to elevate your conscious. If I can be an instrument into this with humility, I’ll do it with all my faith, my energy, here, in the Caribbean and in other countries as well.
Is Gwoka is a philosophy or a lifestyle?
Gwoka is life. It is the soul of Guadeloupean people and life. It is also a lifestyle but you should not try to impose on it- just let everyone feel it in his own way.
Visit www.anywayorganisation.com/ or the MySpace page www.myspace.com/ladrezeau for more information.
Rayme Samuels is a freelance cultural journalist and documentary filmmaker. Visit her website on fresh global culture at www.raymesamuels.wordpress.com.