BIBLIOGRAPHY: Art Music by Caribbean Composers: Guadeloupe


Art Music by Caribbean Composers: Guadeloupe


Christine Gangelhoff

Cathleen LeGrand

The College of The Bahamas[1]



Guadeloupe retains more than its colonial and cultural roots from France.  It has been an Overseas Department of that country since 1946.  Part of the French Antilles, the island was visited by Christopher Columbus during his first Caribbean voyage.  Guadeloupe was settled by the French in 1635 and was populated by African slaves beginning shortly thereafter.  The local music of Guadeloupe derives mainly from the traditions of its original African and European inhabitants ("Guadeloupe," 2005).


Many of the art-musical styles of Guadeloupe are derived from the ballroom and couple-dance traditions of old, reinvented in a creole tradition: quadrilles, waltzes, biguines and mazurkas (Gerstin, 2007-2011).  Two of the most influential and consumed popular music genres are gwoka and compas.  "Guadeloupean gwo-ka is a dancing/ drumming/singing manifestation that stems from African traditions" (Durkopp, 2005).  Gwoka refers to both the musical style and the types of hand drums on which it is played.  Compas music is more pan-Caribbean in origin—it first appeared in Haiti and is now popular throughout the Caribbean region.  "The first generation of compas musicians drew heavily on Cuban music, adding a strong conga beat to a horn section and Haitian rhythms.  This version of compas reached its peak in the 1960s.  Modern compas features the electric guitar and bass, draws heavily from zouk, is played at a higher tempo, and features extended synthesizer solos, typically over a harmonic structure that alternates between tonic and subdominant harmonies" (Durkoff, 2005).


The Festival Internationale Saint-Georges, held annually since 2009, was created to celebrate the music of Saint-Georges, to promote artists of colour and to perform classical music written by composers of African descent.  Though the main focus of the festival is classical music, it also features traditional music such as biguine and jazz, and other visual and performing arts, such as drama and dance.  The festival features concerts, workshops, lectures and master classes by a variety of visiting international artists.  According to Marlon Daniel, the festival's Artistic Director, one of his goals for the festival "is to show a different face of people of African descent in the Arts" (M. Daniel, personal communication, June 2011).


Guadeloupe has no conservatory for advanced musical education and has no major orchestra.  However, an amateur ensemble, the Ensemble Instrumental Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and the choral group Les Baladins, both created over thirty years ago, perform locally and internationally.  There is, however, a forward move to improve arts education in Guadeloupe, which may include the establishment of a conservatory and a national orchestra (M. Daniel, personal communication, June 2011).


Joseph Bologne,the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, is the most famous classical composer from Guadeloupe.  He moved to Paris at a young age and trained there in the musical arts.  While he is known today as "The Black Mozart," Saint-Georges was born before Mozart and his works and the French classical style influenced Mozart.  Of particular influence were Saint-George's concerto, quartet and sinfonia concertante styles (M. Daniel, personal communication, June 2011).


Variations exist in the spellings for the names of Joseph Bologne.  The preferred spelling of his family name was formerly "Boulogne".  Since the late 1970's, the preferred spelling has been "Bologne," without the "u", spelling that corresponds with local custom in Guadeloupe, the birthplace of the composer (J. C. Halley, personal communication, June 2011).  Likewise, variations exist in the spelling of the composer's "title"—"Saint-George" (without the terminal "s") and "Saint-Georges" (with the terminal "s").  Scholars agree that both spellings can be used (Halley, 2008).  Therefore, when searching for information about the composer, keep in mind that information and documents exist using all variant spellings.  (This document uses the spellings "Bologne" and "Saint-Georges”).

Joseph Bologne Sonata for Flute and Piano II Menuetto (excerpt)



Durkopp, R. (2005). Music and identity politics in Terre-de-Bas, Guadeloupe. (B.A. thesis, University of Pittsburgh). Retrieved from

Gerstin, J. (2007-2011). Martinique and Guadeloupe. Grove Music Online / Oxford Music Online. Retrieved from

Guadeloupe. (2005). In Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world. Retrieved from

Halley, J. C. (2008, March 12). Comme disait le bon Roi Henri : Paris vaut bien un « S »! Guadeloupe attitude. Retrieved from

[1]Christine Gangelhoff, Assistant Professor, School of Communication and Creative Arts; Cathleen LeGrand, Public Services Librarian, Libraries and Instructional Media Services, The College of The Bahamas, P.O. Box N-4912, Nassau, Bahamas.

Cathleen LeGrand is now Librarian at Royal Thimphu College, Ngabiphu, Thimphu, Bhutan.

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank Maestro Marlon Daniel and Alain Pierre Pradel for their help compiling this chapter.

The authors are grateful to The College of The Bahamas for the grant that made this research possible.


How to cite this article in APA 6th ed. style: Gangelhoff, C., & LeGrand, C. (2011). Art music by Caribbean composers: Guadeloupe. The International Journal of Bahamian Studies, 17(1), 11-22. Retrieved from

Copyright (c) 2011 C. Gangelhoff & C. LeGrand