GWOKA, the heartbeats of Guadeloupe

I woke up this morning with the sound of Gwoka in my mind. Gwoka is our typical music in Guadeloupe. This vibrant music is a key part of all Guadeloupe’ s lifestyle.
My very first contact with Gwoka was at school where I met a passionate teacher who passed on me the value, the message and the rhythm of Gwoka.
Gwoka was born during slavery in the past century, this music has been created by the slaves to help them endure the atrocity of their conditions and communicate with each other.

Nowadays, Gwoka music is played during all types of events in Guadeloupe.


Photo taken by Anais C.

Gwoka is an art combining music played with the instrument called Ka, a typical drum. The music is accompanied by singers and dancers. Gwoka is usually played in a round dance, called “Lawonn”.

There are 7 rhythms in Gwoka music which have each a different meaning.

  • MENNDE are for happy moments as weddings, public parties or carnival shows.
  • WOULE and GRAJ are played to help people doing hard work, as of field work or building work.
  • PADJANBEL is a rhythm symbolizing resistance and struggle, it may be played during strikes for instance
  • KALADJA can be played slowly and represents pain and sadness. People play it during wakes when someone dies
  • TOUMBLACK symbolized fertility and abundance
  • LEWOZ is the more complete rhythm. It represents all the strengths of Guadeloupe. Now, Lewoz is also the night parties where gwoka music sounds. These parties usually take place on Friday night.When I hear the sound of the Ka and the voice of the singer, all my body wants to share this communion by dancing, clapping hands and living this intense music.

It really means freedom, happiness, sharing, all the essence of Guadeloupean people.


Photo taken by Anais C.

Now Gwoka has been recognized as a UNESCO immaterial world heritage since 2014 and renews itself year after year. For instance, a new type of art has been created called Karaté o Ka, it mixes Karaté with Gwoka!!

So I really recommend you to experience Gwoka culture during your trip in Guadeloupe, it will be for sure a big emotional part of your travel:

  • Listening to the rhythmic music of the Ka
  • Seeing the drums players vibrate with their instruments
  • Admiring the harmony between the drum player and the dancer
  • Getting caught up in singing and clapping

Just experience it, and let me know!

Where to experience it ?

  • Every saturday morning in Pointe-à Pitre ’s pedestrian street (near the main food market), there is a Gwoka sharing moment with the Ka’s players, the singers and dancers. If you want you can even dance!
  • During July, there is the annual Gwoka festival in the city of Sainte-Anne, a major event on Gwoka.

It’s time to introduce a wonderful Gwoka dancer, Anaïs.

Anais Cheleux dancing to gwoka drummers at a Lewoz at the Gwoka Festival. photo William Farring ton

Photo taken by William Farrington.

This girl vibrates with the music amazingly.

I met her during my studies. At this time, I didn’t know she had a so precious skill. I discovered it during a Gwoka show in Paris.

I want to introduce her because when she dances, all her body vibrates for Gwoka and I ‘m sure the video and the pictures of her will convince you to ditcover Gwoka when you will be in Guadeloupe.

Hello Anais! tell us more about you.

My name is Anaïs, I’m 29 and I am from Guadeloupe. I came back in my island one year ago after 7 years near Paris, and I am DELIGHTED to be back!
Let’s talk about your passion: Gwoka

What is your first meeting with Gwoka?

I started dancing at the age of 13 in a group called Kamodjaka, and it was very natural because I’ve always loved dancing. We made many representations throughout Guadeloupe, which were often linked to historical events of the island. I danced 6 years in this group and 6 more years in a West Indian association in Paris.

Now I’m back in Guadeloupe and express myself freely in “Lawonn a Lewòz”.

Anais Cheleux dancing to gwoka drummers at a Lewoz at the Gwoka Festival. photo William Farring ton

Photo taken by William Farrington.

What does Gwoka represent for you ?

As they say in Creole “Gwoka-la an san an mwen !” (“Gwoka is in my blood”!) When I’m dancing during a show or freely in “Lawonn a Lewòz”, I completely let myself go, nothing more exists… But Gwoka is not only dance, there are also songs, music players (drum players) so I still have many things to learn. I enjoy even more every meeting, every event!

Gwoka is in my blood!

Let’s talk about Guadeloupe, where is your favorite place in Guadeloupe?

My favorite place is the beach in Port Louis, a beautiful white sand beach.When I have time, after work, or sometimes early in the morning, I’ll take a bath, and it’s really a pleasure to enjoy the peace and water.

An advice for our readers who want to discover Guadeloupe’s islands?

Don’t hesitate and come here! I strongly advise to live in Guadeloupean ’s home. They will  share with you non-tourist places, good restaurants and  also beautiful places, typical events to discover. To finish, you will enjoy their warm welcome!


Thank you so much Anaïs and keep dancing with so enthusiasm!!

Video of Anaïs taken by Yannis Sainte Rose in Pointe-à-Pitre street

Look at Anaïs ‘s Facebook, she is also a brilliant photographer!

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  1. Geraldine Marie-Denise Lacides | 7th Sep 16

    genial l’article. les photos sont tres belles mais cette Anais elle se trouve ou?

    • Vitty | 8th Sep 16

      Oui! Les photos sont magnifiques. Elles transmettent bien l’emotion du moment 🙂 Anaïs est en Guadeloupe. Tu as son Facebook en bas d’article.

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