The Beauty of Bèlè

In class this week we try dancing to Martinican Bèlè, a form of West African-inspired music and dancing in Martinique that became an essential part of the working and family life of African slaves on the island. A traditional bèlè song starts with a call and response section led by a vocalist singing in Antillean Creole. (Watch this video of Martinican Bèlè in motion to get an idea.) After that comes a rhythmic section featuring the Ti-Bwa, two sticks that play on the back of a tambour, a goblet drum with a goatskin head, making music for an exuberant dance. In our classroom, the Twi-Bwa may be two pencils and our tambour may be a textbook, but our bèlè is beautiful.