Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters

Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters
Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters

Line up

  • Christian Laviso (guitar)
  • Jowee Omicil (saxaphone)
  • Klod Kiavué (drums)
  • Moïse Polobi (vocals)
  • Nadjib Ben Bella (sound system)


In the tropical forest adjoining Grande Savane, a river runs, the streaming water drowning out the rustling of leaves, the pulse of insects and the birds’ cry.

The song of a man, more powerful than that of the waters, rises to the tops of the ancient trees. Polobi, balanced on a rock, launches a melody towards the infinity of the sky.

He has sung like this for more than half a century, since that day when, as a child, he heard the master Guy Conquète sing at the town fair and won a five-franc piece for sketching his first dance steps. Polobi’s mother begged him to stay away from the drums, that “old nigger” business. But the child was fascinated. Shunning the school bench, he headed into the depths of the forest to strengthen his voice, measuring himself against the elements and drawing on the telluric energy to feed his songs.

He was drawn to the drums of the léwoz (traditional rural music performances in Martinique and Guadaloupe), performing and singing with different Gwo Ka groups, throwing himself into a trance through the hypnotic dance. In the secrecy of the forest, he recorded his compositions on a simple cassette recorder, biding his time.

In September 2020, after the world’s lockdown, Polobi joined a musical session at the home of one his neighbours, percussionist Klod Kiavué. That evening, he delivered a set of mystical songs, chronicling the daily life of a simple man deeply rooted in his environment. Hymns to Grande Savane; to Petit Bourg – mintues away on his moped; to the nearby Moustique and La Lézarde rivers where he will lower his bamboo traps to catch the ouassou; to the woods of Tanbou and Duquerry which watch over this microcosm. Taking his peers to task, invoking the ancestors, he addresses the world in a Creole language that belongs only to him. His hoarse singing, woven with onomatopoeia and improvisation, leads him irresistibly into a trance.

In the audience, passing through Guadeloupe, Valérie Malot (artistic director of French music agency 3D Family) fell under the spell and immediately arranged to take Polobi into the recording studio. The production was entrusted to Liam Farrell aka Doctor L, whose electro-acoustic palette and offbeat rhythms adorn these deeply rooted songs with a unique sound universe.

From this rock, sprung from the heart of a volcano and jutting from the river’s tumultuous flow, in the depths of the forest where, accompanied by his only drum, he comes to take refuge to sing, Polobi dominates the world with ease. He emanates an authenticity forged in the rare communion with the nature which he has made his kingdom, which gives him the ability to touch a universality that always delights his audience.