The “St Martin Gwoka Festival” thrilled the crowd

It also talks about gwoka music in the island of St Martin. Indeed, almost 300 people attended this first St Martin Gwoka Festival which took place from April 4th to 5th, 2015 in Marigot. A great opportunity to highlight and strengthen the cultural relationships between St. Martin and Guadeloupe and to pay tribute to a great lady, now dead, Juliette Mingau.

Seven groups were invited to host this cultural event namely : New Generation Status vDrum Band and Ti Flè ka Sonne from St. Martin ; Kalbaska (Women Section), Kalbaska (Section men), NJK (young), Lanmoufanmka and Soley Nwè from Guadeloupe.

Two men were behind this first St. Martin Gwoka Festival. Their name, Alex Reiph and Jacques Hamlet, the founder of the local radio called SOS 95.9. With their pilgrim stick, they went around the island to find partners and sponsors. It must be said that they organized this festival to the memory of a lady – Juliette Mingau – who worked all her life to promote in St. Martin Creole dance and music with her group “Grain d’Or”. “More than a dance group, she built a family of which she took good care in every detail. Originally from Guadeloupe, Juliette always kept gwoka in everything she did and she had the idea of organizing a ka festival here in Saint-Martin”. A few months after she died, the organizers decided, with her family agreement to dedicate to Juliette Mingau this first gwoka festival.


A shared culture

These gwoka concerts also emphasized the position of this traditional music in the island’s culture :“Saint-Martin, welcoming land, also was built with the work of many Guadeloupeans settled on the island for a very long time who brought with the ka tradition an additional wealth to St. Martin people. This festival also aimed at recognizing, by the plaque-giving ceremony, work and transmission of a passion of some people like Mr Elias Coquillas and Mrs Juliette Mingau”, says the founder of SOS 95.9 radio.

According to the organizers, the ka drum is the most important element of a history that people from St. Martin share with Guadeloupeans.“Our identity is fully acquired only when we have full knowledge of our culture and we develop twice our knowledge when we share that of other persons (…) Saint-Martin is multicultural and it is important that gwoka has its festival”, declares the organizers. Moreover, SOS 95.9 radio and its representatives intend to democratize culture and heritage : “We want to feed the spirit, to entertain the heart and also to create educational activities in our island whose only industry is tourism”, concludes Jacques Hamlet.

After this great success, they plan that this festival becomes a regular event.