Jocelyne Béroard: “I built myself with Kassav'” #MaParole


She is the only woman in the Kassav’ group. She knew how to make her voice heard in order to fully experience the adventure of a group with exceptional longevity. Jocelyne Béroard has just published her autobiography and makes a stop at #MaParole.

In this sunny March in Paris, Jocelyne Béroard came to Paris to promote her first book. Is named far from bitter (Editions du Cherche-Midi). In this autobiographical story, the singer recounts her youth in Martinique and her career as a singer and songwriter.

How lucky to grow up in Petit Paradis! It was there on the heights of Schoelcher that Jocelyne Béroard lived with her family with her two brothers and three sisters. Her father would have liked to become a dissident. Her mother, Jocelyne Béroard’s grandmother, prevented her from doing so and she went to France after the war to study dentistry. Her mother, Gaby, studied English. The two young men met on the ocean liner in Martinique. Couldn’t be more romantic.

During her childhood, Jocelyne Béroard was marked by school. She first went to the convent of Saint-Joseph de Cluny where her parents had enrolled her, thinking they were doing the right thing. It was the school attended by the bourgeoisie and the békés. “The nuns behaved a little strange with me” the singer writes. In fact, it was hell and Jocelyne had a hard time understanding this double-edged authority. Tired of the racist behavior of the nuns, her parents ended up transferring her and enrolling her in the flabby school on the plateau that now bears her name. There, she Jocelyne Béroard learned Creole in the playground. A learning that will be very useful later.

At home, everyone was athletic. Ping-pong, basketball, swimming, the whole family played sports and the father was in charge of a club. The singer herself considers that she received a bourgeois education. “The Antillean bourgeoisie was obsessed with freeing itself from the memory of the previous State. she writes in far from bitter. At home there was a guide to good manners in the library, and as a teenager he was not allowed to go out at night. In the evening, the parents received their friends and often sang together. There were the Nwèl sang that Jocelyne adored. The young woman had a whole repertoire of songs that she liked to perform accompanied on the piano by her brother. She remembers in particular we we we we we (la strike baré mwen), which recounts the sugarcane strike in 1900 for several months. Jocelyne Béroard had very eclectic tastes. She listened to both Sylvie Vartan and Mahalia Johnson, Célia Cruz or Lola Martin.

After high school, Jocelyne Béroard chose to study pharmacy in Caen. She for two years lived in the university city and there she met many friends from all over the world. The beginning of freedom. She was wearing her afro. “a nest of termites (an nich-poubwa), said his father. At the end of her two years, Jocelyne Béroard tried her luck at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. She was received and decided to throw a nice party for her departure from Caen. She for the first time went on stage and sang in front of her friends. A foundational evening for her. The click!

In Paris he found a new university residence and began taking drawing classes. She also began to find work in music. Choir of various groups, he toured Spain with the Gibson Brothers, these three brothers from Martinique who achieved several hits including the famous You have the coconut look. ! The singer also accompanied Bernard Lavilliers for two years and recalls a memorable evening in Corsica that could have gone wrong.

In the early 1980s, Jocelyne Béroard met the founders of the Kassav’ group, Pierre-Edouard Décimus and Jacob Desvarieux. She really she didn’t stick. For a year, the singer moved on. And then, during a festival in Fort-de-France, Jocelyne Béroard found herself on stage alone to prove herself. She had started quite badly, because she had chosen a repertoire of sauces that did not have the fortune to please the public. Fortunately, in the end, unexpectedly, she sang cut cane of Malavo. Big hit in the room. Jacob Desvarieux came to congratulate her behind the scenes and with “his crooked smile” He has told : “Well, finally, you sing well”. With Kassav’, he left. With Marius Cultier too. The great Martinique pianist offered to interpret his Concert for the flower and the bird. This song allowed him to win the overseas song contest at the Salle Gaveau in Paris.

With Kassav’, Jocelyne Béroard did not have a difficult start. The first unsuccessful concerts in Baie-Mahault and Saint-Anne in Martinique. But very quickly, the group was able to adapt, play at the carnival balls and make themselves known. The first concerts in Africa were exceptional and especially the Zénith de Paris in 1985. This concert really launched Kassav’ in France. Jocelyne Béroard recalls that “the condensation was so strong towards the end of the concert that people received drops on the head as if it were raining inside the room”.

Since 1990, Jocelyne Béroard has been taking notes. Thanks to all these recorded memories, she was able to develop far from bitter, his autobiographical account, a rare testimony to the history of Kassav’ and its only singer. She used to write Jocelyne a little, because for years she has been imagining texts and songs that speak to crowds. In her autobiography she explains why she loves Creole so much, why she chose to write and sing in this language. And when she had to record an album in Spanish, even if it was with Etienne Roda-Gil (Julien Clerc’s lyricist), she was not convinced at all. Her sequel proved him right.

His songs have spoken to millions of people. The market, the men, the gossip, the jokes: each song is a story. The singer is proud to write that a great writer, Patrick Chamoiseau, told her that she had heard on repeat Milan while i was writing TexacoGoncourt Prize 1998. No need to speak, Sol, Syrup, Sere Glue, Milans, What would be there, the singer made her voice and touch heard through these unforgettable melodies. With Kassav ‘, Jocelyne Béroard lived in a group, she shared incredibly strong moments on stage and behind the scenes. The group has played in 80 countries and has toured the world several times. Cape Verde, Chile, Russia, Angola, Japan and many other countries. Abroad: Polynesia, New Caledonia, Réunion, Mayotte, Wallis and of course at home in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana. Kassav’ was scheduled to play Madison Square Garden before the pandemic. Then came the death of Jacob Desvarieux on July 30, 2021. At the end of her book, Jocelyne Béroard sent him a moving letter. Kassav’ has not yet said the last word of him. The singer promises at least one Jacob Desvarieux tribute concert in May 2023.

jocelyne berouard

©Maïté Koda / Outremer 1ere

Sound recording: Diane Koné.

To find all the episodes of #MyWord, click here.

► September 12, 1954

Born in Fort-de-France


Entry into Kassav’


First album Syrup and first gold record


Second solo album Milan


Third album Madousinay


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