Jacob Desvarieux, guitarist and leader of the French West Indies group Kassav ‘, has died at the age of 65.

The guitarist and songwriter is believed to have died on July 30, 2021 after testing positive for Covid-19.

Desvarieux and his group have produced more than 20 records, plus five solo records.

The guitarist was born in Paris, but spent his early years on the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the French Antilles, as well as some time in Senegal.

He learned to play the guitar at the age of 10 and returned to France as a teenager, eventually playing in studio sessions and several rock groups. It was there, in 1979, that Desvarieux met Pierre-Édouard Décimus and formed the group that made a name for itself.

The group’s innovative approach channeled the carnival music of Guadeloupe and the rhythmic biguine style of Martinique, along with many other influences into a more modern hybrid sound that incorporates both MIDI and electronic elements. The style became known as “zouk” and brought them international fame.

In particular, their 1985 song Zouk the se sèl medikaman nou ni, which roughly translates to “Zouk is the only drug we have” has been successful around the world, bringing the group’s popularity across Latin America, Europe and Africa.

Desvarieux will eventually settle again in Guadeloupe. He underwent a kidney transplant in his later years, which reportedly compromised his immunity and made him more susceptible to more serious illness.

At his death, the French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “The sacred zouk monster. Outstanding guitarist. Emblematic voice of the Antilles. Jacob Desvarieux was all of these at the same time.

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