Disques Debs International Volume 1.

Label: Strut.

Release Date: ‘29th’ July 2018.

Compilation Of The Week.

Nowadays, Disques Debs International which was founded by Henri Debs in  Guadeloupe, in the late-fifties, is regarded by many connoisseurs as the one of the best, if not greatest of all French Caribbean labels. That is high praise, given the quality of music that was being released by other labels during this period. However, time after time, it was Henri Debs’ Disques Debs International that triumphed, and released music that was the envy of his competitors.

Especially between 1960 and 1972, which is the period that the first instalment in Strut’s new compilation Disques Debs International Volume 1 covers. It will be released on the ‘29th’ July 2018, and features twenty-one tracks from Henri Debs’ label, and is billed Disques Debs International Volume 1 is billed as: “An Island Story: Biguine, Afro Latin and Musique Antillaise 1960-1972.” This twenty-one tracks from this lovingly compiled compilation were released during the first two decades of Disques Debs International’s existence.

The Disques Debs International story began in 1959, when Henri Debs decided to install a small recording studio in the basement of his clothing shop in Pointe-A-Pitre. Soon, he was recording everything from tangos, cha-chas, bolero and biguines, and some these recording were release by his nascent label Disques Debs International. Initially, this was a just a way for Henri Debs to release some of the music he had recorded. However, before long, Henri Debs’ nascent label was expanding.

By 1960, Disques Debs was already recording big band orchestras, home-grown stars and some of the touring bands that visited Guadeloupe. Initially, the recordings took place in the small studio within Henri Debs’ shop, but after a few years, he was so busy that he had to build a new studio.

Meanwhile, Henri Debs’ business empire was expanding and in 1963 1963, he opened a second store on the island. Two became three in 1965 when another store opened in Fort-de-France which was managed by his brother Georges Debs. Later, Henri Debs expanded overseas and opened a new store in Paris. Still, Henri Debs’ recording studio and record label Disques Debs International s were going from strength-to-strength.

Much of Henri Debs’ success was down to his ability to find and sign the crème de la crème of musical talent on the islands of Guadeloupe to Disques Debs International. This wasn’t easy as there were other record labels who were just as keen to sign the same artists and bands. However, many had heard of Henri Debs and knew that he had a successful track record, and saw him as some sort of starmaker. If anyone could coax the best performances out of an artist or band it was  Henri Debs.

This he continued to do throughout the sixties, with the help of saxophonist Edouard Benoit who led Les Maxels and arranged for Henri Debs bands. Among the bands who were recorded during the sixties were Henri Debs’ Sextet who played percussive biguines and the big bands Orchestre Esperanza and Orchestre Caribbean Jazz. Henri Debs also brought poet and radio personality Casimir “Caso” Létang and folkloric gwo ka artist Sydney Leremon into his Pointe-A-Pitre studio. However, it wasn’t just local artists Henri Debs recorded at his Pointe-A-Pitre studio.

When recording from overseas arrived to tour Guadeloupe during the early sixties, Henri Debs took many of the artists into  his Pointe-A-Pitre studio. This included Haitian trumpeter Raymond Cicault and the Trinidadian bandleader Cyril Diaz. Recording such high profile artists showed how far that Disques Debs had come in a short space of time.

By 1972, which is the end of the period that Disques Debs International Volume 1 covers, Disques Debs was one of the most successful record labels on Guadeloupe. Henri Debs had come a long way from when he installed his first studio in his shop and made his first recording. He was totally open-minded in the music he recorded and everything from biguines and boleros to cha-cha-chas, reggae and zouks. If Henri Debs thought that there was a demand for that type, or he could create a demand he would record that particular genre. Disques Debs International’s output was truly eclectic, and especially between 1960 and 1972 which Disques Debs International Volume 1 covers.

On Disques Debs International Volume 1, there’s twenty-one tracks, including contributions from Daniel Forestal Et Sa Guitare, Casimir Lètang, Henri Debs Quintet, Joseph Lacides, Geno Exile, Orchestre Esperanza Et Jean Leroy, Le Ry-Co Jazz, Remy Mondey, Paul Blamaret Vèlo, Eric Virgal, Les Aiglons and Guy Conquett. They’re just a few of the artist that feature on Disques Debs International Volume 1, which is the first of three compilations that will document the history of the Disques Debs’ label. 

Opening Disques Debs International Volume 1 is Ces P’tits Je t’aime which is a track from Guadeloupe born singer, songwriter and guitarist Daniel Forestal. He spent much of his career singed to Disques Debs and released the EP Daniel Forestal Et Sa Guitare on the Disques Debs label. It featured Ces P’tits Je t’aime, which has an understated arrangement where Daniel Forestal and Sa Guitare take centre-stage on this beautiful paean.

Blazing horns open Travail Zènfants! Chantez Après! before Casimir Létang’s vocal enters on what can only be described as an irresistible and joyous sounding song. It featured on Casimir Létang’s 1969 EP Deux Chansons Pour Enfants, where elements of beguine and calypso combine to create a truly memorable song from Casimir Létang who spent much of his career signed to Disques Debs.

One of the orchestra’s that Henri Debs recorded for Disques Debs early in his career was Cyril Diaz and Son Orchestre. They released the Carnival Bachhanal EP as the sixties dawned, and it feature the calypso Feeling Happy. After just one listen, it’s guaranteed to leave the listener Feeling Happy.

Before founding Disques Debs, Henri Debs loved music and was a talented musician, who later led his own sextet and quintet. Having released a couple of singles on the La Maison Des Merengués label,  the Henri Debs Quintet released the album Guadeloupe “Île d’Emeraude on Disques Debs in 1963. It features the beautiful biguine Douce Kombass which is one of the highlights of the album, and is a reminder that Henri Debs was also a talented bandleader and musician as well as engineer, producer and musical impresario.

Dolor and Les Diables Du Rythme were signed to the Disques Debs label during the mid to late sixties, when they released the Dolor EP. It opens with Salvana where the arrangement sashays joyously and sometimes urgently along combining elements of Afro-Cuban jazz and beguine. Meanwhile Dolor takes charge of the vocal on this truly memorable song with a feelgood sound.

Haitian trumpeter Raymond Cicault and Son Orchestre Volcan were visiting Guadeloupe when they recorded the L’Impression De Julia EP for Disques Debs. It featured À Mon Ami Lucien Jolibois which is a reminder of one of the great Caribbean trumpeters and bandleaders of his generation. 

The Henri Debs Sextet and Paul Blamar joined forces to record the Misic Pou On Ti Blo EP for Disques Debs. This was a successful collaboration with the sextet combining jazz, Latin and blues to create an understated, languid arrangement as vocalist Paul Blamar lays bare his soul.

In April 1971, accordionist Rémy Mondey released Meringue Çe Misic En Moin as a single. He had written this accordion driven meringue which sometimes heads in the direction of beguine and even briefly cumbia. It’s a joyous sounding track that is akin to a call to dance, and one that is impossible to resist.

Nowadays, Henri Guédon is regarded as the founding father of modern music in the French Antilles. During his career, the painter, sculptor ceramist and musician’s career he released two collaborated between Henri Guedon and Les Contesta. This included their eponymous album which was released on Henri Debs’ Disques Debs International. It features many Henri Guedon and Les compositions including genre-melting sunshine sound of Van Van.

Eric Virgal was a talented singer-songwriter who released Stanislas as a single on Disques Debs International in October 1971. Stanislas was penned by Eric Virgal and he was accompanied by Henri Debs and Son Combo on this fusion of beguine and compass. Just like so much of the music on Disques Debs International Volume 1, it’s uplifting and has a feelgood sound.

When Tutus released Echos De La Guyane Volume  2, Nanao Nanao was chosen as the single. It was written by Tutus and recorded by Henri Debs while the band create an arrangement that never threatens to overpower the heartfelt vocals on this melodic track.

Closing Disques Debs International Volume 1 is Guy Conquette’s Assez Fait Cancan which is taken from his Le Roi Du Folklore EP. This beguine was written by Guy Conquette and sometimes, there’s a hint of reggae during Assez Fait Cancan which continues the feelgood sound and closes the compilation on a high.

Disques Debs International Volume 1 is a lovingly curated compilation, which will be released by Strut on the ‘29th’ of July 2018. It’s the first of three compilations that Strut intend to release that will look back at Henri Debs’ label Disques Debs International. These three compilations are the first ever official release from the Disques Debs International archives.

The music on Disques Debs International Volume 1 is truly eclectic, and features everything from big band orchestras and home-grown stars to poets and some of the touring bands that visited Guadeloupe. They offer a reminder of the first two decades of Disques Debs International’s existence. Much of that music is joyous, uplifting and has a feelgood sound, while other songs are akin to a call to dance that is impossible to resist. Not with music as good as that on Disques Debs International Volume 1, which features a tantalising taste of the eclectic  music that Henri Debs’ label released between 1960 and 1972.

Disques Debs International Volume 1.

1 Comment


    1. [Music] Disques DEBS International Volume 1. — dereksmusicblog – A Miscellany Of Tasteful…

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