What the heck’s a zouk?
Although it sounds like some kind of Dr. Seuss creation, perhaps with a long beak and bright blue fur, zouk is actually two entirely different things. The first is a music style originating in the French West Indies of the Caribbean. The second is a nickname for a stringed instrument called a bouzouki. Of these two lesser-known musical facts, ZoukFest deals solely with the latter. The bouzouki was invented in Greece, where it is still a mainstay of traditional music, but it became popular in Ireland in the mid-1900s. Over time, small adjustments in size and shape were made to the instrument to make it suitable specifically for Irish music. Zouks are popular with the Irish/Gaelic/Celtic music crowd, but they’re also used in other styles, such as Balkan and even some Americana.
ZoukFest starts with a “world music camp,” featuring classes in Irish fiddle, Balkan ensemble, tin whistle, Americana guitar, beginning music theory and dozens more topics—including bouzouki, of course. Attendees register for several weeklong classes, allowing a more in-depth exploration of the topics they choose. The teachers are international musicians, renowned for their Irish folk playing and other traditional skills. Besides classes, the festival schedule holds concerts, dance workshops and céilís—big Gaelic parties with music and dancing. Get your jig on.