Barel Coppet, an outstanding musician, considered the last of the clarinettists in the pure Martinican tradition, is of all the Caribbean musicians who have known glory in Europe, the only one to have been in a lasting way, the conductor of the two mythical places of French Caribbean music in Paris, Le Bal Blomet and La Canne à Sucre.

Table of Contents

Dynasty of musicians

Anatole dit "Barel" Coppet, was born on July 3, 1920 in Vauclin, Martinique, into a family of great musicians.

His older brothers are Hypolite, Honoré and Bayard Coppet, renowned musicians, as are his cousins, Ivanes and Hurard and his uncles, Jaron and Sena Gallion dit Yon -Yon, grand master of "Chouval Bwa"music

The drums as a first love and departure for Guadeloupe

Before becoming the great clarinetist and saxophonist that we know, Barel at a young age was first passionate about drums.

When his parents died in 1934, Barel was 14 years old. His sister, Cécilia, who married a Guadeloupean farmer, Alfred Edmée, nicknamed "Pays", took him in and all three moved to Guadeloupe .

"Pays", who is also an accordionist and clarinetist, has his own orchestra and includes his young brother-in-law.
The young Barel proves himself there and plays in all the balls of Guadeloupe.

There he discovered the fierce competition between the many formations, in particular the tough competition between the drummers, strongly solicited by the big orchestras.
Among the two best drummers in Guadeloupe, Barel has for great rival, Robert Mavounzy, who ironically, will become like him, one of the greatest clarinettists and saxophonists of West Indian music, having known glory in Paris and in Europe.

Secret attraction for the clarinet and self-taught multi-instrumentalist

Despite his love for the drums, Barel has always been drawn to the clarinet, which his brothers Honoré and Hypolite, as well as his cousin Hurard, already play.

In secret, he borrows his brother-in-law's clarinet and practices as an autodidact. His brother Hypolite will end up buying him his own clarinet. Once he mastered the clarinet, he started playing the saxophone.

Along with music, Barel worked in construction, then as a shoemaker, before going to perform his military service, in Saint-Claude, from January 1943 to February 1944, where he set up, in the barracks, an orchestra which is becoming very popular.

Winning return to the homeland

After the war, "the call of the native country" is felt and Barel decides to return to Martinique in 1946 to work in the dance hall of his brother Honoré, "Le Moulin Rouge" in the district of Terres-Sainville, in Fort-de-France.

There he met another great musician, the saxophonist, Paul Julvécourt, with whom the chemistry hits you right away. The tandem will scour all the communes of Martinique together and will meet with enormous success.

Honoré Coppet
Paul Julvécourt

Departure for Paris and immediate success

The two even foment to leave together to try their luck in Paris, but at the last moment, Paul Julvécourt gives up to stay and help his mother. This is how Barel embarks with his brother Honoré for continental France.

Their reputation having preceded them, the two brothers very quickly found work.

Barel Coppet joins the orchestra of Martinican trumpeter and guitarist Pierre Louiss. Within the orchestra, he spent his baptism of fire, at La Boule d'or in the 15th. before leaving to scour the main casinos in France from the end of 1947 to 1949.

Pierre Louiss

Conductor of the two biggest French Caribbean cabarets

Wishing to settle down, Barel Coppet took over from his brother at the "Bal Blomet", a mythical place, where he reigned as conductor from 1950 to 1961, following in the footsteps of the Martinican violinist and clarinetist Ernest Léardée, who, from the Roaring Twenties, had made all of Montparnasse dance and dream, from Robert Desnos to Fujita, from Joséphine Baker to Michel Leiris.

From the Blomet ball, Barel will go to the Sugar Cane, in the orchestra of Gérard la Viny where he remained until 1967.

European record success

In 1955, during a gala in Paris, Barel was spotted by an artistic director from Philips.

He composed "Mwen ni an loto nef", a hit that allowed him to travel throughout Europe and Africa and which was his biggest success.

Biguine, Merengue and Calypso specialist


Barel Coppet signs an exclusive contract with Philips. Until 1965, he produced around ten 45 rpm records, often in collaboration with Guadeloupean trombonist and arranger Al Lirvat.

He specializes in merengue, cha-cha or calypso songs, sung in Creole, while remaining faithful to biguine.

African success

In July 1961, Barel left for six months for the former Belgian Congo, which became independent in June 1960. He played in the orchestra of Martinican trombonist Pierre Rassin, his former sidekick de la Boule d'Or, now based in Africa, in a fashionable nightclub called “Le Showboat”.

Several film appearances

In the 1960s, it was the turn of the movies indutry to make eyes at him.

Barel Coppet appears as an extra in many films.

In “Paris Blues” an American film shot in Paris in 1961, starring Louis Armstrong and Paul Newman, he appeared there along with other West Indians such as Al Lirvat and Pierre Rassin, on trombone as well as Emilien Antile on saxophone.

In 1967, we also see it in the final scene of the film which launched the unforgettable Martinican actress Cathy Rosier: “Le Samouraï” by Jean -Pierre Melville, with Alain Delon, where we see Barel Coppet for a short time on the alto saxophone in a jazz club.

Samurai final scene

Carnival in Martinique

Despite his European success, Barel Coppet does not forget Martinique. He returns there almost every year during the Carnival period to animate a dance hall.

In this context, we can see him among others, with Sam Castendet (1962), then in the orchestra of Pierre Louiss (1963), or during a tour of six months in the West Indies with Al Lirvat, from December 1964 to April 1965.

Definitive and active return to Martinique

In 1969, Barel Coppet returned to Martinique for good to host the famous dancing_le Manoir, created by his old friend, Pierre Rassin. He will remain there for nineteen years.

Barel Coppet et Pierre Rassin

At the same time, he also gives clarinet, piano and sax lessons to children and adults while continuing to perform in Guadeloupe, Guyana, Paris, etc.

In Martinique, he collaborated on several titles with the young Martinican shoot of the time, Mister Lof.

Fervent defender and transmitter of the tradition until his death

In the 80s, Barel Coppet performed at the "Carrefour des Musiques Créoles" event organized by RFO, the local channel of the time.

He will also play with the group Les Compagnons de la Musique which included local musicians such as Jean-Nestoret, Baby Bagoé, Sully Londas, Marcel Misaine or Laurent Larode.

On April 10 1997, Barel Coppet was elevated to the rank of Knight of the Order of Merit.

He died at the age of 89, on Sunday, October 18, 2009, at 10 a.m., following a cardiovascular accident, at the Pierre Zobda-Quitman University Hospital in Fort de France, Martinique.

On his death, Frédéric Mitterand, then French Minister of Culture saluted his memory in these terms:
"On clarinet and saxophone, on piano, but also on accordion or still on drums, Barel Coppet was a faithful and always inspired interpreter of the West Indian soul and the joie de vivre of a universal rhythm", he recalls in a press release.

He was a master and a model for young Martinicans wishing to perpetuate a musical tradition of which he was the guardian, both enlightened and vigilant“, also continues the minister.

Carrefour Barel Coppet Association

The memory of Barel Coppet lives on thanks to the Martinican association, Carrefour Barel Coppet, whose purpose includes the preservation and perpetuation of traditional music through concerts, demonstrations around the clarinet, the saxophone and songs creoles.
Since his death, the association has repeatedly paid tribute to Barel Coppet. In 2019, it commemorates the 10th anniversary of his death, with the participation, among others, of the young Elodie Bédacier, the Guadeloupean conductor Eddy Gustave, Guy Louiset on the steel pan, Charly Labinsly on the cajon, and the harpist Claire Lefur.



Martinican, passionate about culture and music of all kinds. Greater Caribbean specialist.

About Fwi Music Heritage

FWI MUSIC HERITAGE (FMH) is an information and resource portal specialized in the music, dance and forms of orality of the French Antilles and Guyana.


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