Gwo ka is a French creole term for big drum. It refers to both a family of hand drums and the music played with them, which is a major part of Guadeloupean folk music.
The Gwo Ka musical practice emerged in the seventeenth century, during the transatlantic slave trade.
Seven simple drum patterns form the basis of gwo ka music, on which the drummers build rhythmic improvisations. Different sizes of drums provide the foundation and its flourishes. The largest, the boula, plays the central rhythm while the smaller maké (or markeur) embellishes upon it, inter-playing with dancers, audience or singer. Gwo ka singing is usually guttural, nasal and rough, though it can also be bright and smooth, and is accompanied by uplifting and complex harmonies and melodies. There are also dances that tell folk stories that are accompanied by the gwo ka drums.
This description uses material from the Wikipedia article Gwo Ka, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.