Tag Archives: Haitian music

Big Statements and African Diaspora Roots Sounds from Leyla McCalla

Leyla McCalla – Capitalist Blues (PIAS, 2019)

Capitalist Blues is the third album by former Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist and singer-songwriter, Leyla McCalla. On Capitalist Blues, Leyla incorporates a wide range of influences that reflect her Haitian heritage, the music of the Afro-diaspora and her current home in New Orleans, which is one the essential musical melting pots of the United States.

Leyla McCalla – Capitalist Blues

Leyla sings in English and in Haitian Kreyol and collaborated with local artists and acclaimed Haitian ensemble Lakou Mizik, who participated in the album while they were staying in New Orleans to perform at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. In addition to African-American and Haitian music, Leyla also added Brazilian rhythms and Cajun music to Capitalist Blues.

Capitalist Blues illustrates Leyla’s ideas and sentiments about the current world events, including violence in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war; capitalism; lead poisoning in water that has affected many minority communities, especially in Flint, Michigan; the divisiveness of Donald Trump; and the protests in New Orleans over the dismantling of Confederate monuments.

For this album, Leyla McCalla decided to use the guitar and banjo instead of her familiar cello.

Capitalist Blues s is a finely-crafted example of the essence of New Orleans roots music and songwriting with a social conscience.


Haitian-Canadian Artist Wesli Wins the 2019 World Music Album of the Year Juno Award

Wesli during the Juno award ceremony

Haitian-Canadian artist Wesli is the winner of the 2019 Juno Award (Canada’s top music award) in the World Music Album of the Year category, for his impressive 21-song album Rapadou Kreyol. The album focal point is keeping the Haitian traditional music and instrumentation alive and well.

“I have two hearts,” said Wesli. “One is in Haiti, and the other is here in Canada, my chosen second homeland. Every time I do a new project, I have to approach it in two ways, one specifically dedicated to Haiti and our roots and culture, and another one dedicated to the welcome society that I am living in and that I’m grateful to.”

Wesli – Rapadou Kreyol

Upon receiving the award, an overjoyed Wesli said, “I really didn’t think I’d win, because everyone in the category [some of whom he’d worked with before over the years like Boogat and Cuban artist Telmary] are all so great, but I’m so thankful and grateful that I can represent Haitian artists in this way.” He’d been nominated once before, in 2007, as album Producer for Senaya, his band at the time, but this is his first win for his own music.

Named for rapadou, the tasty bamboo-wrapped fermented sugarcane often added to coffee, “This album is designed to revive our beautiful rhythms like Petro, Congo, Rada, Nago, Rara, the troubadour and voodoo rhythms, and our music in Yoruba language. These styles have almost no support from the mainstream media to keep them alive in the commercial society that we are living in,” Wesli notes. “Haitian music is the African Bible of the Caribbean. Our traditional percussionists know all the old ways and keep them. We can’t afford to lose them now. I have decided to do this roots revival album to remind us of who we are, where we are coming from, and what unites us.”

Sung entirely in Kreyol, Rapadou Kreyol features his own respectful take on the Haitian rituals of Lakou Dahomé and Lakou Congo, fusing rolling rara beats, bursts of brass, and just the precise electronic elements.

Each of the tracks is a different Haitian genre, like Congo and Daomé to represent joy, Nago and Djouba to represent contemplation and sadness. Each Haitian roots rhythm reflects different situations and requires different drums and instruments. Wesli adds, “One unique thing we do in all these genres is dance! We dance to everything in Haiti.

More information at wesliband.com/en/

headline photo: Wesli by Josué Bertolino


Malou Beauvoir’s Haitian Tradition, Spirituality and Empowerment

Malou Beauvoir – Spiritwalker

Malou Beauvoir – Spiritwalker (Panthera Music International, 2018)

Haitian-American vocalist, actress and songwriter Malou Beauvoir celebrates her Haitian roots and vodou in Spiritwalker. The album crosses over into solid world music territory with a superb fusion of Haitian rhythms and melodies, jazz, neo-soul, reggae, funk, Cuban influences and, on “Rasenbleman,” irresistible cutting edge electronic dance music.

The song selection includes traditional folk songs and originals by Malou Beauvoir in Haitian Creole and English. “I wanted these songs that we grew up with – their values, their principles, the ideas behind them –to become hip, to become accessible to the younger generation so that we can use our own identity to express our frustration, and motivate each of us, as individuals, to bring about change.”

Spiritwalker features an international cast of first class musicians from Haiti, the USA, Cuba and Japan: Chico Boyer on bass, percussion and backing vocals; Paul Beaubrun on guitar and vocals; Sirgo Decius on percussion; Jean Guy Rene on percussion; Cheff Loncher on keyboards and programming; Axel Laugart on piano, keyboards and Spanish-language vocals; Yayoi Ikawa on piano; Hiroyuki Yamada on guitar; Jon Gordon on guitar; Calvin Jones on bass; and Gashford Guillaume on drums.

The last track, from the album “Is This Love” includes Bobby Mann on guitar; Andy Ezrin on piano; Ben Whitman on drums and percussion; and David Finck on bass.

Spiritwalker is a masterfully-crafted, captivating contemporary album rooted in Haitian tradition.

Buy Spiritwalker


Artist Profiles: Foula Vodoule

Foula Vodoule

Foula Vodoule is a Haitian band that has been playing traditional music since 1978. Unique in style and presentation, Foula Vodoule combines the sound of wind instruments like the kone (long tin horns) and Vaccins (bamboo horns), drums, xylophone and vocals to create a tone that is rich, diverse and melodic.

Foula Vodoule is one of Haiti’s most popular Rara band, taking to the streets of Port-Au-Prince during the traditional Rara period (Fat Tuesday to Easter Sunday). Foula Vodoule draws several thousand people who dance alongside them as they march through the streets of the capital.

Jean-Raymond Giglio and Wilfrid “Tido” Lavaud who founded the group have researched Voodoo rhythms for more than twenty years. They have incorporated their country’s traditional rhythms with elements of jazz and rock &roll.

Foula Vodoule has performed in many clubs and in music festivals throughout Haiti. Every year they are part of the annual Carnival celebration. One of the country’s most popular annual music festival, Jama, always gives Foula Vodoule top billing. The band also participated in Bouyon Rasin which was the first Haitian national event ever to feature Vodou inspired groups.

When the group is not rehearsing or performing, members can be found producing stunning Haitian paintings, unusual sequined art and traditional instruments. The crafts and instruments are sold locally and abroad.

Foula Vodoule is committed to sharing its cultural heritage and music as much and as far away as possible. Their very first album entitled Ede Ti Moun Yo / Help The Children was released in February 1999.


Artist Profiles: Emeline Michel

Emeline Michel at Motorco – Photo by Angel Romero

Emeline Michel is oene the leading female vocalists from Haiti. A captivating performer, versatile vocalist, accomplished dancer, songwriter and producer. She has recorded and appeared on concert stages throughout the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and Africa for the past 15 years. Singing both in French and Haitian Creole, her CDs Douvanjou ka leve (May the Sun Rise), Pa gen manti nan sa (There’s No Doubt), Rhum &Flamme (Rum &Flame), Tout Mon Temps (All My Time), The Very Best, and Ban’m pase (Let Me Pass) catapulted her to international acclaim.

Emeline Michel is beloved by Haitians for combining traditional rhythms with social, political and inspirational content. She is a member of a new generation of Haitian musicians which also includes guitarist/vocalist Beethova Obas and the bands Boukman Eksperyans and Boukan Ginen. In contrast to most contemporary Haitian music, this new wave of artists emphasize complex themes, conscious lyrics, and a broad palette of musical styles, including the native Haitian compas and rara along with jazz, rock, bossa nova and samba.

Born in Gonaives, Haiti, her first experience in music was singing gospel music at the local church. After completing her education, Emeline accepted an opportunity to study at the Detroit Jazz Center and returned to Haiti as a professional musician. Emeline soon released her first album Douvanjou ka leve (May the Sun Rise) which featured the hit “Plezi Mize” (Pleasure in Misery) written by Beethova Obas.

Subsequent releases “Tankou melodi”(Like a Melody) and “Flanm” (Flame) established her as one of the top artists in Haiti and the French Antilles (the nearby islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe) and she was soon hailed as the “new goddess of Creole music”.

Relocating to France, she became a leading musical icon, performing at venues such as the Jazz Festival of Nice and Theatre de la Ville, making numerous appearances on French television and gracing the covers of many fashion and culture magazines.

From her base in France, Emeline’s work quickly spread throughout the french-speaking world, including Belgium, Africa, French Antilles, French Guiana and Quebec. From the album Tout Mon Temps (All My Time) came her international smash hit “A-K-I-K-O”. While set to an infectious dance groove, the song call’s for Haiti to look past the political turmoil that has recently gripped the nation and to return to a time of innocence and joy.

After signing to a Montreal record label she began a high profile five years as one of the leading young female vocalists working in Quebec and a regular act for Canadian festivals, radio and television. In 1996, she released the album Ban’m Pase (Let Me Pass), a CD which showcased her developing talents as a mature writer and producer. This huge-selling and influential release featured the international hits “Ban’m Pase” and “Mwen bezwen” (I Need You), fully incorporated her jazz/blues/samba influences, and secured her position as one of the leading songwriters in the Haitian Creole language.

After being signed with several record labels in France, Canada and the U.S., Emeline formed her own production company (Production Cheval De Feu) in 1999 to gain full control of her career and artistic vision. Soon after she began writing a series of new songs that reflected her core inspiration – Haitian soul & roots with a world music influence – and embarked on a musical quest that would bare rich fruit as the new CD, Cordes et Ame.

Michel is currently based in New York City, where she runs her own production company, Production Cheval de Feu.


Douvanjou Ka Leve ‎(Shap Musique, 1987)
Emeline 2 ‎(Shap Musique, 1988)
Flanm Cobalt (1989)
Pa Gen Manti Nan Sa (Geronimo Records, 1990)
Tout Mon Temps (Cobalt, 1991)
Rhum & Flamme (Air Musik, 1993)
Ban’M Pasé ‎(Antilles Mizik, 1996)
Cordes Et Ame ‎(Production Cheval De Feu, 2000)
Rasin Kreyol (Times Square Records, 2004)
Reine De Coeur ‎(Emeline Michel, 2008)
Quintessence ‎(Emeline Michel, 2013)
Gratitude – Live In Paris ‎(Aztec Musique, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Carimi

Carimi is one of Haiti’s most popular Kompa groupss. Carlo Vieux and Richard Cave on keyboards and singer Mickael Guirand form the word Carimi. The group had their breakthrough in 2002 with their debut CD Ayiti Bang! Bang!.


Bang Bang (2001)
Poze Aki (2002)
Nasty Biznis (2004)
Nasty Biznis: Live in Concert (2005)
Are U Ready? (2006)
Buzz (2009)
Invasion (2013)
Kite m’ cho (2016)


Artist Profiles: Boukan Ginen

Boukan Ginen – Photo by Stephen Homer

Boukan Ginen means “Fire from Africa” in Haitian Creole, and this passionate young roots band from Haiti burns with the spirit of their African musical homeland. Founded in the early 1990s, the band is at the forefront of the mizik rasin (roots music) movement that has captivated Haiti both musically and politically.

Led by the passionate, soulful voice of Eddy François, Boukan Ginen plays an earthshaking mix of African, Caribbean, rock and reggae music with vibrant rara rhythms, choral chants and Jimmy Jean-Félix’s searing guitar solos.

Boukan Ginen began in the heat of Haiti’s political turmoil of the late 1980s. The departure of the Duvaliers’ long dictatorship from Haiti started a cultural revolution which swept across the country, giving way to an explosion of new and talented young musicians. The rasin movement was a potent mix of socially-conscious lyrics and rock and reggae influences with voodoo, the African religious music that had long been rejected by the ruling class. Leading the way was the renowned group Boukman Eksperyans, with whom Eddy and Jimmy first got their start.

In 1990 Eddy and Jimmy left Boukman to launch their own new band, Boukan Ginen, just as Haiti’s popular new President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, came to power. Boukan Ginen’s anthemic songs and polyrythmic grooves captured the spirit of the times, and at the 1991 joyful Carnival celebration, the young band won the coveted musical award for Best Carnival Song with “Pale Pale W” (“Speak Out”).

The music we play is part of an African cultural movement, not just a musical movement,” said Eddy François. “We sing about everyday problems in Haiti – political, social and economic.”

The following year, Haiti was back in turmoil as Aristide was ousted by a military coup. Boukan Ginen’s protest anthem from the previous year, “Pale Pale W,” had them banned from the 1992 Carnival. The powerful, nine-minute chant appears on Boukan Ginen’s first album, Jou A Rive (“The Day Will Come”), recorded and released in Haiti during the repressive months following Aristide’s departure. With the album’s politically-charged songs attacking the country’s social and political malaise, Boukan Ginen became one of Haiti’s most popular and controversial groups.

Jou A Rive was given an international release in 1995 by Xenophile Records, bringing Boukan Ginen worldwide attention and critical acclaim. The band began to tour in the U.S., Canada and Europe, with appearances at festivals around the world. In July 1995, Boukan Ginen performed at Haiti’s Bouyan Rasin Festival, organized by Jonathan Demme.

In 1996, Boukan Ginen dug even deeper into their African roots on their second release, Rév An Nou (“Our Dream”) on Xenophile. The album’s bubbling rhythms and layered horns underscored lyrics portraying abuse of power and hopes of justice and social reform.

Musicians themselves can’t make the change,” said Jimmy Jean-Félix about the album, “but what we say can enlighten people about the situations they are facing. For me, music is the best way to help people understand that their living conditions can be improved. When Haitian people dance to our music, they hear that a change is possible.”


Jou a Rive (Xenophile, 1995)
Rèv an Nou (Xenophile, 1996)


Artist Profiles: Desandann


Cuba’s Grupo Vocal Desandann is also known (and marketed) as the Creole Choir of Cuba. Based in Camagüey, Grupo Vocal Desandann performs a repertoire of popular, traditional and spiritual Haitian songs arranged and freshly interpreted by members of the group.

Their unique vocal arrangements celebrate and honor the rich legacy of Haitian culture in Cuba by combining vocals, dance and percussion. The group’s extensive repertoire also includes new interpretations of Cuban and American traditional and spiritual songs.


Descendants ‎(Bembe Records, 1999)
Tande-La (Real World Records, 2011)
Santiman (Real World Records, 2013)


Black Atlantic Music Festival at Duke University

Duke Performances will present a Black Atlantic, a captivating six-day world music festival, celebrating the music of Africa and the African diaspora. The festival takes place the last week of March 2018 at several venues in Durham, North Carolina .

The extraordinary program includes some of the finest artists from Africa and the Caribbean. The festival opens with acclaimed traditional Dominican bachata musician Joan Soriano. Next is one of Haiti’s top female performers, singer-songwriter Emeline Michel.

Afro-Venezuelan vocalist Betsayda Machado and her backing band La Parranda El Clavo are one of the sensations in the world music scene.

Mali produces an impressive amount of high quality talent. Trio da Kali is one of the new stars of the Malian scene. It’s a collaboration between some of Mali’s leading jeli (griot) musical families, Hawa Kassé Mady, daughter of Kassé Mady Diabaté; bala player Lassana Diabaté; and ngoni master Mamadou Kouyaté.

Honduran composer, singer-songwriter and activist Aurelio (Aurelio Martínez) is currently the most influential Garifuna artist. Aurelio will be presenting his new album Darandi released on Peter Gabriel’s Real world Records.

Aurelio – Darandi


The last concert of Black Atlantic will present flamenco star Diego El Cigala with top salsa musicians. His most recent album Indestructible is a tribute to salsa music.


Diego El Cigala – Indestructible


Black Atlantic Schedule

Joan Soriano (Dominican Republic)
Monday, March 26, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall


Joan Soriano



Emeline Michel (Haiti)
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall

Emeline Michel



Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo (Venezuela)
Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall


Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo



Trio da Kali (Mali)
Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall

Trio da Kali



Aurelio (Honduras)
Friday, March 30, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall

Aurelio Martinez in 2010 at Forde Festival in Norway – Photo by Angel Romero


Diego El Cigala (Spain/Dominican Republic)
Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Carolina Theatre of Durham

Diego El Cigala



For more information or tickets go to: dukeperformances.duke.edu


Artist Profiles: Mozayik


Mozayik’s sound draws upon the rich heritage of traditional Afro-Haitian rhythms, mixing them with the instrumentation, melodic and harmonic sensibilities and improvisation of jazz. Mozayik also includes Cuban and Brazilian jazz as sources of inspiration.

The group draws from a diverse array of other influences: classical, jazz, gospel and funk are all part of the Mozayik sound. The members of Mozayik bring together multiple talents and years of performing and recording experience.

Mozayik’s self-titled debut recording received good coverage in the United States and Haiti. The band’s second CD Rhythmic Reflections (re-released as “Haitian Creole Jazz” by Zoho Music) includes traditional Haitian folkloric drum beats: Nago, Mayi, Ibo, Rara, Kontradans, Kongo and Petwo.

The compositional talents of drummer Gashford Guillaume, guitarist Eddy Bourjolly and pianist Welmyr Jean-Pierre are evident on this recording as the tunes are literally written to the Haitian drum patterns.


Mozayik (2000)

Rhythmic Reflections(2004)/Haitian Creole Jazz (Zoho Music, 2005)

website: www.mozayik.com