Skah Shah No. 1 –Evolution / Skah Shah No. – The Real Deal
For anyone who has followed the group Skah Shah, since its inception, it has been a real saga in Haitian music. The distinctive voices of either Jean Ely Telfort, better known as Cubano, or of Jean-Michel St Victor will let you know which Skah Shah you are dealing with. No longer can you hear them on the same album, at a time when Skah Shah was the only game in town. And again, you also have drummer Yves Arsène Appolon, who already has about 4 or five albums under the name Skah Shah #1 Plus, to add to the confusion. The only common denominator among all of them is that they all emanate from the original Skah Shah and therefore, tend to have a similar sound. Cubano’s latest work is entitled : Skah Shah #1 – Evolution, while the Skah Shah #1 most recent CD is entitled : The Real Deal, two titles that already indicate a lot to those who follow this interminable saga.
Skah Shah’s fans will be happy to undertake this journey down memory lane. Cubano’s Cd contains some brand new tunes while the other Skah Shah CD are mostly new arrangements of previous hits. Cubano is supported by some of my favorite musicians: the wonderful Shedley Abraham, the excellent bassist Yves Albert Abel, the smooth guitarist Dener Céide and many others who were probably too young when the original Skah Shah was born . This gives the CD a much more modern sound. While the brass sound is “natural” on “Evoloution” , on the Real Deal, the excellent trumpet player Anderson Cameau makes incredible use of the keyboard in programming the brass section along with Maestro Loubert Chancy and Jocelyn Gourdet playing respectively the alto and tenor sax. Loubert Chancy’s distinctive sound gives the Skah Shah this identity that no one can imitate. The troubadour-inspired interpretation of the famous tune : Haiti (written by Ives Arsène Appolon) is proof of that.
I could not help taking note of some of the lyrics on the “Real Deal”, which pointedly underlined the fact that this was not a photocopy. This CD was the real deal, it was not an imitation. No doubt that it was a zinger directed at the other Skah Shah #1. What would it be if we did not have this kind of competition among Haitian musical groups?
Whatever the case, I must say that while I enjoyed the “Real Deal”, I find that the “Evolution” CD has a more dynamic, richer sound. Lucien Ceran from System Band plays a nice saxophone alongside top Haitian konpa stars like guitarists Makarios Cesaire, Ralp Conde, among many others, notably in the very nice “Skah Shah #1” medley. This medley will bring back a lot of memories of the time when Skah Shah dominated the konpa scene. Another favorite of mine on this Cd is “Maria”. The booming brass arrangement is just very good and fills in the song, in excellent sync with the bass and the drum.
You can be sure of one thing though. Whatever the Skah Shah sound you are listening, you will enjoy those tunes, because if anything, this band had a lot of hits before its split in three branches.
Serge Bellegarde – January 2017 for Windows on Haiti
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