Strings - Joie de vivre in music
Fans of Haitian music will surely remember the late 1990s, when the famous Haitian guitar group “Strings” took the country by storm. Everywhere it played, the ballrooms were packed, their CDs sold like hot cakes. While things cooled down a bit, the group did not dissolve as it happens with too many Haitian groups and judging by its latest release, “Strings an kreyòl”, the group is as hot as ever. All the while, Band leader Jacky Ambroise has not been idle and thanks to the addition or replacement of some personnel, the music is extremely entertaining and joyful and Strings’ identity remains as recognizable as ever.
It had been a few years since we had heard of the group, but it latest release was well worth the wait. The band leader Jacky Ambroise sounds as harmonious as ever, playing a 12-string guitar. The percussion team of Arus Joseph (on maracas and congas), Serge Laguerre (on congas, djembe and bongos) and Robenson Jean-Baptiste (on drums) is vibrant and make the music breathe with life. Each one of the songs is full of joie de vivre and you can feel the musician enjoying themselves. If I were to characterize the music, I would say: Strings’ music is fun! You cannot help it, but have fun. It is that infectious. Listen for example to tune no. 3, “Notre faute”, a nice arrangement of a composition by the venerable Orchestre Tropicana. Or tune no. 6 “Qué Linda”, played on a merengue beat, Haitian style. You get the same happy sound from all the other tunes on the CD.
It is worth noting the interpretation of the Haitian traditional tune “Yoyo” sung by the beautiful Melissa Dauphin who feels at ease singing either a Haitian traditional song like this one, or just pure jazz. She is a perfect blend with the group. Bass player Gérald Kébreau plays some beautiful lines on the bass, feeling every gap throughout. Tune no. 9 “ Tango for Tabita”, composed by Ralph Blanchard (rhythm guitar), is one more testimony of the versatility of Strings in evidence on this CD.
Strings may have spent a few years without releasing CD, but it never stopped playing and touring; in fact, it is slated to start another tour in the US which will bring it to the Washington-Maryland-Virginia early in 2018. So, for those who reside in this area, stay tuned for a prospective evening of fun and joy with Strings, as alive as ever!
Serge Bellegarde, for Windows on Haiti – November 2017
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