Who is he? Not what is it?
Twoubadou derives from the French "Troubadour", and it means "Folk singer". Another name for this musician in Creole is "Siwèl." Yet, understand that "Twoubadou" is not about a genre of music. It's about an artist, a musician who uses the vernacular language of the masses and performs his music with his instrument, which is often, a guitar, or a banjo.
The Troubadour's instruments are usually hand made. Even the strings of his guitar are often unconventional; in some cases, unfolded strings of copper from the unused starter of an automobile. The "Twoubadou" is often from the countryside, or deeply rooted to the social life of the masses and the peasants.
His lyrics are a testimony of his suffering, mixed feelings of fatality and hope, his struggle, the drama of his life. His passion for love and sex is depicted with such spicy and subtle words
that one can be easily convinced he will remain an unrepentant sinner.
The "Twoubadou" is most of the time a self-taught musician. His chords are simple diatonic chords, and his progressions not too sophisticated. His melodies revolve often around the major and minor pentatonic scale. One will never hear a diminished chord, even less a dissonant chord in his compositions.
The structure of the "Twoubadou" song is also a very simple A and B form--A for the verse, B for the chorus, no bridge. The format of calls and responses, which is endemic to Haitian Roots music or Voodoo Music, is rarely used in folk music.
The "Twoubadou" does not usually perform alone. One will hear the unavoidable shaker or "tcha-tcha", the bass sound of the "mannouba or manniboula", a big wooden box with 3 pieces of metal in front a circular opening- in his live performance. He may use another guitar player or a conga player, or both. The musicians who accompany him also serve as his back-up
The "Twoubadou" is, at first, a street musician if he lives in the city, and can be found playing at "open air clubs", called "anba tonnèl", if he lives in the countryside. He wanders here and there playing for a few cents, for cigarettes or a drink of tafia or rhum. His small audience is often composed of men, smoking, drinking and joking at a street corner, or seated in front of a house, where they enjoy his music for a few minutes. His other venues include hotels, where he may perform before tourists for tips, and perhaps, a small fee from the hotel's managers.
Heroes of Popular "Twoubadou"
We are going to name only the most famous Haitian folk singers.
Ti Paris remains The Icon of Haitian Folk music. Altieri Dorival, Gesner Henri of Trio Sélect, later named Coupe Cloue, Les Charmeurs du Cap with Papou, lead guitar player of Septentrional Orchestra, Les Professionels, Rodrigue Millien, Toto Necessite have left a voluminous repertoire of enjoyable mus
One might include Lumane Casimir, Martha Jean Claude, Toto Bissainthe, as folk singers in this category, but the author does not believe they belong here. However, they are the divas of Haitian pop music.
The Twoubadou sings and plays his music from his soul with an uncompromising integrity and authenticity. The depth of his music always touches the core, and essence of our cultural heritage. Indeed, "vye nèg pa vye chyen", "the old black man is not an old dog". Ponder the depth of this translation.
Written by Gifrants, Bandleader of SEGWE
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