THE STATE OF OUR MUSIC TODAY

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Guysanto
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THE STATE OF OUR MUSIC TODAY

Post by Guysanto » Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:20 pm

Gregory Leconte wants to share these insights with you. I invited him to join the forum and perhaps he will at some point. In the meantime, his viewpoint may lead to an interesting exchange on the state of Haitian music.

[quote]THE STATE OF OUR MUSIC TODAY

By Gregory Leconte
leconte_gregory@yahoo.com

On its October 4 – 11, 2006 issue, page 22, an anonymous columnist, RG, wrote a very interesting article in Brooklyn based weekly Haiti Observateur about Haitian pianist Serge Duviella. I want to congratulate the writer of the article for that piece although he / she kept his / her identity. As a 33 year-old former student of the City University of New York, I had the opportunity to take a few classes in Music. Also, growing up with my father from Cap Haitien (northern Haiti), I was lucky enough to learn about the real music of Haiti. When I left my native land of Haiti in 1994, there was not a single young man who was more attached to foreign music such as Hip Hop, R&B, Reggae than me. As a 21-year-old man living in New York, I also thought that the only music of Haiti was “Compas direct”. As you already know, even better than I do, I was wrong.

I realized my ignorance about the real Haitian music when I happened to listen to the few bands such as: Orchestre Saieh, Citadelle, Super Jazz des Jeunes, Septen, Tropicana, etc. From then on I took a 360˚ turn and started to learn more about the authentic music of my country. My interest in our music soared as I also took my first music class, The History of Music. I became more involved in great composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, etc, as well as great jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, etc. It took me just about a year to find what music was really about.

One must really be musically illiterate to label as music what our so called musicians are playing today. Anyone with the slightest knowledge about music will agree that what these guys are playing is what my dad calls NOISE. I believe he is absolutely right.

I was lucky enough to hang out with a few of these so called musicians as I moved to Florida a few years ago for my master's degree. I used to attend their rehearsals. I can assure you that the majority of those guys know nothing about music. All that it takes them to make a CD is to gather in a small basement or in their room well electronically equipped and make sequences, and one, two, three; you have a “finished product.”

The problem that we are facing today is that we have a complaisant media (both in the diaspora and in Haiti) that are doing the wrong thing by not criticizing the mediocrity the public is consuming. I wonder sometimes if those gentlemen of the Haitian media know anything about music or even the history of Haitian music. In that sense, the writer, RG, is right on the dot in saying in his introduction: “Our so called musicologists in their articles have no courage to talk about the bad turn, the regression of our music.” The same goes for the so called speakers, TV hosts, and newspaper columnists. The truth of the matter is that some of those guys from the media are paid by some band leaders or managers. In order words, “those so called musicians are also buying the media, for a few dollars or just a few CDs. It is irresponsible and even immoral for a media person to allow himself or herself to be bribed with either money or a few CD and free event tickets. It is very difficult to be unbiased in judging or criticizing an artist or a group from which you receive favors. As Bob Marley said, “Don't let a politician gives you a favor, he will always want to control you forever”. The same statement can be applied for anyone who is running any kind of business.

Yes, one must have the courage to stand up and say that our music today is far from being good. It is wrong to say as I've heard so many times in New York and in Miami, that there is not bad music. Wrong! There is in fact bad music. A music with poor text, poor lyric, poor structure etc. is a bad music. The majority of those guys cannot even make a coda to end a piece. It is lamenting hearing the kinds of noise there are creating daily. The saddest thing is that individuals from some media would tell you “…new album is the bomb, it's so great, and you should go out there and buy it.” Can you imagine that you go and buy a bad CD and not only that it sounds just like the rest of them.

It is really unfortunate that our music has reached such a terrible turn. And I believe that the solution is not for tomorrow. Once again, as RG fairly said : “there is no critic.” Because of that the public will continue to consume mediocre products and garbage songs as long as the media continue to bombard us with them.

So many bad things are happening in our musical sphere and nobody dares to talk about them. Let us take three examples. First of all, only in our current day and age that a group of musicians will put dirt in Djoumbala Night Club. I was fortunate enough to have my dad teach me about what our music and night clubs, Cabane Choucoune, Casino, Djoumbala, etc. used to be. There is no excuse for the Haitian public not to have a descent atmosphere to enjoy it self peacefully and with class.

Further, we need to understand that popular music can be played with artistry. For instance, Jazz des Jeunes, Citadelle, Casino, etc used to also play popular music; yet, they used to play good music. Part of the problem is nowadays we are witnessing a terrible crisis of identity in Haitian society. It seems that we have lost the meaning of the word culture. Here, the blame must be put in our political system. Also to blame are our intellectuals who do not teach the meaning of culture to the young generation. It is funny to hear some of those “noise makers” when performing saying, “we are representing Haitian culture”. That proves those individuals have no idea what they are talking about especially when it comes to the Haitian culture.

Do I still go to their performances? Not anymore. Why? Because believe that the fact that someone is young does not mean that he or her has to hang in unappealing musical environments as it is today; especially when the products and performances offered are so bad. It is time for the media to have the guts to talk about what is wrong in our music. Once again, I commend the author for such a great piece.

Before I retire from this piece, allow me to let the author know that that my father has two CDs of Serge Duviella. His critic was that Mr. Duviella is very good. However, I believe Duviella's music would have even been better with less sequence and more acoustics. This musician is talented enough to have no need of using these sequences.

Gregory Leconte
Jamaica, New York
21 november 2006
[/quote]

Widy
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Post by Widy » Mon Mar 05, 2007 3:16 pm

Byen bonjou byen bonswa

Kon mwen ja di pa isit la menm, sèl mizik ayisyen yo devlope se konpa, ki fè kè dèpi ou mande oun moun kisa ki mizik ayisyen, i ka di-ou, se konpa dirèk.

Sa malere kè de jan dè gwoup kon ZAO AK JAKATA, pa koni di tou, e tout dòt tradisyoun mizik Afro-ayisen yo ki ka sèvi èvè kreyòl.

Jodijou pou ou touve oun kote pou-w koute mizik tanbou ayisyen, fòk ou leve bonnè, se près oun bagay inposib, e menm an karayib la.

Se moun la ka fè tout biten a yo, men yo pa gen tanbouye pou jwe ba yo, ki fè kè yo ka pran CD.

An karayib la menm, ayisyen ja près oubliye tanbou, yo plito konnen yo nan konpa ak mizik kretyen si nou pe di.

Tou sa ka fè kè gen oun reyabilitasyoun a tout patrimwan mizikal la sa a fè, sitou, pou nèg yo rilanse ou ba moun gou pou yo aprann, a woujouwe tanbou ak chan yo.

Widy

Serge
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Post by Serge » Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:09 am

Kanmarad Widy,

Gen kèk jou nou pa te kominike. Mwen li mesaj ou nan repons a Gregory Leconte lan. Fòk mwen di w ke mwen pa dakò ak sa w di a:

[quote]Jodijou pou ou touve oun kote pou-w koute mizik tanbou ayisyen, fòk ou leve bonnè, se près oun bagay inposib, e menm an karayib la.

Se moun la ka fè tout biten a yo, men yo pa gen tanbouye pou jwe ba yo, ki fè kè yo ka pran CD[/quote].

Pi lwen ou kontinye pou di:

[quote]An karayib la menm, ayisyen ja près oubliye tanbou, yo plito konnen yo nan konpa ak mizik kretyen si nou pe di. [/quote]

Mwen pa konen si wap swiv mizik ayisyen anpil, zafè Ayisyen ki "oubliye tanbou", pa gen sa pyès. Si gen you bagay ki depi nan ane 1970, rive nan kilti lakay nou, se reyabilitasyon kilti nou, folklò nou an, mizik rasin nou an. Se pa yon aksidan ki fè ke koulya a, ou gen dwa rive al nan bal gwoup ki jwe mizik rasin sèlman. Gwoup rasin vwayaje toupatou, festival mizik ayisyen fèt nan Nouyòk, nan Miyami, ak yon pakèt gwoup rasin ki patisipe ladan yo. E ki enstriman ji jwe yon wòl kapital nan mizik sa yo, se pèkisyon: tanbou, kata, tout kalite tanbou. Si w kon wè gwoup rasin ayisyen ka jwe, ou ka wè twa, kat kalite tanbou mizisyen yo jwe.

Youn nan tanbouyè ki pi popilè nan peyi Dayiti, se gwo tanbouyè Azò. Lè wap tande de tanbouyè tankou li, tankou Fritzner Augustin, tankou Gaston "Bonga" Jean Baptiste, Sergo Decius, ak anpil lòt mwen pa konen, wa reyalize kouman tanbou a, non sèlman rete yon eleman kle nan kilti ayisyen an, men li vin gen plis enpòtans ankò. Lè wap tando mizik konpa jodya a, koute tanbou a byen, e wap wè ke tanbouyè gwoup sa yo, pa gen dout yo kon jwe tanbou rasin nan, paske konpa pa jwe menm jan ankò.

Youn nan bagay gwoup rasin yo fè, se ke yo pèmèt non sèlman piblik ayisyen an, men piblik etranje a tou reyalize richès kilti ayisyen an, e sa fè ke gwoup rasin sa yo blije fè pis jefò pou fouye nan kilti pou apran plis. Rezilta, se ke mizik la, kilti a, revalorizasyon mizisyen sa yo vin parèt plis. Se konsa ou gen dwa wè nan kanaval pa egzanp, ou kon gen plis gwoup rasin pase gwoup konpa. Sèl pwobèm ki vin genyen - e sa se pa nan domèn sa sèlman - gen zafè finansman ki fè gen anpil gwoup raisin ousman mizisyen ki gen de lè, pa gen kòb pou fè CD oubyen pou mete tèt yo deyò komsadwa.

Nan menm kontèks sa, map tou janbe sou de twa pwen Gregory Leconte te di nan rale li fè sou mizik ayisyen an.

Youn nan bagay ki fè mwen pa alèz ak oryantasyon jeneral atik li a, se ke Leconte sanble pase yon kout bale sou tout moun, kom si li mete tout moun nan menm sak.

[quote]One must really be musically illiterate to label as music what our so called musicians are playing today. Anyone with the slightest knowledge about music will agree that what these guys are playing is what my dad calls NOISE. I believe he is absolutely right.[/quote]

This the kind of sweeping statement that can easily be proven uncorrect. Of course, there are plenty of Haitian musicians who make just nose, I agree. But there equally many Haitian musicains who put quality music of the highest order. In fact as I right these lines, there is a Haitian Jazz Festival going on in Port-au-Prince, with Haitian jazz musicians like Boulot Valcourt, Reginald Policard, Thurgot Theodat, Buyu Ambroise, Bemol Telfort, Jean Caze etc. This is the first time that such a festival takes place in Port-au-Prince. And yes, these guuys have a solid music education and training.

As fas as I know, in any country in the world, you will find musicians and group of musicians who play music that is "far from being good". Myself, in my Chronique, I have complained many times about the poor and stupid lyrics of some of those songs. Leconte's article throws a feeling of doom over the entire music of Haiti, when that is not the case. I have always like to hear or see for myself when someone tells me somthing. Mr. Leconte says the following:

[quote]Do I still go to their performances? Not anymore. Why? Because believe that the fact that someone is young does not mean that he or her has to hang in unappealing musical environments as it is today; especially when the products and performances offered are so bad. It is time for the media to have the guts to talk about what is wrong in our music.[/quote]

I am sorry to say tht I consider this attitude an erroneous approach to this problem. A lot has been happening in Haitian music for some years now, and Mr. Leconte, as such a strong critic of Haitian music, cannot close himself to what is happening around on the Haitian musical scene. By doing so, he misses out on whatever evolution the music may experience. I agree with him that many Haitian musicians have remained static, have not learnt anything. By contrats, those who have evolved have done fantastic stuff. But Mr. Leconte wil not to know about this because he has decided not to listen to what is happening. From my perspective, that is a dangerous way to look at things.

So while Mr. Leconte expresses valid points in his text, particularly in reference to the big bands of the past - thanks God they have left us a pretty good heritage of music - I believe he should avoid these kinds of sweeping statements that tend to classify Haitians musicians in general as a bunch of incompetent people just making noise. The facts do not support these statements.

Serge

Tidodo
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Post by Tidodo » Mon Mar 12, 2007 7:15 pm

Serge, I am in total agreement with you regarding the erroneous approach of Leconte to the problems of Haitian music today. It is easy to believe that by taking his distance from today haitian music today, he fails to learn what is happening in it. But, I want to rebut some of the points he made.

Haitian Konpa music has adapted to the time we are living in the world today the same way that those big bands mentioned in his post - Jazz des Jeunes, Orchestre Saieh, Citadelle, Septen, Tropicana, etc. - were emulating the Big Band type of their time. When I heard the music played by Orchestre Saieh, it reminded me of the music that was being played in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Big Bands in the USA in the 50s and 60s. Those days were the Big Bands' days, and they are over.

I can't remember today any Big Band still playing anywhere in the USA, Haiti and the Americas with wide popular appeal and success. My guess is that big bands had to be big bands then because they did not have all the sound amplifiers that are available today. You needed a lot of musicians and a lot of wind instruments to provide the noise to reach a large audience in a music hall.

With all the sound amplifiers available today, there is an erosion of presence of wind instruments in popular music bands throughout the world. Furthermore, I have heard the startling observation that instrumental CD rarely, if not ever, reached the level of “Platinum.” What it means is that today's listener, worldwide, values more the voice as an instrument better than all the other non-organic instruments combined. That may explain why Beethoven, Bach and Mozart may remain the greatest composers of their genre even after they have been dead for more than a century. No notable composers have emerged since.

Haitian Konpa today is a reflection of the reality of music in the electronic and digital age. There is no need to write the music, since we have audio-visual recording devices available that allow us to distribute and conserve the sound creation. We don't need a zillion of instruments to fill the air, with almost monotonous melodies, to create ambience for the star instrument and its performer to impress us with his virtuosity. And, more importantly, the musicians and the music must be interactive with the audience to be entertaining. That requires the melodies and verses of songs and refrains to be short enough for the average person to remember.

The singer and the chorus are the main attractions in today's Haitian Konpa. This explains why the musical instrumentation is reduced to its simplest expression, and sometimes pre-recorded digitally and played in live performances while the other instruments are being played live. With the voice taking center stage, the quality of the lyrics becomes important. The lyrics of today's Haitian Konpa music are not bad at all to the point that I sometimes think it is superior to the Big Band's lyrics mentioned above. I can give as an example some songs of Carimi, one of which “Pouvwa” I have written on in this forum. I can also give as examples some songs of Zenglen, “Child Support” and “Le Konpa” (Happy 50) by Richie; Konpa Kreyol's “Kimele'm” just to name a few. Yes, there are a lot of lyrics about sex and love. That is understandable, because love and sex emotionally move every human being.

The HMI is a thriving industry that provides a lot of jobs, decent entertainment and cultural pride to Haitians wherever they live. Even though Haitian Americans' children speak English and grew up in the USA, when they hear Haitian Konpa, they feel at home. To treat it as a discard (garbage), just because one is nostalgic of a different and past era, is being in denial of konpa's popular appeal.

Tens of thousands of Haitians around the world fill night clubs every weekend to be entertained by Haitian Konpa musicians. Haitian Konpa is not only appreciated in Haiti, USA and Canada by Haitians living there, it is widely popular in the French Caribbean islands. I know people from the French caribbean islands who routinely pay money to travel to Miami or Paris to come and attend a Haitian Konpa festival or a “bal”.

[quote]Anyone with the slightest knowledge about music will agree that what these guys are playing is what my dad calls NOISE. I believe he is absolutely right.[/quote]

First of all, you don't need to know music to appreciate it. But, I could not help drawing similarities of this quote with the quote of the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan , David Duke, about American Jazz:

"Jazz is noise pollution"

There are some legitimate issues with the HMI (Haitian Music Industry) that need to be corrected. And Mr. Leconte is right about some of them. They have to do, mostly, with discipline, unfair competition, bad customer service, unappealing music venues, excessive number of bands, and sometimes inability to replicate live the music on the CDs, just to name a few. Those things have more to do with the distribution of the music. Distribution problems do not necessarily mean bad product. Of course, like Serge indicated there is some bad music in the haitian music today, like there is in everything in life. But to discard the whole genre as noise and garbage is snobism!

Widy
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Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2006 2:35 pm

Post by Widy » Thu Apr 05, 2007 4:48 pm

Kanmarade Serge,

Mwen pran tan pou-m reponn-ou, men an la. Petèt si nò Amerika petèt gen oun lo tanbouyè ayisyen, men mwen pe di-ou an ewòp kon nan peyi karayib nou, pa gen sa pyès.

Mwen ni oun zanmi mizisyen ayisyen an fwans, pou boug la te fè CD li, li te oblije pran pèkisyonis afriken, piskè li pa touve tanbouye rasin pa-y.

Nan peyi kon gwadloup matinik ak sen maten, gen ayisyen ki ka fè vodou, men yo pa gen tanbouyé.

Si-n pran pwoblèm la youn nòt dimansyoun, nap wè kè sa lojik. Kilti rasin ayisyen toujou te malanje èvè zafè vodou yo, ki fè kè majorite moun ki te kont se jan dè biten la sa toujou meprize ankò plis tanbou rasin yo.

Deja yo ka di kè gen zounbi an tanbou a yo, plis tout pwopagand yo ki fè kè plen ayisyen vini neglije se tradisyoun tala.

An ewòp menm, tout ayisyen m rankontre yo pon yonn pa janm pale mwen dè tanbou e zafè a tanbou rasin ayisyen se pa oun biten ki ka enterese yo.

Mwen dakò èvè-ou kè nan konpa gen pèkisyoun, men dè pwòp èsperyans an mwen pèkisyonis akonpayatè òkès e tanbouyè rasin se pa ditou menm biten la.

Si-n wè ankò pwoblèm la si ang politik la, vi sitiyasyoun peyi ayiti, ès nou pe panse kè gen oun travay ka fèt pou inisyasyoun ti moun yo nan tanbou rasin ??

Mon chè serge, sa teke oun gran plezi pou mwen si kilti tala teka ritouve-y pami tout jenn ti ayisyen, men sèlon mwen fò pa nou panse kè patrimwan tanbou rasin toujou menm biten jòdijou.

Si nou pa gade plis e pa eseye fè kèkchòy pou reyabilite-y i sè pe kè nou pe pèd li, piskè kounyela, tanbouyé rasin se pa oun biten ki ka kouri lari.

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Guysanto
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Post by Guysanto » Wed Apr 18, 2007 6:23 am

Here are two links that may help to evaluate "The State of Our Music Today". In fact, the second link derives from the first:

1) www.soukompa.com

2) http://www.karijazz.com

You will surely come across old friends. Enjoy!

Tidodo
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Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2007 9:07 am

Post by Tidodo » Wed Apr 18, 2007 12:14 pm

Guy,

By the way, what happened to Leconte? I was hoping to learn a thing or two from him!

Thank you for the links to the music sites. I did meet with old friends!

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Guysanto
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Post by Guysanto » Fri Apr 20, 2007 9:41 pm

What happened to Gregory Leconte? I don't know Tidodo. He did write to me and asked whether I would publish his article. I invited him to register as a member of the forum and to feel free to publish his opinions, and that he would be greeted with respect whether one agreed with them or not. I have not heard from him since. Too bad.

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