My ten best picks for 2006
I know, this list should have come out toward the very end of 2006, but as you all know, most Haitian artists release their CD in the last 2 weeks of December, and that puts me in a difficult position since I do not want to miss anything. In any case, even with a few days late, I am submitting here my ten best picks for 2006. As I always point out, the list is entirely subjective and the CDs come from my private collection. Therefore, this choice does not imply that there are no other CDs that may be better than mine. This choice is not a judgment on the quality of the CDs I did not choose; but just a reflection of my own personal taste. I tried to present below as wide a variety as possible of the different genres covered by these artists this year.
In the Haitian Jazz category:
We have been really spoilt this year in terms of Haitian Jazz, one more sign that Haitians artists are widening their horizons while the public is opening more and more to something else than Konpa and Rasin: Here are my picks in that category:
Reginald Policard's release entitled “Detour” is a delightful CD. Imaginative, good sound, beautiful arrangements and more. That is what you will find. In the liner notes, speaking of the music on Detour, Réginald Policard says the following: “It has been a work of passion, of love and such enriching moment I can hardly describe it with words…” There you have it: is a wonderful work of art.
Mushy Widmaier's release entitled “My world” is another gem of music. While distinct from Policard's, Widmaier ‘s style is as attractive. The CD comprises 14 songs, all of them composed by Widmaier or in conjunction with another musician. One particular aspect of this CD is the variety of sound and rythms that makes it quite eclectic and at the same time, quite enjoyable.
Alix “Buyu” Ambroise' s second release “Marasa” only came out a few weeks ago. It is an absolute delight to listen to this wonderful album. With the exception of one track, all the tunes are taken from the Haitian Folklore and subjected to refined arrangements by Alix and his crew. You will no tire of listening to this CD time and again. Haitian Jazz lovers will derive exceptional pleasure in listening to this release.
In the Konpa Direk category:
With the flurry of the last week, it was not easy for to get my choices together, but I finally decided on the following:
Skah-Shah #1, finally reunited, released an pretty good CD entitled “ Lague Jazz la”. As a first studio recording since the reunification, I think they have recovered the Skah-Shah magic. They do sound completely loose and the music is entertaining. The brass section is excellent and the music is greatly enhanced for it. Do not hesitate to add it to your Skah-Shah collection.
Gracia Delva, formerly from Zenglen and Jean H. Richard, better known as Richie and still with Zenglen, released an excellent CD toward the end of 2006. It was the grand reunion of two artists whose separation the public always deplored. But their release entitled “Yo remele” was a dream come true. They have not missed a bit and this is vintage Zenglen sound, just an excellent Konpa album unde the aegis of this prestigious duo. A superb brass section, beautiful melodies, excellent lyrics, everything combined for your enjoyment.
Many Haitians, particularly those of the older generation, will surely remember the year 1960, more specifically August 1960, when this musical genius, saxophonist Wébert Sicot created his famous Ensemble Cadence Rampas , which soon after became Ensemble Wébert Sicot. As a tribute to this extraordinary sax player, composer, instrumentalist, an excellent compilation covering many years was recently released. Entitled : Hommage à Wébert Sicot: les plus grands succès du Kdans Ranpa,this CD contains 20 tunes covering the group from the beginning of its existence. It is a fitting and well deserved tribute to Wébert Sicot and even though the music is not new, I decided to include it among my ten best picks because of the memories.
There were quite a few releases toward the end of the year by the so-called New Generation groups. Of those I chose one I found particularly entertaining. The group Kreyòl la released a CD entitled : Viktwa. Believe me, the band sounds really good and the melodies, the mixing and even the lyrics combine to make an excellent product. The title track is notable both in terms of lyrics and of melody. This song is quite an indictment of the authorities who do not do their work. At the same time, it is a strong plea for the creation of jobs which will allow everyone to stay out of trouble and meaningfully contribute to society. This is a good CD to have in your collection.
In the soft music category, I have chosen two excellent releases in 2006.
Saxophonist extraordinaire Didier Labossière third CD of the series was released back in August by Fred Paul and Mini Records. It is a blast A cast of excellent musicians on the album, such as Eddy Prophète on piano, Federico Britos on violin, the great Nestor Torres on flute, Leo Quintero on guitar and so many more, combine for your complete enjoyment. Guitarist Bemol Telfort, singers Richie, Raymond Cajuste and Yvon Mondésir are also featured as guests here, completing this wonderful symbiosis of musicians of different nationalities playing Haitian music. Didier Labossière is simply superb on the saxophone. All in all, it is an excellent all-around CD.
If you have been following the evolution of Haitian smooth jazz, then you must be familiar with the sound of Jowee Omicil and his saxophone. He is just superb and plays as a real pro. His latest CD – and I believe his first one – is entitled : “Let's do this”. And what a job he does!. His music is smooth, relaxing, expressive and full emotions. You want to add Jowee Omicil to your music collection.
I have included a historical category in which I have grouped two CDs. I did it in order to be able to cover these two historical works by the authors.
Jean Saint-Vil, alias Jafrikayiti, released the second of his series : Lafimen. It is an excellent and informative piece of history of early Haiti, or rather of Saint-Domingue. In a very imaginative way, Jafrikayiti tells the facts in a lively manner supported by appropriate soundtracks, which keeps us riveted to the story. A great deal of research provides us with information that is not readily available in books and that makes Lafimen a most valuable tool for reference in all Haitian schools. At least, that should be the case.
The next CD worth listening to is the one that came out recently and is narrated by Professor Jean Julien. Volume 11 is the first of the series on François Duvalier and his reign. As we look at how our country is faring now, it is imperative to revisit the Duvalier era from a more profound and critical perspective, objectively and without passion, so that we can understand why some things are the way they are today. Julien recounts the events preceding the advent of Duvalier, the role of the Americans, of the Haitian Army, specifically of General Antonio Kebreau who played a key role in consolidating Duvalier's power, the so-called “elections” which propelled candidate Duvalier to the Palace, the behaviour of other key political leaders such As D. Fignole, Louis Déjoie, Clément Jumelle and others, the beginning of his ferocious dictatorship, the way he started manipulating and controlling the economic sector. We are anxiously awaiting the next installment of Vol. 11, for the Duvalier period in Haiti will remain the darkest one in our history.
Help fight Haitian CD piracy – It is bad for everyone
Serge Bellegarde, for Windows on Haiti – January 2007
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