Gabel: Meaningful konpa
Since the appearance of the so-called mini-jazz towards the mid 60s, interestingly enough, every 10 years more or less, Haitian konpa would go through some kind of a reevaluation or modernization process which saw the emergence, or rather the re-emergence of the brass section in full force, a more prominent role of the keyboard and new twists in the rhythmic section. In 2017, much has been written about a certain stagnation in today’s konpa, even though I find that groups like Zenglen, Harmonik, Klass, Nu Look, Djakout Mizik, to name but a few, have done much to show that konpa is alive and well and kicking. The subject of this Chronique is precisely one of these groups, the music of which I find most appealing and entertaining. The group is called Gabel and its most recent CD is entitled “Kenbe yes ou”.
First and foremost, I found Gabel’s music appealing because of the lyrics of the songs. Although much progress has been made in terms of writing better lyrics in konpa, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Some konpa groups write nice lyrics, but others have work to do. Listening to this CD, in my opinion, Gabel seems to pay special attention to this aspect of its music. The first tune “ Paka fè pitit” is not exactly what you would expect to hear from a konpa group. The drama of a couple who cannot have children is a highly tragic and sad situation. Listen to the poignancy of the lyrics. I am sure many listening to this tune will identify with those lyrics. Another remarkable tune is no. 5 “Ti moun yo”. Played on a twoubadou beat, the lyrics deal with the fate of the young kid growing in a society where role models are so scarce. The singer Vladimyr Étienne underlines how important it is for the adults to set a good example for the little ones growing up and who will be called upon later to lead. If they see you stealing, they will be tempted to do the same. If they see the adults showing no respect for women, they will equally disrespect them. What the adults say, they will say. The song ends with the profound thought that the children are the future of the country; we are their role models, we need to do good. Nothing could be more to the point, given the near total breakdown of institutions in Haiti and of Haitian society itself, as well as the utter sense of impunity prevailing in the country. Even when dealing with the perennial issues of love, or lack thereof, fidelity etc, the lyrics are well balanced and meaningful. Tune no. 6 for example “Pito n kite” raises the issue of a couple who has to decide what to do when both parties do not love each other anymore. The issue is not new, but the way it is raised in the lyrics leads one to wonder whether the author of the lyrics is talking about his own experience.
All 12 tunes provides the double pleasure of listening to meaningful messages, and of being entertained by a solid brand of konpa. Gabel has a calm, steady cadence; the kind of beat that you can dance all night without ever getting tired. There is nothing more pleasant than enjoying a dance while listening to nice lyrics at the same time. You will recognize on the CD the participation of well-known musicians like Nickenson Prudhomme, Michael Benjamin, Shedley Abraham. I had to admit I was not at all familiar with the other musicians, but I must say: chapo ba! Gabel’s “Kenbe yes ou” is an album that should be on your shelf if you like some nice, meaningful konpa.
For Windows on Haiti, August 2017
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