The excitement and anticipation of everyone finally came to an end with the release, a few months ago, of Klass’ latest CD “ Ret nan Liy ou”. There are a number of artists and musical groups which have reached such a level of excellence that the public becomes more and more demanding with each release. Klass figures among the few groups in my book which has constantly responded to these expectations with ......class. Under the leadership of Jean H. Richard, better known as Richie, the group has been releasing a string of excellent CDs one after the other. In my view, Klass is one of the few Haitian musical groups playing the best konpa around these days. With the recent anniversary of the creation of Konpa Dirèk this past July 26, many have been blowing the whistle about the seeming stagnation, or lack of creativity and forward progress in today’s konpa groups. I will not hesitate to say that this latest Klass CD shows that Maestro Richie and his crew are doing their part in playing some solid, creative and modern konpa.
“Ret nan Li you” (Stay in your lane), the title of the CD, provides full enjoyment from start to finish. Right from the first song “Bouche Twou vid”, you cannot help but get up and start rocking from left to right at the sound of an infectious konpa beat. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!. The horn section is solid, the rhythm section under the aegis of Richie is out of this world. You can hear and feel the perfect symbiosis among the musicians and the music is greatly enhanced as a result. This is a tribute to the capacity of Maestro Richie.
In my view, if there is a factor that puts Klass a notch above many other groups, it is the orientation of his music as a whole. Richie is a formidable composer and arranger. As it happens with Klass previous CDs, the melodies stay with you, evoking warm sentiments. On top of that, Richie does not only write melodies while neglecting the rest, as we can see with other groups. Anyone listening carefully will take note of the special attention he pays to the lyrics of his songs, an example that many other musicians should emulate.
Of the eight tunes on the CD, Richie wrote the lyrics on seven of them and on the eighth one, he co-wrote the lyrics with this other wonderful guitarist, composer, arranger Dener Ceïde, one of my favorite musicians. He wrote or co-wrote the music on seven of these tunes. Richie makes full use of creative imagery of Haitian Kreyòl to enhance his lyrics. For example, in tune no. 2 “Blackout”, he says “Lanmou ban m blackout…De fwa li parèt, li disparèt…pa gen bouji, ni alimèt…”, it is such a creative way to describe how an individual is in love with a woman who is married and cannot be there with him all the time, so this is a fleeting love which cannot last: “kote gen manti, lanmou pa fleri.(where there is lying, love cannot flourish).”. Using the metaphor of constant electricity cuts in Haiti, he equates this love to the same thing. Love is a theme that is omnipresent in the music of Haitian musicians. While some musicians treat it in a very pedestrian, even vulgar manner, others are somewhat more mindful of the way they deliver their message. With Richie though, his love lyrics reflect an elevation of feeling, empathy, and sometimes one may even wonder if those lyrics translate his own personal experiences, or that of individuals he knows personally, as they mirror such daily occurrences in our lives. Listen for example to tune no. 5 “Kout Papa”. This is the story of a man who, having doubts about his son’s birth, takes him to a health center to discover that the boy is not his son. What a deep deception!. A stabbing in the back! How many of us have not heard of such situation? We certainly will remember Richie from his Zenglen period when he wrote a song about a child born out of wedlock. On this CD, he continues to write about meaningful subjects and I commend him for that. Tune no. 7 “Respekte Fanm” is right on point. Here is what some of the lyrics say:
“Ou di w se gason epi w ap bat fanm! (repons) Ou pa gason !
Trans : You say you are a man and you are beating women ! (answer) You are not a man!
“Ou di w ou se gason epi w ap joure ak fanm! (repons) Ou pa gason !
Trans : You say you you are a man and you are insulting women ! (answer) You are not a man!
"Ti Mesye respekte fanm ayisyèn !" - Trans: Young men, show respect for Haitian women!
I invite you to contrast these lyrics for example with those of a Sweet Micky who so shamelessly denigrates women, or how a number of Haitian artists debase women in their music while engaging in lewd dances on stage with women scantily clad. Klass is class.
Klass – Ret nan li ou, is a wonderful album in all aspects. With a solid cast of musicians, excellent mixing, beautiful melodies, sensitive lyrics and beautiful konpa beat, Klass’ fans could not have had it better. This CD, along with all previous Klass CDs for that matter, should be on everyone’s shelf. I highly recommend it.
Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti – September 2019
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