Chronique musicale #88
Everyone should remember how, in the 1980s, the famous group Boukman Eksperyans catapulted Haitian roots music (Mizik Rasin) on the international scene, breaking all social barriers in Haiti and allowing Mizik Rasin to occupy its rightful place on the Haitian social and cultural scene. If you like Boukman Eksperyans, so will you the new group on the block, Lataye and its recently released CD entitled Tou Manbre.
It was during one of my musical forays into Haitian music stores that I found it and what a find! It should be said that, just as it is the case with Boukman Eksperyans, this brand of Mizik Rasin is quite different from, say, Koudjay, or Tokay. What is most noticeable on this CD is the variety of rhythms that is offered and this is most enjoyable to listen
Daniel Beaubrun shows tremendous versatility as the arranger and producer of this CD and as the writer of the majority of the 16 songs on the album. The music opens with a joyful invocation to Papa Pyè Dambalah, followed by the title Tune Tou Manbre. The background voices do a wonderful job. One should also note the excellent cast of musicians who make it all happen, notably, Makarios Césaire, one of my favorite guitarists, whose discreet play subtly enhances the song at the right moment. On the Haitian drum in 5 of the 16 songs, we find Markus Schwartz ( from Mozayik), while James “Tiga” Jean-Baptiste is featured on Tune No. 15 in furious Rara beat. These two gentlemen are omnipresent in Haitian Rasin music and this album shows why. You will not hear a better rhythm section.
I have always found Boukman’s music to be an educational experience in Haitian folkloric rhythms. Lataye is in the same tradition. Each one of the songs makes you discover a different rhythm. My experience with this CD is that the more I listen to it, the more I hear something new and this is absolutely enriching. Listen for example to the many variations in Tune No 3. This is wonderful! As the lead vocal and bass player, Daniel Beaubrun does an excellent job.
There is so much to listen to on this CD that words are not enough to describe it. The richness of this album also resides in the superb lyrics throughout the 16 songs. If Jamaica’s Reggae is a music with a conscience, in Haiti, this role falls to Mizik Rasin. It is the medium par excellence through which social and political grievances are aired. Any of the songs is proof of that. You can appreciate for example the poignancy of the lyrics in Tune No. 7 Kay Inan. This is an anguished cry for the nation to regain its composure, for its people, young and old to realize what is wrong in the society and to change it, otherwise Haiti will die. The youth is troubled, it is in search of its identity, of its pride…. This is a powerful message that cannot be ignored. The closing tune Pwofèt la, aptly invites us to seize the moment to do well, because the time which passes does not come back; opportunities that are lost are gone forever.
When reviewing a CD, I usually like to indicate which songs may be my favorite, but, this time, I am hard pressed to do so. Whether it is Tou Manbre (2) ; Edike (3) , M viv avè yo (4) ; Kay Inan (7) etc, I like them all. In relation with the different rhythms, I remain intrigued and captivated by Tune No. 11, Sayila, an absolutely beautiful instrumental melody in which the interplay between the violin, the bass and the drum are fascinating. The song is played on a rhythm called “Manbo”, a variation of the Kongo rhythms found in what is called in Haitian Voodoo: Soukri drumming. This information may not mean much to those who do not know the particulars (like me), but, never mind. Enjoy the music, buy the CD and you will hear what I mean. There is also Tune No. 12, Rekomanse, played on a nice, slow Reggae beat. The lyrics offer another example of meaningful message: “We live on earth, but we are always starting all over again….We do not even know the real story of Jesus……we are looking at a book which is missing a lot of pages...” The lyrics in general reflect a certain sadness and nostalgia which probably mirror the situation in Haiti. I am not aware that this group replaces Boukman Eksperyans, ( which in the last couple of years, seems to have been involved in active politics), but Boukman musical touch on this CD is undeniable with Daniel Beaubrun at the helm. Not that this creates any problem whatsoever. This is a very entertaining and educational CD, the mixing is excellent; all inst
ruments are clear and frankly, it had been some time since I had heard such a good Rasin CD.
Serge Bellegarde – Help fight Haitian CD piracy, it is bad for everyone
For Windows on Haiti – October 2005