With the end of the year just around the corner, Haitian bands are actively working and preparing for the traditional releases of new CD's. In that respect, timing is everything. The release date becomes a real juggling act so that no one group will upstage the other. While we are all awaiting what will be hopefully a bumper crop, we can still enjoy some nice releases from last year.
Very few Haitian women artists have exclusively dedicated themselves to playing Konpa dirèk. Quite a few years ago, Farah Juste cut an album with Ska Sha (before the advent of Compact Discs). More recently, the group Riské released a CD, but after that, it seems to have dissolved. Women artists used to gravitate more to the folkloric genre, some Zouk, soft ballads and so on. Since the High Priestess of Haitian women artists, Martha Jean-Claude who opened the way for the like of Toto Bissainthe, and closer to us Farah Juste, Emmeline Michel, Gina Dupervil and so many more, these wonderful artists have continuously expanded the horizons and among the latest of these forays, the CD by Patricia Juste definitely deserves notice.
Following in the footsteps of Riské with this CD entitled "Sa poko anyen" (Ain’t seen nothing yet!), Patricia Juste bursts on the Konpa dirèk scene traditionnally controlled by males. And she does a wonderful job. With the backing of such excellent fellow musicians like Yves Abel , Alex Abellard, Douby etc., Patricia Juste seems to be saying, as the title of her album indicates, that this is just the beginning. Let us see if the next one will live up to that message.
Last year also, a veteran band decided to regroup and regain its place on the musical scene. Bossa Combo led by Raymon Cajuste released its first CD in quite a number of years. It is a nice one. The Group has noticeably changed its style, slowing down the rythm, but still coming up with some pretty melodies. I found this CD to be very relaxing and the lyrics very well written. Raymond Cajuste’s voice is still as accurate as ever , melodious, and a bit meditative, reflecting probably the maturity marked by his graying beard. The first tune "Chwalpapa" written by Cajuste, has meaningful lyrics and a pretty melody. Five of the twelve musicians of the Group wrote the eight songs on the album, and of those, Raymond Cajuste wrote four.
John Steve Brunache is in a totally different mode. His latest CD "Chimen Limyè", is an album which carries a message of courage, of encouragement and of exhortation: "Abitan pa janm gen jistis. Travay latè se chimen limyè..Travayè pa janm gen jistis" (Peasants never find justice...Agriculture is the road to enlightenment..Workers never find justice". All this lyrics of the background of Haitian folkloric rythms. He definitely gets his inspiration from the Roots tradition of social activism. It should be noted that a major contributor to this album is Daniel Beaubrun from Boukman Eksperyans. The fifth tune entitled "La relèv" (the chaning of the guard) has an infectious rythm , a wonderful melody and very profoundly meaningful lyrics. The next one "Ti moun yo" (the Children) is very meditative, and Brunache is only accompanied by a guitar. All the songs have been written by Brunache. This is a very nice addition to any Haitian collection.
Last but not least, those who live in the area of Boston , New York and Connecticut will be happy to know that the Group "Les Ambassadeurs" have been hard at work rehearsing for a big dance toward the end of the year. This I learned from the grapevine and I will keep you posted with any new information. For those who may be wondering, the nucleus of the band has not changed: Ricardo Frank -Ti Plume (guitar), André Bellegarde - Dédy (Keyboard), Ernst Ménélas (maestro saxophone) et Claude Ménélas (bass). They sound as if the band had never dissolved It should be an enjoyable night down memory lane.