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Chronique 152 - Septentrional, Septent de toujours.

Posted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:14 am
by Serge
Chronique musicale 152 - Orchestre Septentrional

The passing of Maestro Hulric Pierre-Louis on September 2, 2009 may have left a gaping physical hole in the legendary Orchestre Septentrional and on the Haitian musical scene in general, but his spirit and rich legacy remain as vibrant as ever, if we are to judge by the band's first release since this fateful date . The CD is entitled "Pi Douvan". And folks, I dare say that the Maestro would have been pleased with this product.

There is no doubt that many must have been wondering, perhaps with some apprehension, how the band would sound in the absence of the Maestro of the "Boule de feu" - Ball of fire - of the North. I believe this CD should largely reassure them on all counts. Producers François Nikol Lévi and Jocelyn Alcé merit a lot of credit. Not only did they faithfully preserved the Orchestre Septentrional's sound, but they modernized it in such a way that the transition was seamless, anchored by a series of nice harmonic lines and excellent arrangements. Between the two of them, they wrote or arranged 9 of them, while the others were written by the other members of the band.

The title song "Pi douvan" opens this CD dedicated to the Maestro Hulric Pierre-Louis. Composed by his heir, the Maestro bass player and producer Jocelyn Alcé, the song is a fitting tribute to the one who, for so many years, led the band with a firm and steady hand. Right from the first note, you feel right at home with Orchestre Septentrional: a booming brass section, a beautiful melody and thoughtful lyrics which extol the virtues of a man who worked hard, with a sense of purpose and left an inspiring legacy " made our music very successful.......You opened the door for those aspiring to greater heights.......Maestro, you are a hero .....when you arrive up there, you will find a lot of gifts ..." The Maestro must have been smiling with appreciation. And what about the nice arrangements by Nikol Lévi, a veteran of Haitian music? Listen to the nice saxophone interlude in the song, a great personnal tribute to the Maestro. The brass section is tight, the rythm section does not miss a bit and Maestro Alce's bass lines are right on the money. Another interesting aspect on the CD is the generational bridge symbolized by the participation of such excellent guest artists like Jocel Almeus, Jean Max Valcourt, Makarios Césaire (one of my favorite guitarists) and many more. They probably were either young men or not yet born when Maestro Pierre-Louis formed Orchestre Septentrional. Yet, they blend seamlessly into the music.

I find that the more you listen to the CD, the more subtleties you discover in Lévi's and Alce's arrangements. They are not flashy, but every phase of the song falls right into place. While I enjoyed each one of the songs on the album, there are some remarkable ones which deserve a special mention for my own personal taste. Tune No. 4, "Sonje" composed by Jocelyn Alce is quite entertaining. I love the way he plays his instrument. The voices are so well harmonized! The conga player does a fantastic job of supporting the rythm section. This is one of those songs whose melody lingers in your head and you find yourself continuously humming the refrain. You should also pay attention to the lyrics in Alce's compositions. They are as carefully written as his music. In that regard, I should also underline that one the most satisfying aspects of this CD for me is the importance paid to the lyrics. There is nothing more frustrating than to listen to a nice melody with empty lyrics. In that respect, this CD is a model of how to write meaningful lyrics that offer a message, tell a story and make sense. This does not happen often enough with other Haitian bands. Tune No. 7, "Mizè Fanm" is another beauty. I am assuming that Alce composed this song as a tribute to the Haitian mother, spouse , worker, martyr, but this vibrant and poignant tribute reaches way beyond Haiti's border. As you listen to the lyrics, take note of the nice bass pattern played by Alce. This is entertainment coupled with seriousness.

Nikol Lévi's style as a composer offers a very nice contrast on the CD, as tune No. 6 "Fou de toi" illustrates. I just love the brass arrangements and the different movements throughout. On keyboard and guitar, respectively, Jocel Almeus and Makarios Césaire are the right mix and provide excellent support.

Tune No. 9 "La Capoise" is a real gem! Lévi shows his lyrical and romantic side. Even though the song is instrumental, you do not miss the lyrics.. Lévi's sense of harmonic arrangement allows him to make us feel the melody, not just listen. This is a love declaration, a light stroll by the sea, a nostalgic meringue through Jocel Almeus' nostalgic solo piano; a romantic conversation through Makarios Césaire's solo on his guitar, while Mc Antoine Fleury is beautifully expressive with his muted trumpet, caressing each note on his instrument. This is a real masterpiece!

I could go on and on about the music on this CD, but nothing could be better than you rushing to your CD supplier to buy your own and then enjoy the good sound. To Septen's fans who might have been apprehensive about a possible let down after the passing of Maestro Hulric Pierre-Louis, I say: relax. From my own perspective, I think this CD should allay all fears. As I said earlier, this CD is a most fitting tribute to the Maestro. The music is right in Septen's sound and tradition while it is modern; the mixing is very good; the lyrics are excellent; it is highly entertaining. Even though I highlighted some of the nicest songs on the CD as a matter of personal choice, I can tell you everyone will enjoy every song, just like I did.

Help stop Haitian CD piracy; this is bad for everyone
Sispann vann kopi Cd ayisyen yo! Achte orijinal la pito pou nou ka ede mizisyen yo!

Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti - October 29, 2011