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Chronique 157 - Haiti in a Classical Mood - a total musical enchantment

Posted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 11:44 am
by Serge
HAITI in a classical mood – a total musical enchantment

How many times have we heard our elders repeat this famous sentence : music make manners mellow (La musique adoucit les moeurs)? It is unrealistic to expect that such results will automatically come; however, if , after listening to this magnum opus by Executive producer and project Director George Vilson, you have not substantially mellowed, then you are in serious trouble…..

Georges Vilson is not a new comer in the field of promotion of Haitian culture. His publication in 2013 of his Kandelab, Volume 1 of a 4-CD containing 101 notated Haitian Folk and Vodou songs, and Kandelab (Volume 2), is an incredible piece of Haitian cultural archive and a precious reference for those dedicated to researching this aspect Haitian culture.

The ten songs that make up “ Haiti in a classical mood” are taken from this Kandelab (Volume 1) collection and what a job Michael Devellis did as the arranger, conductor of this magnificent orchestra!. Just imagine him, - an Italian national I understand- listening, understanding, penetrating these songs, making arrangements and rendering the kind of harmony that you never dreamt of for these songs….until someone did it. And that is exactly what Michael Devellis’s smission was on the CD.

From the outset, listening to the introduction of the medley “ Larenn Solèy leve/ Kawolin Akawo”, you know you are in for a treat. It is thoroughly enjoyable to hear how Devellis goes back and forth, executes all kinds of twists and turns with the melody, while never losing sight of the kongo rhythm on which these originals are played.

Listen to the majesty of the arrangement of Minis Azaka, the loa of agriculture in Haitian Vodou. You do not even need to know Minis Azaka’s background to hear and feel, through Devellis’ arrangement, the solemnity of what he represents, the reverence in which he is held and his hierarchy in the Vodou Pantheon. To tell you the truth, I believe this arrangement would make a perfect soundtrack for a movie about those epic figures from ancient history. It is that refined.

I could go on and on about each one of the ten songs on the CD which each, is played on a different rhythm. As I said at the beginning, this gives you an idea of the amount of homework Devellis had to do, with the cultural and musical assistance of George Vilson, a veteran music teacher at James Madison High School in New York.

In the press release announcing this work, the CD is presented as “a fusion of Haitian lullabies, folk and Vodou music with Classical and Jazz”. I would even go further to say that this kind of foray into Haitian folk music had never been attempted before and the result is a resounding success which I hope can be repeated in a not too distant future, for this is just the tip of Haitian culture.
That is why I strongly urge you, readers, to be able to experience what I have experienced by hurrying to buy your copy. I got mine from the website Another tip. To appreciate it even better, I recommend to listen to it on a Sunday morning – on Bose speakers if you have any - while sipping some good Haitian coffee. You will enjoy it….

Maryland - April 2016

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