Chronique 135 - Group Makaya

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Chronique 135 - Group Makaya

Post by Serge » Wed Aug 26, 2009 9:48 pm

Some time ago, I reviewed in this Chronique a wonderful CD by Chantal Lavigne accompanied on the piano by the classical pianist named David Bontemps. I was most happily surprised when, a couple of months ago, I received the CD by his group named, interestingly, Makaya. For those who know Haiti, they might remember the Pic Macaya National Park (Macaya written in its French spelling) in the south of Haiti, one of two national parks in Haiti. Pic Macaya is the second highest peak in Haiti, after the Morne La Selle. I do not know if David Bontemps was thinking about this as a metaphor for his group's goal, but whatever his rationale, his music does soar like Pic Makaya.

The CD is at times a happy and rich encounter of the music of Haiti and Guadeloupe, a most natural convergence. Throughout, the melodies easily flow from the Haitian to the Guadeloupean traditional rythms. All this is of course facilitated a superb cast of musicians supporting Bontemps on the piano: Jackson Alismé on conga and percussions, Jude A. Deslouches on guitar , Cydric Féréol on Gwo Ka and percussions and Julien Robert -Lavigne on the bass provide incredible vitality and harmony throughout the CD. Right from the first tune, you know you are in for a special treat. Listen for example to group's work on tune No. 2 Samuel, a haunting melody composed by David Bontemps and arranged by the group. I love Julien Robert-Lavigne's lines on the bass which introduces the song. Jude Deslouches' touch on the acoustic guitar is just exquisite and sensitive. Like David Bontemps, he seems to have a very solid classical training and that serves him well. I seem to hear a times shades of the Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida.

Tune No. 3, Lisette is a perfect blend of Haitian and Guadeloupean beats. Cydric Féréol plays the typical Guadeloupean Gwo Ka, a very distinctive percussion instrument which beautifully enhances the tune by one of Haiti's most famous composer, Ludovic Lamothe. The arrangement is excellent and David Bontemps does a wonderful job on the piano. Listen to the very interesting arrangement of tune No. 4, Meringue-Biguine, a song composed by David Bontemps and in which I hear sounds of the famous Michel Desgrottes who, incidentally, lived and played in Martinique for a number of years. The interplay between the guitar and the piano are just excellent. David Bontemps's style on the piano reminds me so much of this great Haitian giant of the piano, Edner Guignard, that I wonder if somehow, he might have been influenced by him.

The title tune, Makaya, is a masterpiece. It is as if the guitar, the piano , the bass and the percussion were engaged in some kind of a dialogue, at times animated, pensive, romantic, subdued. This is wonderful music! Tune No. 6, Ti Melodi, brings out the classical and the romantic sides of the pianist. If anything, this beautiful melody is a bit too short and leaves you asking for more.

And what about tune No. 7, Makaya III played of a furious rara beat. Again, I hear a lot of Edner Guignard. The song puts on display the excellent percussion work of the musicians. This is a song that will keep you moving.

David Bontemps is not only a very good pianist, but also a great composer and arranger, having composed seven of the twelve songs on the CD. The arrangements are skillful, thoughtful and innovative. Tune No. 10, Gede Zariyen is a perfect example of this. It takes a lot to come up with such sophisticated and innovative arrangements of a tune like this classic traditional Haitian tune which has been played by so many different artists. Once more, the percussionist is excellent and the interplay between the piano and the guitar is seamless.

David Bontemps's Makaya is quite a CD. I found it to be immensely entertaining, excellently mixed and well executed. I tremendously enjoyed each one of the songs, without exception. The group is tight; the musicians are at ease with each other and they seem to have a lot of fun playing together. I am really looking forward to their next project!

Help fight Haitian CD piracy – It is bad for everyone!

Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti, August 2009

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