It has been 10 years already since I started this tradition and it feels like a short time ago, but such is how fast time flies. Everyone should know by now that these choices reflect entirely my own personal taste and I do not purport to pass judgment on the quality of the music of other Haitian groups.
As it happens for 2008, the year 2009 was dominated by Konpa Dirèk. Once again, I found disappointing that I could not find any Root music CD (Rasin) to be included in this year's crop. Eddy François's CD, Djohu, was released in 2007, but it was not easy to find. This is an excellent CD, like everything he has produced so far. His music is sophisticated, well researched, soulful only as he can be. I highly recommend it and I will review it shortly in the Chronique. CD releases by Haitian female artists were also few and far between. I sure hope that 2010 will fare better in that respect.
In the Konpa dirèk category
There was a bumper crop in the Konpa category and I included the following:
Magnum Band, La Seule Différence – Sakalakawè - It is no accident that anything released by Magnum Band always make my top 10 list. This latest release reflects the same standard of quality that has characterized the musicianship of Dadou Pasquet and his crew. The music is crisp, harmonious and the brass section includes the great André Déjean. This is vintage Magnum.
Ska Shah #1 plus – Viva Obama - This is another winner by Yves Arsène Appolon. This album was released around June 2009 and is smooth. Arsène Appolon has not lost a beat. The title track, Viva Obama is a hit. This is solid konpa, Ska Shah style.
Richie, 10 ans plus tard – This is an artist who has constantly produced quality music over the years and his brand new CD is a testimony to his determination to maintain this quality. Ritchie is a complex musician whose musical universe is not uniquely limited to Konpa. You will find out by listening to this excellent CD.
5 Etwal – La vi sa – This is a new group who released an excellent, quite entertaining CD in 2009. Maestro James Monplaisir's approach holds great promises for the group. He is a very good composer and his songs' lyrics are very good. This is a group to watch.
Fasil – Zanmi – This is another new konpa group on the scene, and a good one at that. Its music is definitely influenced by rock, but it plays some nice konpa. I like the background vocals. Interestingly enough, the brass section is comprised of a trumpet and a trombone and the sound is excellent. It is a highly entertaining CD.
Shabba Djakout and Friends – Pi piti pi rèd – This CD by Hervé Antenor, better know as Shabba of Djakout Mizik, is a nice blend of the Zenglen sound and the Djakout sound. The brass section with Nicolina Santiago, Julio Diaz and Nestor Zabala is solid. The harmony is excellent. A great variety of some top konpa artists participated in the making of this CD. Each one of the song is carefully adapted to the featured artist, whether he is Wyclef Jean, Gracia Delva, Arly Larivière, Ritchie, Alan Cavé and may more. An excellent CD to add to your collection.
Galaxy Band of Jérémie – The city of poets produces also some pretty good konpa. Witness this CD recently released by Galaxy Band. The music is nice, the lyrics are pretty good. This is quite an entertaining CD.
Kayimit Konpa – Drapo – This is a group from Canada entering the field with a bang. The music is very nice. The band plays a brand of konpa that is pretty smooth. Shedley Abraham and Joe Fortune firmly anchor the rhythm section and the result is a nice, soft brand of entertaining konpa.
In other categories:
Haitiando – Mas Creolatino – You could say about this CD: when Cuba meets Haiti. This the fourth of the series of Haitiando released by Fred Paul and Mini Records. It is just excellent. Lead singer Boulot Valcourt and his team are as engaging as ever and the songs cover a wider variety of artists and groups: Jazz des Jeunes, Étoile du Soir, les Charmeurs du Cap, Raoul Guillaume, Rodolphe Legros. You will thoroughly enjoy it.
Makaya - This group hails from Montréal (Canada) and is led by a young wonderful classical pianist by the name of David Bontemps. This is an excellent album. If I were to describe it, it is not exactly jazz, but a nice blend of Haitian folkloric rythms, some funk and some jazz. David is supported by an excellent cast of musicians and you will be most interested in listening to this CD. I highly recommend it.
Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti- January 2010
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