Chronique musicale - Kavalye, kwaze le uit anba tonèl!
After the release in 2013 and 2015 of the voluminous work of Georges Wilson, Haitian music teacher, composer, renown researcher in Haitian ethnic music, those interested in exploring the music of colonial Caribbean influenced by Europe will welcome the recent release of “Anba Tonèl”, by a Haitian Canadian by the name of Daniel Bellegarde. (If you are wondering about his last name, well, wonder no more. Yes, he is my first cousin, I am proud to say). For the last 2 years, Daniel had been working on this CD while keeping a busy schedule as an independent drumming instructor. This CD is the wonderful results of his research. Passionately interested in the field of folkloric music, Daniel has produced a CD that encompasses the music and dances that characterize the culture of colonial Caribbean influenced by Europe. It is a work of love and a testimony to Dan iel’s perseverance.
As the liner notes indicate, “ Anba Tonèl” explores the rural world of Caribbean music from European influence…from the dance to the quadrille through the minuet congo….a new look at this culture rich in history and tradition…” Indeed, this CD should prove to be quite a small gold mine for dance troops throughout the Caribbean. You can listen to the quadrille of three different islands: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica; the contredanse, the twoubadou and the Menuet-Congo of Haiti. This is quite a treat! Having had the opportunity to travel to places like St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the common roots are obvious, the rhythms are quite similar, the costumes are colorful, the dances are gracious and harmonious. The only differences may be in the skills of the musicians playing the music and in that respect, Daniel’s “Anba Tonèl” must definitely be among the best.
The excellent cast of musicians makes the CD highly enjoyable, both from the musical and cultural perspective. One of the characteristics of the music of colonial Caribbean was typically the use of the violin. Violonist David Boulanger gives a superb performance on his instrument. The banjo was also prevalent in rural Caribbean and Hassan El Hadi is equally excellent on the banjo. On the percussion and manoumba, Daniel is the solid anchor and arranger on all, but two of the songs. He is also the composer of 4 of the tunes. It is difficult not to like the whole album; from the opening tune with the traditional Haitian voodoo song “Kafou Tengendeng”, to all the different genres present in the colonies. I was fascinated by Daniel’s compositions on the CD; notably tune No. 2 “Avan dè”, inspired by the quadrille of Guadeloupe; tune No. 5 “Sérénade pour Élazie”, inspired by the Menuet-Congo of Haiti, “Anba tonèl”, inspired by the contredanse in Haiti and “Flirtation” inspired by the quadrille of the island of Dominica. It is one thing to interpret songs already written, but to write music based on those rhythms of the Caribbean is no small feat, and this shows the amount of research that went into this CD.
“Anba Tonèl” is a real musical experience and at the same time, it is thoroughly enjoyable. As you listen to songs like “Autobus Nord” and “Autobus” played on the Haitian twoubadou beat, you will not be able to stand still. Famous Haitian guitarist Michel (Toto) Laraque does an outstanding job in those songs, as usual. There are other songs that also merit mention, like for example the traditional Haitian “Fèy”, or the “Contredanse No. 6”, a famous composition by the Orchestre Nemours Jean-Baptiste, and so on. In other words, you need to listen to the whole album. Without being flashy, the music is pleasing, efficient and faithfully reflects the history and the traditions of the time.
With “Anba Tonèl”, Daniel can effectively say: mission accomplished! Twelve songs through which he has managed to produce a CD that , in my view, is destined to constitute reference material not only for researchers, but also for those folkloric dance troops throughout the Caribbean involved in the preservation of these traditions.
Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti – December 2017
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