Even though the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virgina area (DMV) is not necessarily known as a hub of Haitian musical groups, the area has had a host of famous Haitian musicians and musical groups, for example: pianists Serge Simpson, Jean-Carlo Courvoisier, Wilfrid Casimir; the excellent bassist Gérard Noël, drummer Ronald Augustin; the legendary guitarist Toto Duval; legendary singers like Michel Pressoir, Max Thiesfeld, Emile Volel, Carlo Glaudin, Arthur Lovelace, and this list is not exhaustive. Back in the 70s and 80s, these artists were performing in five of the best night clubs in the District of Columbia, providing entertainment to a very cosmopolitan audience in Washington D.C.
Among Haitian groups no longer active in the area, we can cite Ibo Créole, Choc Combo, Masterful Band, Rafrechi, Fawouch. We can now add to this list the newest group performing in the DMV area: Swag Muzik. I am not sure what “Swag” means, but their first album, “Swag Muzik - #Next Level” deserves notice. Indeed, this group places itself definitely among the so-called new generation of Haitian groups determined to leave its mark on the Haitian musical scene. This CD is certainly a step in the right direction. Under the direction of the road manager, the very entrepreneurial Jean-Claude Vivens, a fixture in the DMV area, the group is bound to make inroads.
I was not sure what to expect when I played Swag’s CD and I was happily surprised at the very entertaining sound. The band leader, Jodnerson Pierre (Captain Kiki) is pretty prolific, having written or co-wrote 9 of the 10 songs. Quite impressive! It is interestingly to note that, except for 3 songs, all the titles are in English, even though the lyrics are often in Kreyòl and English. Is it a way for the group to crossover.? It seems so. Just like Wyclef Jean made kreyòl expressions popular among the English speakers in this country. I particularly enjoyed the lines of bass player Junel Pierre. He is in constant conversation with his instrument and the song, attentive to the different movement of the melody. Listen for example to the tunes “Next Level”, “Ou se pam”, “M ap chill”. Track 7 “Addiction”, composed by band leader Jodnerson Pierre (Captain Kiki) and arranged by keyboard player Jodanny Petit-Frère highlights this dialog between the singer and the bass, on the strength of the wonderfully supportive Shedly Abraham, the drummers’ drummer, ever so present on so many konpa albums. Throughout the CD, Jodanny Petit-Frère provides nice melodic lines that enhance the song. Track no. 8 “Island”, seems to have been composed and played on a rhythm specifically designed to make you stand up right from the first notes. This is pure upbeat island music! The song about Haiti, sung mostly in English, is definitely designed to crossover and the rhythm is so enjoyable I predict it will become a huge hit in the rest of the Caribbean if it gets adequate airplay.
If you like Harmonik, Klass or Zenglen, then you will like this CD, which, by the way, is available on Amazon, Google play and CDbaby. The mixing is pretty good and I would say the DMV is pretty well represented with Swag Muzik.
Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti – April 2018
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