Haiti has produced a lot of different artists excelling in different genres, but none like Wyclef Jean. Carnival Vol. II – Memoirs of an immigrant, his latest CD is a living proof of how versatile the man can be. Like in some of his previous CDs, Wyclef Jean has a wide range of guests artists cooperating with him, from all kind of background: Serj Tankian and Sizzla; Akon (the Senegalese artist who just had a monster concert in Haiti); Shakira; Paul Simon, Mary Blige; Chamillionaire, Norah Jones; Melissa Jimenez, Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury; the great Trinidadian Soca icon Machel Montano and many more. You have thus an idea of how eclectic Wyclef can be.
What is absolutely amazing about Wyclef Jean is not only the fact that he writes most of the song himself or in cooperation with his cousin Jerry Duplessis, but that he is able to adapt each song to the style of the artist, and still permeate the song with his own personality. Listen for example to “King of Queen” with Shakira; “Fast Car” with Paul Simon; “What about the baby” with Mary Blige; “”Any other Day” with Norah Jones. I could go on and on, because that is the case throughout the CD. It is one of the biggest strengths of Wyclef Jean, or for that matter, of the Haitian musicians in general, that they are able to play any genre they please. Listen to the tune “Touch your button Carnival Jam”, a medley with William, Melissa Jiménez, Machel Montano, Daniela Mercury, Black Alex and Djakout Mizik. The Medley ends with a furious Soca sung by all four. Wyclef Jean also pays a nice tribute to the famous Selena by playing a song with Melissa Jimenez. And it would not be Wyclef if he did not pay tribute to the Haitian flag. The tune “Rouge et bleu” fulfills that objective. It is a poignant appeal for Haitians everywhere to take pride in the red and blue Haitian flag. The lyrics and the melody are uplifting and Wyclef's guitar provides a wonderful feeling of serenity and quiet assurance.
The dynamism which emanates from the CD shows once more the tremendous talent of this musician who after all, has not had any formal music education. That is simply amazing. I was listening, during an interview on Haitian radio, a Haitian master musician say that Wyclef has so much talent that he only needs to show up, pick up a guitar and start playing. As you listen to the many hits written by him for such renowned artists as Santana, Whitney Houston and many more, one does have to agree with that.
While shining on the musical stage and showing his power to attract some of the greatest artists to be featured on his CDs, Wyclef Jean continues, on a parallel track, to work on his social projects in Haiti through his foundation, using his contacts to attract the interest of some of those greatest artists to the plight of he poor in Haiti. This is what makes Wyclef's skills so valuable, and his latest work is a reflection of those skills.
Help fight Haitian CD piracy, it is bad for everyone.
Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti. December 2007.
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