What is the cultural value of KONPA in Haitian society?

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What is the cultural value of KONPA in Haitian society?

Post by admin » Wed Jun 04, 2003 3:36 pm

  • What is the cultural value of KONPA in Haitian society? We have been treated to Gifrant's denunciation of the music genre. Do you tend to agree or disagree with his verdict? Can you describe your own appreciation of this highly popular dance and entertainment form of Haitian music?

    We have taken the editorial liberty to excerpt from various recent articles on this forum what amounts, in our judgment, to a persistent tirade against the KONPA genre and a clear condemnation of its aficionados. Is this extreme prejudice towards KONPA a legitimate or discerning cultural assessment?

    What is the cultural - social and artistic - value of the Konpa genre in our society and outside of it? Do our Konpa musicians (players and composers) have any merit, and if so which ones and why? At the negative end of the scale, do they deserve universal condemnation for being the purveyors of "trash" and libido stimulation as Gifrants contends in the following view of Haitian culture?
[quote]You mentioned that I would be surprised to see how many people are interested in learning about our culture. If it is so, I bet they cannot be Haitians, and too many of them won't be from Haitian descent either.

You see, we have to define what culture is in the Haitian psyche. I refuse to talk about the illiterate. Let's talk about culture to the intellectuals, the ones who supposedly know how to read, the ones with credentials...

You have to be a Haitian poet to understand. You have to be a Haitian writer to understand. You have to be a Haitian artist to understand. You have to be a TRUE AND GOOD HAITIAN MUSICIAN to understand...

We are not talking here about Sweet Mickey, Carimi, Zin, Phantoms, Zenglen, System Band and the list goes on and on. But, these are the icons of Haitian music, which is also part of our culture. I never went to see any of those musical groups. You know why? It is not a matter of taste. Culture has nothing to do with trash. Those musical groups are highly representative of who we really are. They are not getting better. We are not getting better either.

Culture? Haitians interested in Culture? Says who? .... Haitians do not give a damn about their own culture. These are people who are awfully confused. Most of those who are not, keep trying every day to forget who they are. Their emotion about Haiti is just on the surface, plainly superficial. Their enthusiasm about Haitian culture, is just about konpa, and it is just for their libido. Believe me, Haitian intellectuals are on the top of the list.

Maybe, you would understand why François Duvalier put in place the Department of Social Welfare--Bien-être social. He knew them so well.

My apprehension about "Twoubadou" here and there by a bunch of ...talented musicians, took to the air waves in Boston and in New York to openly criticize this big deviation. At least for the record, someone did something about and wrote about it... The truth about who we are is so ugly, that no one really wants to face this horrendous monster inside of us. As long as we want to be seen as trying what we can without removing him, we will achieve nothing as a collectivity. Yes, some of us will be successful. But most of us will be stuck within that mud that scrambles all perspectives.

I'm not here to please people who are mostly interested in feeling some trivial pleasure. The poor mental of level of most of my people leads them to a poor level of appreciation.

As far as I am concerned, as long the travestite is your star, as long as Carimi with their pre-programmed songs is your idol, I won't waste my time talking about haitian music. But when I do talk, I talk with no malice and with objectivity.

The tone seems arrogant, doesn't it? Obviously, you do expect Sweet Mickey, Carimi, Tabou Combo, System Band, Phanthoms, Zin, D-Zine, Zenglen, Top Vice, T-Vice, Djakout Mizik to be so bold, not Gifrants.

You have made them the stars they wanted to be. Alleluia!

By the way, what are they playing?

When it comes to arts and culture, it is not a really a matter of personal taste, when reviewing and judging THE POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE ARTIST TO HIS COMMUNITY, COUNTRY OR TO THE WORLD.


YOU TELL ME? With those insanities, mediocre clichés of basic chords wrongly used, the incessant LAGE L, LAGE L, mental and physical masturbations that do not make dance an art at all, YOU TELL ME?

Show me your stars in the dark halls leaving functions managers disgusted but willing to charge much more for the rental of the hall. Tell me about those marvelous fights, the firemen and the police officers arresting thugs and respectable-immoral participants.

It is you and your stars? Isn't it? Am I lying?

...You are disgusted twice. First, I m truthful. I gave to myself what belongs to myself--my talent, my sense of responsibility, my pride, my cause to do for HAITIAN MUSIC WHAT YOUR STARS WON'T DO AND CANNOT DO. Secondly, these are your stars. They look stupidly dull under my pen.

Tenyen limyè a! Konpa, music...in darkness. Enjoy your libido!



Reply to Serge Bellegarde's comments

Post by Gifrants » Mon Jun 09, 2003 6:18 pm

The intervention of Serge Bellegarde and the mention my name at the end of his comments requires that I reply.

Let me say that I sincerely thank Serge for his comment, and for his kindness in mentioning my name the way he did.

I do not have such a kind attitude at all regarding Konpa. First, I do regret the fact that it was Nemours Jean-Baptiste, who got all the fame and recognition, not Weber Sicot. Sicot was far much a better musician than Nemours. I'm not going into the details of arrangement techniques of Nemours Jean-Baptiste. Some of them were awful.

I did enjoy the Gypsies, the Difficiles, Les Pachas du Canapé Vert, les Vikings, Les Fantaisistes de Carrefour, les Shleu-Shleu, les Loups Noirs. Those guys for beginners did a good job as artists coping with their times. I won't forget Les Frères Déjean whose knowledge about music was already obvious. Later, the Bossa Combo would add to the flavor of diversity and creativity in Konpa.

My problem with Konpa started after Exile One and Les Grammacks came to Haiti. The RIDICULOUS COPYCAT era began, and we are still living it. You see, we can point out a lot of decent Haitian singers, pretty talented guitar players. We do not have too many good bass players, too many keyboard players, and too many good drummers. Good horn players are very rare in Haiti. The new instrumentation required more knowledge about music. That's precisely why it takes countless hours for a Haitian musical to rehearse one song.

More knowledge, more creativity, more practice, I mean more good practice, brings big improvement. Konpa “evolves” under pressure. Exile One and Grammacks brought a big change. The second change will be coming from Kassav. Konpa went down the drain.

Let me say meanwhile that Magnum Band, Zeklè, Caribbean Sextet, les Frères Déjean, Edy Brisseaux still remain the true icons of Konpa. It's not a matter of taste. It's a matter of objectivity. In the case of our country, we just cannot afford to produce anything that's not competitive on the international scene cultural materials, agricultural products or technological products, the last mention makes me a dreamer. By the way, I miss the Zenglen of Gary Pérez. I also believe he is a very good singer.

The inability to really compete with the music of Kassav, and other Caribbean bands, has forced the Konpa musicians to use a very delicate technology, which most knowledgeable musicians can do without programming and sequencing. Now, we have Haitian musicians, and we are forced to call them musicians, going on stage with preprogrammed music. God forbid the sequencer does not work, or God forbid, this diskette is nowhere to be found, our MUSICIANS cannot just perform.

I am not going over the TWOUBADOU movement, which translates again the determination and the complaisance of most Haitian musicians to do the easiest thing always in music. Haitian folk music has everything
sophisticated level of conceptualization, even though it sounds simple and easy. The Konpa musicians just use the sound, forget about the spiritualism.

I do not question Konpa as a part of our culture. I deplore this great lack of creativity among most of those popular icons to make Konpa a COMPETITIVE GENRE in our culture not only with the music, but also the expression of this music. In other words, being able to perform ON STAGE, WITH BIG LIGHTS ON and secondly, TO DANCE THE MUSIC FOR DANCE IS AN ART.


In our current situation of a nation struggling with our misery, the stigma, the burden we carry to prove to ourselves that we are much better, we just cannot afford low productivity, lack of professionalism, lack of sense of responsibility. We cannot and not let anyone to lower his or her standard. If he or she chooses to do, he or she should not get the seal of our pride, our recognition, and our support.

This has nothing to do with my being a frustrated artist, looking for appreciation. It is just plain a matter of taking constructive steps in order to maintain a high standard of our culture, which conveys the expressions of who we are. Sometimes, it amazes me to see how most Haitian musicians make music sound so easy by hearing them talk. They also make it sound like it is impossible for foreigners, especially for White people, to play their music the way they play it. Music is highly scientific. Feelings come with talent and self-confidence. If we can excel in singing opera, or playing classical music, why do we think somebody else cannot play our music as well as we do, or better than we do. In fact, if we are thriving in excelling in everything we do, we will be surprised how people all over the world will make it challenge to embrace our music. Musicians around the world find Brazilian music a challenge, the bossa nova and the samba. It is happening because the Brazilians make it challenge for them, and excel in doing so.

I will really appreciate it that when I make myself so clear, that my comments, how ugly they may be, are viewed in a constructive manner. We do have a lot of soul searching to do. I'm not pointing out blame. It is a fact that we are facing a lot of problems. We should not be living with them and enduring them with complaisance. The first step is to denounce them, then to do something about them. It serves no purpose to denounce them if we cannot offer an alternative.

What have I done for Haitian music? How many people do you really think can answer that? I have no problem if someone does not like my music. But, I will have a serious problem if a music critic points out comments or suggestions that are not objective. Still, I believe that I'm doing something vey good for the Haitian music. It's not egomania, or megalomania. I'm not into fame or glory. I'm just doing my duty.

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