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Best Haitian CDs - 2007

Posted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 1:07 am
by Serge
Following what has now become a tradition on Windows on Haiti, I am submitting below my choices for the 10 best CDs for 2007. Let me reiterate, as usual, that those choices are highly personal and subjective, and merely reflect my own musical taste without emitting a value judgment on any other artist.

In the Konpa category:

I start with this category because the Konpa genre seems to have dominated the musical scene this year. This year, unfortunately, we do not have any Rasin (Roots music).

30 ans - Magnum Band, la seule différence. What a difference this group has mad since it appeared on the scene. On the occasion of its 30 years of existence, it released this CD at the beginning of the year. For those who know and appreciate Magnum Band, the CD was not disappointing: the brass section is excellent, and so is the harmony. The mixing is also very good mixing. The sound is just wonderful.

System Band – Nou nan building nan. System Band does not need any introduction. Although I had felt somewhat disappointed with their last two or three releases, I find their latest CD pretty good. The brass section is solid, there is some nice harmony and the band sounds much more settled than before. The music is harmonious and the mixing is pretty good. Their best album in a while in my own opinion.

Do-La. This group may be the new kid on the block, but the musicians are not new on the scene. The lead singer and maestro is the veteran Armstrong Jeune whose voice is so recognizable. This is a very entertaining album. The band plays a solid konpa beat and I just like Armstrong Jeune's style too. I believe this group will go far.

Best of Frères Déjean. As the title indicates, the music is not new, but nobody comes close to Les Frères Déjean and I for one, will always deplore their disappearance from the musical scene, even though trumpet player André Déjean is very often featured on some CDs. But Frères Déjean's fans like me will appreciate having close on hand all the hits such as Marina, L'Univers, Debake, La Foi, Philibè, HaitiArrete, Naide, Belle Déesse etc…This 3-CD series was released in the last few months. That is why I cheated some by featuring all 3 CDs as one batch as part of the best for 2007. Everything, or almost everything is there, so Enjoy!

Jacky and Strings – New Era. Changing gear, we move now to Strings. It is indeed a new era from the time when this group took Haiti by storm. But all the while, Jacky had remained active and this CD which had been in the works for some time, does show the new trend. I like the way Jacky has mixed his own style with the Latin Reggaeton, some Soca, some Haitian beat. The results is a nice mix which resonates very well within the Latino community, even though it does not seem to have the same impact within the Haitian community. The CD is really entertaining and is a nice dancing one too.

CARNIVAL VOL. II – Memoirs of an immigrant. Wyclef Jean does not cease to impress. The guy has a tremendously active and creative musical mind which is reflected in the wide mix of renowned artists who participate in this CD: Paul Simon, Shakira, Machel Montano, Chamillionaire, Norah Jones, Daniela Mercury, Djakout Mizik, Black Alex and so many more. Everything seems to come so easy to him. He writes, arranges, composes; in short, doing whatever he wants. I find this CD creative, imaginative and quite entertaining.

The female artists for 2007:

Emeline Michel – Reine de coeur. Emeline Michel and her latest CD are without a doubt my top choice for 2007. If you were wondering if she would be able to duplicate her previous CD, well, ask no more. I found “Reine de coeur” very good. Emeline has a wide variety of musicians from all stripes playing with her. The result is excellence all around. Emeline's talents as a composer and arranger are well in evidence and she writes beautifully. Her lyrics are meaningful; her voice has great range which allows her to easily communicate different kinds of feelings. It is just a wonderful CD!

Offrandes vaudouesques – Chantal Lavigne. This CD, which was released a few months back in Montreal, is unique in its approach. Chantal Lavigne, a soprano singer, is accompanied by a wonderful Haitian classical pianist, David Bontemps and she sings the music of Haitian composer Werner Jaegerhuber (1900-1953). His name may not sound Haitian, but he is and he did a wonderful job composing music based on Haiti's African heritage. That was a first and this is the first time that his music is being interpreted like that. This CD is a wonderful repository of pure Haitian folkloric music , thanks to the initiative of composer Werner Jaegerhuber and of musicologist Claude Dauphin who played a pivotal role in preserving this music and indexing it to make sure that it would be accessible. The result is “Offrandes Vaudouesques”, a master piece.

Toto Bissainthe – Retrospective. For a number of years now, there has been a movement in Haiti to rehabilitate our late great artist who had received sometimes too little recognition. It is absolutely wonderful that very recently, the music of Toto Bissainthe was finally released on a 2-CD set . Toto Bissainthe died in 1994, but she had time to record some wonderful music and this 2-CD set seeks to compile some of her best performances from the 60s to the 90s. Some of the performances are live and others are studio recording. She had a really wonderful voice and sang effortlessly. She is another artist who seems to have everything come easy to her. She had great range and you can hear it on the CD. The arrangements of her music were quite sophisticated as you can hear in the studio recordings in her latter years. This retrospective is a welcome addition to any collection of Haitian traditional music.

I include among the Best 10 CDs for 2007 the historical CD by Professeur Jean Julien. This is Volume 12 of his series and it examines the period of François Duvalier and his neutralization of the army, the rise of the Tontons Macoutes and the establishment of his complete control over the country. It contains a mine of details and one can see the genesis of the many problems that profoundly affect the country today, even though some like to think that those problems originated with Aristide. It is tragic to hear how the Army was eager for power, not hesitating to seek support from Trujillo. He also describes how members of the mafia, fleeing Castro revolution, sought refuge in Haiti, and in the process, starting drug trafficking in the country. Jean-Julien describes how the Macoutes instilled such fear among the population that at night, no one felt safe. Volume 12 is a CD that every Haitian should carefully listen to, for, it is extremely illuminating.

In conclusion, let me mention 2 CDs that unfortunately, I could not include here because they came out in 2006 and I obtain them only in 2007. That is why I mention them outside of this list. I am referring to Jean Caze's CD, “Miami Jazz Scene” and Thurgot Theodat ‘s “Badji” You have here two excellent jazz artists with quite different styles. While Thurgot Theodat's style is inspired by Haitian traditional music, Jean Caze is more in the mold of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. It is no accident that he participated in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Festival for trumpet and came out in second place. However, if you like jazz, you will appreciate both of them, because they are just excellent. I am looking forward to their next CD which, I hope, will be in a not too distant future.

Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti – January 1, 2008

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 4:34 pm
by Frantz
Thank You Serge, I finally gave myself a new year's gift: I bought Emeline Michel's latest CD. I am very pleased with it. As you stated, the CD is "wonderful". She has not lost her warm touch. Her voice is simply great!

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:25 pm
by jafrikayiti
I have finally gotten the opportunity to treat my ears to the enjoyment of Emeline's Reine de Coeur.

Wifout ! se pa ti dous li dous !

When it comes to Banda, Jodi a and Marisela, i feel goose bumps like the songs Pè Letènèl (from Cordes & Äme) and Beni yo (Rasin Kreyol) can at times have that effect on me.

This album also carries a particular flavor that I believe is a positive influence from her study session in Africa, last year. Her collaboration with Awa, is simply sweet. Inc Allah is also a magnificient piece.

oh what a TASTEFUL album cover!

Bon bagay!