An introduction to Haitian music

Here are my picks:

1. The best song to start with: Buy Wyclef Jean's Welcome to Haiti.  "Ou Marye" (track 8) is my single favorite song these days, sadly I cannot find it on YouTube but you can download it.  Start there.  This one also has strong Haitian influence.  This is a kind of Haitian rap, with a good video.  Here's a super-fun mix of ragga and compas, with Buju Banton and T-Vice.

2. Three groups which are best seen live: Ram, Boukmans Eksperyans, and Tropicana.  Tabou Combo is another.

3. The best Haitian collection: the Konbit! CD.  The voodoo-linked Rhythms of Rapture is quite good, as is the more acoustic Haitian Troubadours.

4. The best recent Haitian group and recording: Ti-Coca.  I like all their CDs but my favorite is a blue and orange one I bought in Paris which I don't see on Amazon.  I think they're better on disc than live.

5. Best Haitian musical star to dance to: Sweet Mickey.  For a while he was selling cell phone cards, but he has returned to the world of music.

6. The classic father-figure of Haitian music: Nemours Jean-Baptiste.  Try this song on YouTube.

7. The most comprehensive historic collection: Alan Lomax in Haiti, 9 CDs, of highly varying quality but always interesting.  

8. Best-known Haitian songstress: Emeline Michel, sometimes called the Joni Mitchell of Haiti.  Here she is doing "Many Rivers to Cross."

9. Best Haitian rara collection: That's the noisy. discordant music they play leading up to Carnival.  This would be my pick.  Overall it's a vibrant genre.

10. What else?: Haitian children's songs are often quite good, Haitian rap I barely know, and Haitian gospel is a vital area, though hard to capture on disc.  Here is the Wikipedia entry on Haitian music

11. Non-Haitian contributors: The group Simbi, a mizak rasin band founded in 1987, is made up of Swedes, who play an exact copy of Haitian voodoo rock.

12. Leading Haitian contributor to German rap scene: Torch.  Here is Torch, rapping in German.

Some of you may recall the third and fourth sentences in my book Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World's Cultures (now on Kindle by the way):

"The founder of Kassav, the leading Antillean group in the funky style of zouk, stated: "It's this Haitian imperialism [i.e., the popularity of the groups] that we were rising against when we began Kassav."  Governments responded with protective measures to limit the number of Haitian bands in the country."


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