vendredi 21 octobre 2011

My classic playlist

For me, October in Haiti means returning to school, the start of university courses, meetings... It's the official end of summer. Although it’s hard to tell with the temperatures we’ve been having here lately! Driving downtown to attend meetings and plan classes (I haven't actually started teaching yet!), chauffeuring my daughter to school and back, I spend a lot of time in the car. I don’t actually mind it much, in spite of the crazy traffic and horrible roads. I have my music to keep me company.

Here’s a sample of the music that keeps me zen while I navigate the streets of Port-au-Prince. I think of these as my classics. In random order:

This one goes way back. It's been one of my favorites since I was a little girl. The voices of Manno Charlemagne and Marco Destin complement each other, not blending perfectly, always reminding us that there is an ongoing conversation we need to pay attention to. The lyrics and sentiment expressed here are timeless. Ti Manman, [J]ebede, Dialogue, Pouki, Grangou, Mizè... and of course, the first track, Lapli: "Lapli pap janm sispann tonbe/ Lezòm ava toujou reve"... "M pap janm pi mal o, map toujou pi byen o." So many complexities captured in those few lines. What more can we aim for, really, than to be "pi byen"? 

Mizik Mizik, De Ger, 1994 
This album is classic konpa. I mean, just the opening notes of Lè n ap fè lanmou make my heart happy. Yon jou va rive is poignant and heartbreaking to listen to almost 20 years later: "Bouke fè pwomès san fondman/ Bouke bay manti pou lajan." Go ahead, click on the link and listen if you haven't heard them before. If you have, well, I know I don't need to convince you to listen! Despite changes in singers and musicians over the years, Mizik Mizik has remained a constant on the Haitian musical scene, anchored by the amazing duo: Fabrice Rouzier and Keke Belizaire. They just keep getting better as proven by Blakawout (2000) and Paradi nan lanfè (2008). Mizik Mizik continues to keep a finger on the pulse of Haitian society while innovating with sound.

This one is not that old, but I’m already deeming it a classic. I keep going back to it. While I’m not too crazy about Belo’s latest stuff, this particular album has struck a chord. My daughter’s favorite remains Jasmine. Istwa Dwòl and Diore do it for me. In fact, my contemporary literature course this semester will focus on migration as a theme. Maybe I can start with Istwa Dwòl... There's an idea. (This song is so good that Belo includes it on two albums. It's also on Référence (2008).) Ti Matant nan wout is just fun. Here's a challenge: see if you can identify the rapper on Lòv pou lòv.
Can I cheat and pick the very best of (2001)? That’s usually the one I have playing, although Cordes et Ames (2000) is a favorite, too. But really, Tankou Melodi and Plezi Mizè are classic Emeline. And Lanmou se flanm takes me way back to secondaire and the whole journée récréative scene. Those were the days! On Cordes et Ame, I think Fò m Ale perfectly captures how a lot of we Haitians start feeling when we've been away from home for too long. Emeline Michel's rendition of Viejo is amazing. If you haven't heard it yet, now is your chance. Emeline Michel sings in both French and Creole, sometimes in the same song, and manages to make it work. She also calls upon some of the greatest names in Haitian music today to help her create magic.

Jah Nesta is one of those bands that's been struggling for years. They're known, but haven't quite made it. That's the sense I get, anyway. I'd love to learn differently. So if you know something I don't, please share. In spite of their low profile, their music is high quality and their lyrics always say something. Vini avè m and Kè kal manman are my favorites from this album. Alain Moraille is Jah Nesta's driving force and he keeps them producing quality music. I wish they'd focus a bit more on marketing, maybe line up a weekly gig or something.

King Posse, I Like It, 1997
At the end of last semester, I took a visiting professor and friend shopping for cds and dvds. As we were browsing in Mélodisque, I saw King Posse's I Like it. I had to have it! Since then, I often have it blasting as I drive around. I like King Posse's Trilogie, as well. The lyrics on this one are nothing spectacular, and to be honest, neither are the voices. This choice is all about nostalgia. For about 3 or 4 years in a row, King Posse were the kings of carnaval with their upbeat compositions. Remember Kool Non? Retounen? (My friend decided to pick up a couple of RAM cds.)

Boukman Eksperyans, Vodou Adjae, 1991

Kè m pa sote. Do I need to say more? Okay, how about Se Kreyòl Nou Ye and Tribilasyon? This album made Lòlò, Manzè and the gang household names. And rightfully so. They brought together musical genius, political activism, and culture consciousness at a time when Haitian society was thirsty for all of those things. Boukman Eksperyans is less active today, but they've already established themselves as a giant.

Obviously, I could include a lot more on this list. (Just flipping through my cds, I see Pou Lavi by New York All Stars. I love that one! And Zeklè. Rete la! Stòp!) I listen to a lot in my car, not all of it is Haitian, and truth be told, not all of it can be called quality music. But it all makes me happy! What are some of your favorite tunes? Which albums do you think are missing from my list?


6 commentaires:

  1. Wow! I love all of your picks, but that's not surprising haha. You are right on point about the dialogue between Manno and Marco and the genius that is Mizik Mizik. If only they played more. Sigh. I would've added some ZIN hits in there too because they always take me back to good times and fill my heart with joy. No way you can stop yourself from smiling or head bopping when Ma Rose or Tou piti come on. And Ayiti always makes me feel like hugging our country :) Sweet Micky's Ooh Lala is also great on car trips.

  2. Old school Zin definitely holds a special place in my heart. To be honest, I deliberately didn't include too much konpa because I feel like it gets so much play already. But, yes, there are a lot of groups/albums that could make the cut. Now I feel the need to go find that Ma Rose cd!

  3. Aahhh! A source of Haitian pride that retraced a lifetime, an evolution. You cheated though by choosing the All Time Haitian Classics. It would be difficult to find anyone who didn't remember where or what age he/she was when those hits came out. They invoke vivid imagery as they do musical tunes. I would definitely add K-dans to your list, a band that made the youth feel alive and dreaming through generations. No need to mention anyone sneaking out or lying to parents only to end up in some "Journee Recreative" where K-dans would be performing. :)
    Now Sha is right; Mizik Mizik was nothing short of genius and its leads F. Rouzier and K. Belizaire vary no less. These gentlemen left permanent prints in the Haitian consciousness as well as the history of our music. You turned tortuous commuting in Haiti into a profound post everyone can identify with. We Haitians have so much in common and music is the glue that keeps it all together.
    Thank you for yet another great post.
    Rapadoo O,

  4. You are most welcome, Rapadoo. I was actually listening to Kdans in the car this morning on my way to teach my first class of the semester. :)

  5. Then, I must officially declare ur commuting an adventure, something you should always look forward to. :)

  6. Just making sure that NY All Stars' Pou la vi was on here. I was jamming to that one on the drive to work this morning!