Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore from Haiti Compiled & Curated by Vik Sohonie!
Selected from an array of private collections and radio archives in Brooklyn, NY, and multiple digging trips in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Gonaives, and St. Marc, Haiti, are 19 tracks that encompass the vast diversity of styles during the seminal years of musical innovation and percussive potency in Haiti. From the legendary, elegant big band dance parties in iconic nightclubs of Port-au-Prince to the rhythms of the countryside; from accordion-driven meringue and Vodou-derived drum patterns, to hypnotic tenor sax arrangements and psychedelic interpretations of folklore, the music of 1960's, '70's, and '80's Haiti enjoys a royal repute across the Caribbean, West Africa, and the Colombian coast.
In the golden era of Haitian music, between the 1960s and 1980s, experimentation and electric reinterpretation of traditional rhythms was rife, along with the sophisticated balancing of a host of influences. There's the jazz-era instrumentation, brought during the early 20th century American occupation, which introduced horn sections to Haitian ensembles. Cuba, cultural imperator of the Afro-Atlantic and perennial ally of Haiti, imbued Meringue, Mambo, Son, Guajira, Charanga, and a slew of Afro-Cuban styles into the Haitian repertoire. Accordion-driven Colombian Cumbia and Dominican Merengue left their mark. A melting pot of sound was all held together by the countless rhythms, drum patterns, and percussion brought across the Atlantic from Africa, surviving slavery's violent cultural repression.
Nago rhythms from what is today Nigeria and Benin, Kongo rhythms from Central Africa, and Petwo rhythms from the Vodou traditions of Guinea, among many others, were revived and given special importance in an age of black consciousness, driven by the Negritude and Noiriste philosophies of Afro-Caribbean intellectuals like Jamaica's Marcus Garvey and Martinique's Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire. The lasting result is a rich, layered terrine that spawned Haiti's Cuban-inspired Meringue, the dominant Kompa Direct of Nemours Jean Baptiste, the silky tenor sax-led Cadence Rampa pioneered by Webert Sicot, psychedelic Mini Jazz, and the dancefloor-filling Vodou Jazz compositions of de-facto national orchestra, Super Jazz de Jeunes. At its peak, Haitian music was widely distributed, proliferating its unique blend of sound across the Francophone Caribbean and West Africa.
Recordings capturing this vibrant laboratory of colliding influences were produced and pressed in Haiti, the United States, France, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Huge catalogs from the heavyweight record labels of the time – IBO Records, Marc Records, and Mini Records – and the smaller, private presses have largely been gathering dust and bugs, left to warp in the damp humidity... until now!