Various Artists, Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 01.30.14 in Reviews

Welcome to the Haitian compilation the outside world has been waiting for, one focusing on regional bands rather than more famous expats such as Tabou Combo. The chronology being somewhat flipped, I’d recommend listening to it backward. Start with disc two, which features Nemours Jean Baptiste — who invented the era’s dominant compas direct sound — and other fine brassy, percussive compas bands. Then return to disc one, which concentrates on the youthful, stripped-down mini-jazz groups of the ’70s. Folkier twoubadou stylists such as Ti Paris and Ensemble Etoile du Soir are sprinkled throughout.

A danceable crash course in Haiti’s rich music scene

Haiti’s pulsing rara parade rhythm and vaksin bamboo flute pop up in Super Jazz de Jeunes’s “Coté Moune Yo.” A Cuban groove inspires Pierre Blain et Orchestre Murat Pierre’s “Jouc Ii Jou” and Les Ambassadeurs’ steadily sizzling “Homenaje a los Ambajadores.” Ibo Combo’s “Tit Garcon” will remind you of West African highlife, while the gnarly guitar and sharp metallic percussion of Los Vikings’ “Choc Vikings” evokes Nigerian funk. There’s a creepy (zombie-like?) quality to Les Animateurs’ “Ti Machine,” while Djet-X’s “Jive Turkey” reanimates “Hotel California.” Haiti Direct delivers a danceable crash course in the rich music of an all-too-marginalized national scene.