Album Review: Lakou Mizik – Wa Di Yo [Cumbancha, 1st April 2016]

Lakou Mizik takes in what other people throw away, and makes it sound beautiful for everyone.” This is how Woulele, the youngest member of Lakou Mizik, defines the band: a multigenerational collective of Haitian musicians put together with the support of American producer Zach Niles in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Their debut album Wa Di Yo (You Tell Them) is an intense and groovy distillation of breathtaking polyrhythms, folk ballads, call-and-response chants and sweet melodies played on accordion and guitar. It is a joyful expression that spans three generations of artists from a generous and disgraced land, calling out to the world: “You tell them, we’re still here!

In Haitian Kreyol, the word lakou means ‘home’, both for people and the spirits of the Vodou. The Lakou Mizik project aims to revive classic Haitian spiritual, folk and protest songs in a popular, internationally appealing blend, promoting a positive idea of the island’s cultural vividness in the face of the tragic picture circulated by the press. So let’s put aside political exploitations, tragedies and media distortions, and just talk about the music, as there is an awful lot to be said.

The band is carefully crafted, with its members having all bases covered when it comes to their eclectic and vivid national musical heritage. Steeve, on guitar and vocals, is the son of a well known island band leader and has a great deal of experience in producing local talents. Jonas, emerging Kompa artist, balances lyrical consciousness and the pulsating grooves of the new popular music scene. Nadine, originating from the Christian evangelical community, supports the album with her powerful gospel voice. Sanba, Woulele’s father, brings his lifelong experience as a Vodou master drummer and a pioneer of rasin (‘roots’). ‘Ti Piti’ and James are young maestros of waksen, street trumpets popular in Rara and the music of African Haitian marches. The nine-piece band being completed by Belony, famous accordionist, and Lamarre, cross-faith bass player.

The album is a journey through the many aspects of an opulent music culture: from the inebriation of a trance ritual to the Defile Kanaval street parades, French-style accordion solos, gospel hymns, and popular protest songs which have passed through centuries of slavery, despotic regimes and military coups. This is definitely, another gem in Cumbancha’s collection.