Haitian music collective Lakou Mizik returns later this month with its sophomore album HaitiaNola. Scheduled for release Oct. 25, the 14-song album is a positive follow-up to the group’s 2016 debut Wa Di Yo. It is a presentation that is meant to celebrate the connection between Haiti and New Orleans, and does that quite well in so many ways from start to finish both musically and lyrically. One of the most notable songs that celebrates that connection comes a little more than halfway through the album’s 71-minute (one hour, 11-minute) run time in the form of ‘Lakou Dogwe.’ It will be discussed shortly. The album’s lead single ‘Iko Kreyol’ is another notable way in which the group celebrates its Haitian and New Orleans roots with this record. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Mizik Sa Yo,’ the album’s closer is yet another notable way in which Lakou Mizik celebrates its culture in this record. It will also be addressed later. When it is considered along with each of the other songs mentioned here and the rest of the album’s featured songs, the whole of the album makes it a presentation that is easily one more of this year’s best and most important World Music albums.
Lakou Mizik’s sophomore album HaitiNola is a solid follow-up to the group’s 2016 debut Wa Di Yo. That is because of the way in which the album’s featured songs celebrate the connection between the group’s Haitian and New Orleans roots. One of the songs that serves to so effectively pay homage to both cultures comes late in the album’s run in the form of ‘Lakou Dogwe.’ In English, that translates to ‘Temple Ritual.’ Famed singer-songwriter Anders Osborne makes a guest appearance on the song on guitar, which as the liner notes state, is about a vodou ceremony involving people welcoming spirits as they enter the temple. That should not be mistaken for Voodoo, which is different from vodou. Vodouists believe in one “Good God” known as Bondye.Bondye is served by a series of Ioa – spirits who serve Bondye. It is not a polytheistic religion, but rather one that involves the servants of the one God being worshipped. It is itself rooted in the West African Vodun religion. This song celebrates that connection back to Haiti’s African religious roots and is so audible in the song’s arrangement. The arrangement features what certainly sound distinctly like African drums, bells and other percussive elements. Even the vocals conjure thoughts of so many African songs. The combination of that whole – the instrumentation and vocals – stands out in its celebration of the group’s present and past. The song’s lyrical content, which talks about the ancient Vodou ritual adds even more interest to the song.
The song opens, stating, “The first ancestors were there in the Kingdom of Dahoney (in Africa)/The first ancestors were there in the kingdom with badjia, the family was there/In the lakou ritual, we greet the twins – the spirits of abundance. The song continues, “In the village of Lokan are all of the spirits of Vodou/Ogou Badagris (older, wiser spirit of war/we are here/Ogou Batala (youthful soldier spirit) we are here/Ogou Balendjo (navy captain and medic) we are here/Oshen Nago (gatekeeper of Nago ritual) we are here/Giving thanks to Bassou (the bull spirit)/Giving thanks to Bassou and the Vodou ceremony.” There is no hidden meaning to anything here. This is very simply, just a musical visualization of how the Vodou ceremony that is Lakou Dogwe takes place. It brings outsiders into that ceremony and illustrates how it works. If for no other reason than to educate audiences about an element of Haitian culture, this content is noteworthy. When it couples with the tone of the song’s musical arrangement, the end result is a work that shows in its own way, why Lakou Mizik’s latest album is a wonderful tribute to the group’s cultural roots. It is just one of the songs that pays tribute to the group’s roots so well. The album’s lead single ‘Iko Kreyole’ is another key exhibition of the group’s celebration of the connection between Haiti and New Orleans.
‘Iko Kreyole’ is perhaps the most blatant of the album’s celebration of Lakou Mizik’s connection between Haiti and New Orleans. That is clear in part through the song’s musical arrangement. The arrangement features members of the famed New Orleans-based Preservation Hall Jazz Band as well as members of Arcade Fire, which is from Montreal – a French region of Canada. This is important considering the fact that the French controlled Haiti for a very long time before many Haitians left their homeland for Haiti. At the same time, many Acadians (French citizens who eventually moved to Canda) made their way to New Orleans, too, creating what is today Creole. Keeping this in mind, that combination of New Orleans and French-Canadian is very symbolic here. The combination of the groups’ distinct sounds creates a whole that is just as notable as the symbolism of the unity, with its horns, electronics and percussion.
The symbolic collective of Lakou Mizik with Arcade Fire’s members and those of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band gives ‘Iko Kreyole’ a clear presentation of the celebration of Lakou Mizik’s connection between Haiti and New Orleans that every listener will enjoy. The addition of the song’s lyrical content makes that celebration stand out even more. The group sings in the song’s lead verse, “My culture is my identity, from Haiti to NOLA/Spirits of Congo, we are brothers and sisters/We’re ready for all that is against us/Stand firm and tell them we’re here.” The song continues in its second verse, “We are united in music, represented by our flags/Whichever road we take, we are eventually going to meet/When we pay the rara cornet, we harmonize with trumpets and trombones/Proving that we are family, We are Creole.” The celebration continues with mentions of marching down St. Bernard and taking part in Mardi Gras while also paying tribute to certain family members. The whole of the song, lyrically, is a work that does a wonderful job of celebrating Lakou Mizik’s Haitian and Creole connection. The addition of the infectious beats to the song in its musical arrangement, makes the song just as enjoyable musically as it is lyrically. The end result of that combination is a song here that is yet another key example of how well the album pays tribute to Lakou Mizik’s past and present. It is just one more example of how well it does just that. It is not the last example of how well the group does that, either. The album’s closer, ‘Mizik Sa Yo’ is one more way that Lakou Mizik pays tribute to its culture.
‘Mizik Sa Yo’ pays tribute to a unique part of the group’s culture as its takes on the control that the nation’s elite have on information dissemination. The song’s musical arrangement once again couples the group’s Haitian roots with a more New Orleans sound for a whole that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. The song’s lyrical content is even more powerful than the song’s musical content, with the group stating in the song’s lead verse, “Attention everyone – There’s too much bad music on the radio/Music in our country never talks about how we can enrich the knowledge of the youth/Down with all the bad music they play on the radio!/Kids need to listen to music that will help them learn/It’s time we started to sing about how we feel, what we need, who we are and what can help us!” The song continues in its second verse, “They don’t want us to advance, they want us to stay where we are/Independence is a bad joke/Division, religion, division/Division, corruption/religion/They never play these songs/The DJs don’t play these songs/The radio won’t play these songs/It’s Devil music, Vodou music, these songs/They ignore our own culture, these songs!/But Lakou Mizik plays these songs/Show them the way/They gave us “religion” for them to reign/They sabotage our history to make us forget who we are/They control our education and look down on our culture so youth have no soul.” This is a powerful message. It is to Haiti what maybe acts, such as Bob Dylan, Rage Against The Machine and others are to American audiences taking on the establishment. It is a true tribute and dedication to their people and culture, and a fitting finale for the album. Add in the energetic, forceful vibes in the song’s arrangement, and the whole stands out on its own merits that audiences are certain to latch onto. It is just one more way in which HaitiaNola shines. When it is considered alongside the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s offerings, the whole of the album makes itself one more of this year’s most outstanding new World Music albums.
Lakou Mizik’s forthcoming sophomore album HaitiaNola is an outstanding new offering from the Haitian music collective. It is so engaging and entertaining in part because of its musical arrangements, which pay homage to the group’s connections both to New Orleans and to Africa. The album’s lyrical content does just as much to directly pay tribute to those connections. The whole of those elements, in the songs noted here and the songs not noted, makes the album a work that will keep listeners engaged and entertained from start to finish. All in all, the album proves to be one more of the year’s top new World Music offerings. More information on the album is available online now at:
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