‘HaitiaNola’ Successfully Spans Cultures And Nations

Courtesy: Cumbancha

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:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.lakoumizik.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LakouMizik

 

 

 

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Nation Beat’s New EP Is A Wonderfully Enjoyable Festival For The Ears

Courtesy:  Nation Beat Music

Courtesy: Nation Beat Music

The Brooklyn, NY-based collective known as Nation Beat will release its new EP Carnival Caravan later this month. More precisely, the record–Carnival Caravan–will be released on Friday, July 31st. The band’s first EP and fourth overall release, it is one of this year’s best new EPs. Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with Nation Beat’s body of work every listener will agree with this sentiment after listening to each of its five tracks. The record is anchored by the group’s take on the traditional tune ‘L’il Liza Jane.’ Just called ‘Liza Jane’ in this presentation, Nation Beat’s take on the song pays proper tribute to the original song. Yet at the same time, its full-on Dixieland rendition gives the song its own identity separate from every version of the song ever recorded. The disc’s opener ‘Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew’ is another of its high points. It mixes a Latin sound with something of a hip-hop backbeat and rock vibe all into one piece that will catch listeners of every taste. ‘Golden Crown,’ which serves as the disc’s midpoint is one more of the record’s compositions that audiences will enjoy. All three of the noted songs shows in their own way what makes Carnival Caravan such an enjoyable collection of songs. That is not to ignore the remaining pair of songs that rounds out the record–‘Vou Cantar Esse Coco (ft. Silverio Pessoa)’ and ‘Canto Da Ema – All On A Mardi Gras Day.’ Whether for that pair or for the pieces more directly noted, audiences will find plenty to like about this record. In listening to all five songs together, audiences will agree that Carnival Caravan is just as enjoyable of a first impression for Nation Beat’s new fans as for those that are more familiar with its music. More simply put, audiences alike will agree in hearing this record that it is one of this year’s best new EPs.

Depending on which definition one takes, the one thing that rings true about a carnival regardless of definition is that it is considered a festival. The only difference is the structure of said festival. That being the case, it can be argued that in listening to Nation Beat’s new EP Carnival Caravan, it is a festival for the ears. That is thanks to all five of the songs that make up the body of the record. The disc’s closer, its own rendition of the traditional tune ‘L’il Liza Jane’ is one example of how the record’s songs make it such an enjoyable musical festival. While Nation Beat stays true to the work that was originally composed way back in the early 1900s, it also gives its take on the song its own identity presenting the song in a full-on Dixieland rendition here complete with vocal accompaniment. The group’s trademark Latin-tinged sound is there, too making even clearer this rendition’s separation from other renditions such as those from The Preservation Hall Jazz Band or The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Listening to Nation Beat’s rendition of the timeless tune, audiences can almost hear the group marching down the parade route on Mardi Gras, trombones and trumpets shining in the air, drummers keeping the beat, getting the revelers moving all along the way. That overall celebratory nature of the song in its rendition here more than helps it live up to the EP’s title. It is just one example of what makes Carnival Caravan a festival for the ears. The record’s two-part opener ‘Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew’ is another example of what makes it a wonderfully enjoyable musical party.

Much like its closer ‘Liza Jane,’ Carnival Caravan’s opener ‘Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew’ is another wonderful example of what makes Nation Beat’s new record a wonderful festival for the ears. It, too is based on a traditional song. And as with ‘Liza Jane,’ the members of Nation Beat have taken that original composition and given it a whole new identity all while saying as true as possible to the original work. Scott Kettner’s infectious hip-hop style back beat and Mark Mashall’s blues-rock style guitar line combine in the first half of the song for a song that instantly catches listeners’ ears and gets them moving. The second half of the song stands just as much as its own work as the first half, as it presents a sound that is completely separate from that song. The call and response style approach presented through Fabiana Masili’s vocals and the song’s choral response is just as enjoyable. What is really great about that approach is that even those that might not speak the language (more than likely Portuguese), need not worry about what the performers are singing. The upbeat vibe of the song along with its equally celebratory sound translate quite well in their own right, letting listeners know that the song’s message is in fact a happy one. That happy, celebratory message combines with the upbeat sound of both ‘Sew Sew Sew’ and ‘Casa Diamante’ to make the whole of the songs one whole work that proves itself a great opener for Nation Beat on its latest recording and yet another example of why Carnival Caravan a wonderfully enjoyable festival for the ears.

Both ‘Liza Jane’ and ‘Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew’ are clear examples in their own right of what makes Carnival Caravan a wonderfully enjoyable festival for the ears. That is because the members of Nation Beat have paid full honor to the original songs on which they are based all while giving listeners songs that still stand apart from those songs as their own works. That balance of old and new within both songs shows clearly why Carnival Caravan is such a wonderfully enjoyable festival for the ears and one of the year’s best new EPs in whole. ‘Golden Crown,’ which serves as the record’s midpoint is one mor example of what how that balance of old and new makes this record in whole so fun for listeners. As with ‘Liza Jane’ and ‘Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew,’ ‘Golden Crown’ is also an update of a classic song. More specifically it is based an a traditional Mardi Gras Indian tune. This is significant because in traditional Mardi Gras Indian culture, women have generally been forbidden from singing such works. Yet here, Fabiana Masili handled lead vocal duties. For Masili to break that standard and take the reins on this song is a big step not for her but for Mardi Gras Indian culture in whole as well as women in general. Masili’s vocals set alongside Nation Beat’s standard New Orleans/Latin hybrid sound makes the song stand out even more. The mix of the noted elements makes the song stand out not just from the original take of ‘Golden Crown’ but also from all of the other songs that are featured as part of Carnival Caravan. Those songs alongside this work show in full why Carnival Caravan is both a wonderfully enjoyable festival for the ears and one of this year’s best new EPs.

Carnival Caravan only boasts five songs. But across the course of those songs and the record’s twenty-one minute run time, the EP proves in the long run to be a wonderfully enjoyable musical festival for the ears. It also proves to be one of this year’s best new EPs. The disc’s closer ‘Liza Jane,’ its opener, the dual part ‘Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew,’ and ‘its midpoint ‘Golden Crown’ all serve as clear examples of what makes this record so enjoyable. The remaining pair of songs that round out the record–Vou Cantar Esse Coco (ft. Silverio Pessoa)’ and Canto Da Ama – All On A Mardi Gras Day’ both serve as their own clear examples of what makes this record so enjoyable even for those that might not speak any foreign languages. All things considered, the music that makes up the body of Carnival Caravan shows in whole that this record is both a musical festival for the ears and one of the best new EPs of this year. Carnival Caravan will be available on Friday, July 31st in stores and online. Currently Nation Beat is touring in support of its upcoming EP. Audiences can keep up with the band’s latest tour schedule as well as its latest news and updates on Carnival Caravan online now at:

Website: http://www.nationbeat.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nation-Beat/10175932771

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.