Arts, Culture & Media

'Haiti Direct' is a new collection of dance tunes from the golden age

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Credit: Strut Records

If you want to know why some Haitian music sounds so Cuban, just head to the northern side of Haiti.

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“The north is very close to Cuba and once it was six at night, the waves from Cuba just invaded us.”

It's not the sea record producer Fred Paul and band manager Ulrich Pierre Louis are talking about, but radio waves.

Those radio waves from Cuba used to beam into Haitian homes during the 60s and 70s - the golden age of Haitian music. 

Paul and Louis, also known as Rico, both grew up in Haiti, but are a couple of generations apart.

These days, they live in Miami, Florida. And together, with their love and experience in old school Haitian music, the duo helped compile a new collection of that old stuff from Haiti.

It's a time machine called "Haiti Direct."

The subtitle of the collection - "Big band, Mini Jazz and Twoubadou Sounds" - shows the diversity of the music in its heyday.

Let me break it down for you: Twoubadou is singer-songwriter music.

The word comes from the word "troubadour."

Big band: think Benny Goodman or Benny More.

And mini jazz? That's a little more complex as Fred Paul explains.

“Mini jazz is like a reduced format of a big band," he says. "Like Orchestre Septentrional was big band, sometimes four saxes, three trumpets, and at least 14 musicians. But when you get to mini jazz, it was one sax or guitar, but there were still about nine or 10 on stage. They were not that small as we may call them.”

The band Fred Paul mentions, Orchestre Septentrional, is where Rico joins the story.

In 1948 his dad co-founded the Orchestre.

Today, Rico manages the latest incarnation of Orchestre Septentrional.

But it's his dad's original band that has a track on "Haiti Direct."

The style remains mostly intact today, but Rico says it's the way people listen that's gone through the biggest transformation.

There's the way his parents did it in the 1970s: they just to danced and enjoyed the music.

Then there's his generation, which he says was all about how to get close to your dance partner.

Today, it's a different thing.

“And the third generation is the concert type. People just gathering and to see the band performing," he says. "Jumping and enjoying themselves. That's the third generation and that's where it's leaning right now.”

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