Lakou Mizik formed in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Lakou Mizik formed in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Credit:

Marco Werman

In 2010, tragedy struck in Haiti.

More than 200,000 people were killed after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the country. More than 1.5 million people were left without homes. A month later, a cholera epidemic swept through the streets. Amid the chaos, Lakou Mizik came together.

Lakou Mizik is a collection of nine Haitian musicians ranging in age from their early 20s to their late 60s. The group is all about rediscovering the roots of Haitian music. As the world continues to be more and more connected, many of the members say they feel like their music is losing its purity.

The group's name reflects its mission.

You can probably guess what "Mizik" means — music. But "Lakou" is a little more complicated.

On one level, the word means "yard" in Haitian Creole. It's where you feel most comfortable and spend time with people who you care about. But the word also means "home" or "where you are from." The third meaning has to do with Haitian Vodou. It's a holy place where you can communicate with your ancestors.

"If you want to have direct contact with your anscestors, with your family, with everything, you can go there," says Steeve Valcourt, the lead singer and guitarist of Lakou Mizik. "[You can] find medicine, like herbal medicine, find peace in your mind, find everything. It's where you have to be you."

The title track of their new album, "Wa Di Yo," means "You tell them we're still here." You could say it's something of a motto for the group.

The "we" could be Haitians in general after the earthquake, but it's also a throwback to the country's traditions and customs. Many of Lakou Mizik's songs have been passed down through oral history. And the members have even reproduced a traditional drum, the tambour. The way they’ve built it is another throwback, this time to their African roots.

“We all come from those roots in Africa,” Valcourt says. "Even in Africa they don’t play that type of tambour [anymore], and that type of rhythm. So that’s how far we want to go."

They are a collective looking to the past in a time when Valcourt says "everyone is trying to be futurist." 

"Everyone's trying to make new stuff with technology," he says. "We have that tendency of losing the roots because from five, six, seven generations, we lose that essence of what we were, and what we had."

But at the same time, the group is looking to the future. And the sprawling age gap between its youngest and oldest members helps blend old with new.

"We're not forgetting where we come from," Valcourt says, "and [we're seeing] how we can bring this forward to another level, another generation."

Hear more from Lakou Mizik:

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