when I was a teenager
before I had status
and before I had a pager, or email, or facebook, or twitter, or gps, or blogs…
I recently celebrated my 38th birthday, which is always a good time to reflect back on one’s life. I have plenty to be grateful for: loving parents, a beautiful wife, inspiring friends, etc, but I’m also grateful to have just been old enough to have been a young adult before the last 15 years of technology. I say grateful because before all this “interconnectedness”, when there was something great going on right in front of you, there was nothing to do but connect with it.
We see it all the time now. At every live show there’s people with their illuminated faces looking downward at their phones and tablets while scrolling, texting, tweeting, deciding which filter to use for their Instagram photo with amazing music going on right in front of them. Contrast all that with this live footage from 1981 of Ti Mano and Gemini All-Stars recorded at a gymnasium in Haiti, and tell me who has it better?
Be sure to keep watching through the 2nd part of this long video with Ti Mano performing with the D.P. Express at the Château Royal (10:15 mark). More amazing music!
As always enjoy and don’t ever forget how to lose yourself in music.
I’m doing my best to hold myself to my promise of posting my favorite records — specifically classic Kompa records. And it doesn’t get much more classic than early D.P. Express. Here we have their 2nd LP from 1977, and it’s monster of a record. We got the boys on the cover chilling by at the grotto somewhere in the once regal neighborhood of Petion-Ville. My understanding is that D.P.E are most credited for being the first to bring synth sounds to Kompa music. On the surface to purists that could sound all bad (in the 80s synthesizers were notorious for taking the jobs from studio musicians). Instead they used the synthesizer as another sweet layer in addition to the incredible horns, guitars, percussion and vocals—like pouring caramel on ice cream. Have a listen to Vériteé for a great example of this.
Choosing the best songs off this record is no easy task. But there was no way I couldn’t feature this scorcher, Croix Pa’m. Again checkout how they flex these early synth sounds elevating the music even higher.
Now I saved what I consider the best for last. L’ Amiral is not the dance floor burner like the rest of the record, but this song resonates most with me. The rhythm is warm and steady, allowing the solos to just melt all over the place. Those guitars in the middle… like butter. Then towards the end when the chorus finally comes in… how do you not sing along with that?
One little hope I have in posting these Kompa records is that non-Caribbean folks who only know Haiti as a natural disaster zone, rife with poverty and political strife, begin to appreciate the immense wealth of music, art and culture that flourishes there and in its diaspora communities.