This month we visit the island referred to as Kiskeya or Quisqueya depending which side of the shared border of Haïti or La República Dominicana you live on. To lead us through a vinyl exploration of this beautiful shared musical history we are joined by former Music Director at KALX of UC Berkeley and current Latin Music Curator and Programmer at Pandora, Marcos Juarez.
Important Note: This podcast was recorded before the recent disturbing deportation of Haitians taking place in the D.R.
The past 2 months, (December and January), have been filled with family, feasts, and re-centering ourselves for the new year.
And for this new year, we here at La Pelanga are all very excited as we plan to stay busy with new live events, new podcasts, new mixes, new pelanga onesies for the babies and of course lots of new music here on the blog.
Where to start though?
I propose we all set our volume control to 11 and ROCK THE FUCK OUT with Les Difficiles from Haiti.
Please excuse our recent absence from this space. We’ve been doing some remodeling and maintenance, but we’re back now! We’re still very excited to continue sharing more music and culture. In fact, last week we got together and recorded our very first Pelangacast live from our LP clubhouse! The concept is not to have the typical radio “programmed show,” but instead to invite you into our cozy wall-to-wall collection of culture on vinyl as we share stories and discoveries from our musical addictions.
Below is our first episode with more to come soon. Have a listen, and let us know what you think.
Advice – I. C. Rock
Ce La Vie – Les Difficiles De Pétion-Ville
Ah Ah Oh No – La Protesta (ft. Joe Arroyo)
El Preso – Louis Towers [NOTE: This unlabeled record was in a Grupo Kuwait sleeve, but it’s actually Louis Towers]
(Where Were You) Last Night – Sumy
Banana Juana – Ralph Robles
Guami Guami – Sir Victor Uwaifo and his Melody Maestros
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.
At our last Pelanga this past Saturday at La Peña we teamed up with Chicano Batman for an incredible night of music and dancing. We had a blast combining our sounds and crowds. Many thank you’s to all of you who came out!
At one point while I was deejaying I saw fellow pelanguero, DJ Papicultor give me his “oh hell yes!” look while dancing which lets me know I’m playing something special. It’s also a good indication I should be featuring it here at lapelanga.com. The song is called O.S.S. Merengueby Original Shleu-Shleu. OSS was one of the many offshoots from Les Shleu Shleu and also the most popular. Lead by maestro Tony Moïse on sax they would eventually evolve into
What I love most about this song is that it starts off in one great place, but then ends up in an entirely different place that is even better. First we get a hard hitting conga break that then flows into a classic sounding merengue, but then hold on because before you know it you’re off to San Francisco with Edouardo Richard playing a great Santana inspired guitar solo. And if that wasn’t enough they bring it all back to some Haitian rumba with sirens going off letting you know—this shit is on fire!
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.
One of my new years resolutions was to post more of my favorite records. I was reviewing my posts over the last 2 years and I was disappointed that I’ve only posted 1 kompa record (Gemini All Stars de Ti Manno). I have a decent collection of classic Haitian groups many of which I listen to on a daily basis. I’m now determined to post more of my favorites over the next few months.
To start off, I’d like to spotlight one the most beautiful kompas you’ll likely ever hear. Franz has previously featured Les Shleu Shleu‘s 1974 release Toujous Le Même 4-3, but I’d like to go back to their fourth album from 1969 Tête Chauve. I know, that cover is jarring, yet hard to look away. Tete Chauve means “Bald Head”, and the title song is Tete Chauve A New York so it makes sense, but maybe not. Anyway, the song I’d like to highlight here is Timidite. It’s an amazing piece of music that features Georges Loubert Chancy on sax. What comes out of his instrument is pure magic, specifically half way through the song where he enters in with a melody that somehow manages to simultaneously give you both joyful soothing tones and bitter remorseful ones at the same time. Combined with those reverb guitars and Kompa style chanting make a stunning piece of music. Enjoy!