Words by Jon Lusk
This excellent disc of vibrant, rootsy twoubadou (troubadour) music from Haiti is a charming reminder of why you should never judge an album by its label. Recent Lusafrica releases have included some rather bland examples of its staple Cape Verdean material and fairly cheaply produced African techno-pop. There’s no such fare from Boulpik. Led by the compelling singer and hugely accomplished songwriter Franckel Sifranc, Boulpik are an acoustic combo armed with twin banjos, and a tight rhythm section that includes maracas, tambours (hand-drums) and Cuban-style claves, plus the rising and falling boom of a manouba (or marímbula) bass, a sort of cajón drum with metal keys.
Sifranc weaves in amongst them, shadowed and answered by a virile-sounding chorus. There’s a different vibe on each of the three covers, which subtly nod to the band’s influences and to Haiti’s hybrid musical history, as on ‘Je Reviens Chez Nous’, a tropicalised Canadian ballad. The arrangements are agreeably enriched by guests; there’s rustic violin from Lazaro Dagoberto Gonzalez on ‘Lakay’, and Allen Juste adds breezy accordion to ‘Si Lavi Te Fasil’ and ‘Jeremie’. Cain Madoka’s electric guitar on ‘Neg Dafrik’ is straight out of Kinshasa, but we can only guess as to what it’s about – the album’s limited explanatory notes are its only fault.
Track to Try: ‘Boulpik Twoubadou’