Words by Jane Cornwell
A Haitian carnival of an album, with a pinch of New Orleans
Grabbing you by the scruff of the neck from the get-go, this nine-strong collective pays homage to Haiti’s varied traditions, and the indomitable spirit of Haitians. Brought to you by the management team behind Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Lakou Mizik is a group of old hands and new talents, a sort of French-Caribbean Buena Vista Social Club formed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that decimated Haiti and unleashed outbreaks of cholera, strife and chaos. The group have spent the past few years honing their live act, tightening their rousing mix of African, French, Caribbean and New Orleans influences, which they deploy on guitars, drums, rara carnival horns and, now and then, accordion. Their debut shines as a result.
This is roots revival music at its most joyous and vital, all soaring harmonies, call-and-response vocals and deep, trancey voodoo rhythms that lollop and roll.
Haitian legend Boulo Valcourt brings his mellifluous tenor to the opening verses of ‘Peze Kafe’, a Haitian standard that tells of a wrongful arrest; his son Steeve (sic) Valcourt and singer Jonas Attis bring guitars, rap and added depth. A project at the vanguard of Haiti’s reborn music industry; a Phoenix risen – propelled by hope and pride – from the ashes.