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Haiti Direct - Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978
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2014 two CD collection, the first in-depth exploration of the vibrant and varied colors of Haiti's music from the early '60s to the late '70s. Haiti Direct celebrates the overlooked musical legacy of Haiti, going beyond Ra-ra and voodoo stereotypes to trace the development of a unique sound that echoed across the Caribbean. Featuring in-depth liner notes and interviews with some of the musicians and producers that shaped the sound, this set is the first widely available compilation to celebrate the unique and innovative sounds of Haiti.
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The music of Haiti, especially from this era, was indeed a hybrid of other musical styles. As the liner notes explain, you had meringue, compas direct, cadence rampa, and "mini jazz" forming the template for these sounds. Compas direct, for example, used a "combination of styles reflecting Haiti's African roots and colonial rhythms, incorporating boleros, troubadour vocal styles, ballads, and satire." Cadence rampa is described as having "a beat closer to the mambo" with "the finesse and smoothness of comas direct." What is dubbed "mini jazz" came into being after the bigger bands of the '40s and '50s were downsized in the '60s, resulting in smaller groups that used less instruments. The fact that the "mini skirt" had become a hot fashion item around the same time helped to cement the name for this type of music. You gotta love that!
It truly is impressive that the compilers at Strut were able to uncover so much terrific music for this compilation, especially considering that many of the records were manufactured in small quantities and had little distribution outside of Haiti. But clearly, the musicians on this poor Caribbean island were hip to other sounds from the region and even from Africa, Brazil, and the mainland USA. One track "Jive Turkey" by Djet-Z borrows some riffs from, not the Ohio Players (as you might assume from the song title) but the Eagles' "Hotel California". Weird, but it works!
The CD set comes with a very informative 24-page booklet, giving the reader/listener background information on this era of Haitian music, the various music styles, and details about each track and recording artist. It also tells you which original LP or 45 the song came from, and the recording date and label. For some odd reason, however, they don't list the song times. Other than that slight omission this is a superlative compilation of music from a bunch of musicians that not many westerners have ever heard. More please!