Table of Content

  1. Haiti
  2. Historical origins of Kompa
  3. Konpa’s birth – Nemours Jean-Baptiste
  4. Webert Sicot and cadence rampa
  5. Konpa music
  6. Konpa dance
  7. Konpa popularity outside Haiti
  10. Appendix A – Merengue or méringue?
  11. Appendix B – Why the Haitians and Dominicans hate each other?

1. Haiti

Haiti is a country in the Caribbean Sea that includes the western third of the island of Hispaniola and such smaller islands as Gonâve, Tortue (or Tortuga – it was an actual historical pirate stronghold in the 1600s), Grande Caye, and Vache. The capital is Port-au-Prince (pronunciation: por o prens). Haiti, whose population is almost entirely descended from African slaves, won independence from France in 1804, making it the second country in the Americas, after the United States, to free itself from colonial rule. Over the centuries, however, economic, political, and social difficulties as well as a number of natural disasters have beset Haiti with chronic poverty and other serious problems [1-2].


The word “Haiti” comes from the indigenous Taíno language (now extinct), in which it means the “land of high mountains”and named the entire island of Hispaniola. In Haitian Creole, it is spelled and pronounced with a y but no H: Ayiti. The French colonisers gave the nickname “Pearl of the Antilles” (La Perle des Antilles) to the country, but it was actually a hell for the slaves. Haiti is famous for its natural beauty [3].

2. Historical origins of kompa (konpa dirék or compas direct)

According to Fabrice Rouzier, a Haitian pianist, kompa musician, producer, and entrepreneur who has been in the Haitian music industry for more than 20 years, kompa is a slowed-down version of Dominican merengue típico (also known as merengue cibaeño). This information is from an interview made in 2021. From the interview (editor: added the years from Wikipedia in the first paragraph):

This goes back in culture and in history to the time when Haiti invaded the newly independent (the Spanish rule ended in 1821) Santo Domingo from 1822. (In 1844, the Dominican War of Independence broke out that the Dominicans won in 1856.)

So, the music prevailent at that time also went from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, and mixed with Spanish rhythms over there, and eventually this influence was brought back to Haiti.

Haiti was an outcast, because it was “the first black nation”, because it was independent (from 1804), and that has lasted for a long time, for over 150 years. So the only ways for Haitians to get information from the outside worlds was newspapers, and later on, with the invention of the radio, radios from Cuba, from D. R., from the state Texas, and from the city of Miami, etc. were the ways for younger Haitian to access foreign music. So the youth around the age of 20-30 years was largely influenced by big bands from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and jazz bands from the US (jazz of the 20s, 30s and 40s) as well.

Haiti was already a poor country at that time. For the poorest people, the only way to make money was to go to Cuba to work at sugarcane fields in the cutting season. They travelled from Southern Haitian city of Jacmal to Santiago de Cuba. Of course, they brought some part of their culture there, and they also came back with the influence of the music heared in Cuba. Some of those people actually stayed back in Cuba. As a result, a big creole-speaking community lives now in Santiago de Cuba. So, these temporal migrations played a huge rule in shaping Haitian music.

In the 1950s, Nemours Jean-Baptiste (the creator of compas direct) wanted to create “pure Haitian music”, so he took the Dominican merengue from a well-known Dominican band called “Tipico Cibaeño”, and he slowed the tempo, because it was reminiscent of rhythms that were played in Haiti. In 1955, he started playing a new kind of music that has became compas. He caught on, and added some rhythmic instruments that are typical in Haiti to it, and hence kompa was born. It was a slower merengue, but it the songs were longer in duration. The typical theme of songs was long lost love, competing interest in love, relationships.

Konpa was born when the terrible dictatorship of the Duvalier dyntasty was coming, François Duvalier, and after him, his son ruled for 30 years from 1957. So it is understandable that lyrics were about beautiful women, the subject was very light, no social content of konpa (it came later). It was very dangerous for musicians to approach social or political themes, to put revolutionaly ideas into their music that would lead to revolts. End of the interview.

Please, compare these two songs below to hear the similarities between Dominican merengue típico and konpa dirék!

Conjunto Tipico Cibaeño – La Empaliza (merengue cibaeño)
Nemours Jean-Baptiste – Rit Komesyai (konpa dirék)

3. Konpa’s birth – Nemours Jean-Baptiste

Kompa” is the popular misspelling of “Haiti’s national music,” compas (also known by the French as compas direct and as konpa dirèk (or simply konpa) by Creole speakers. The botched spelling “kompa” is a result of a phonetic misunderstanding between French and Haitian Creole – there are no m-sounding consonants before b’s and p’s in Creole) [4].

Konpa is a popular urban dance music genre of Haiti. Often described as a “modern merengue”, konpa is wildly popular throughout the entirety of the Caribbean. The creator of the new genre is the the most emblematic, loved and controversial figure of modern Haitian music: Nemours Jean-Baptiste (1918-1985), a saxophonist, composer, and musical innovator [5] – not to be confused with the well-known Haitian singer and musician, Antoine “Ti Manno” Jean-Baptiste (1953-1985) who died at the age of 31 [4, 6].

Nemours Jean-Baptiste (1918-1985)
The creator of konpa dirék / compas direct.

The genre was popularized following the creation of Ensemble Aux Callebasses in 1955 (named after the club “Aux Calebasses” located at Carrefour, a western neighborhood of Port-au-Prince where Nemours’ orchestra used to perform on weekends), which then finally became Ensemble Nemours. In 1957, Nemours Jean-Baptiste – with the assistance of conga player Kreudzer Duroseau and accordionist Richard Duroseau – finalized the creation of compas which is an interpretation of merengue típico, but has its roots in Haitian traditional Meringue and the Vodou traditional rhythms [7] with influences from Cuban music, jazz, rock and roll. Nemours also incorporated a lot of brass and, in 1958, the first electric guitar in Haitian urban dance music [8].

It is important to emphasize that the Haitian méringue is a different genre from the Dominican merengue, despite the similarity of the name (see Appendix A at the end of the article).

Despite the fact that konpa was initially an interpretation of merengue típico with different colors, konpa has its roots in Haitian méringue, and in Vodou traditional rhythms (the tanbou barrel drums in konpa are actually Vodou drums). Méringue is the predecessor of konpa, in other words, konpa is the child, a “modern méringue” with other influences (Dominican merengue, Cuban music, jazz, rock and roll, etc.).

According to Fabrice Rouzier, konpa is an Haitian interpretation of Dominican merengue cibaeño with local influences from Haiti in it. An article by Jean Sylvio Jean-Pierre, an ethno-musicologist, appeared in the Le Nouvelliste Haitian newspaper in 2006 verifies this as well:

During the 1950s, thanks to the passage of the Dominican group “Tipico Cibaeño” which had great success in Haiti, Nemours Jean-Baptiste, through his know-how in the musical field, founded the “Conjunto International” which later became suite “l\’Ensemble aux Calebasses”, a very popular group in the country. The Ensemble aux Calebasses later became the “Ensemble Nemours Jean-Baptiste”. Nemours Jean-Baptiste, by his intelligence, interpreted several compositions of the group “Tipico Cibaeño” with other colors.

Nemours Jean-Baptiste & Ensemble Aux Calabasses – Alicia & Villa Creole (konpa dirék, 1958)
Ensemble Nemours Jean-Baptiste – Compas Direct (1960)
Nemours Jean-Baptiste – Ti Carole (a famous konpa dirék song from 1966)

The official website of Nemours Jean-Baptiste [9] states very clearly, that Nemours is the only founder of Konpa!

Webert Sicot spent only one month in “Conjunto International” as an original band member in 1955. When the Compas Direct was created in 1957, Webert Sicot was not in “Ensemble Nemours Jean-Baptiste”, and he was not even in “Ensemble Aux Calebasses”. Therefore, he can’t be credited with being a founder too.

The official website of Nemours Jean-Baptiste (the site that is approved by the family).

According to an article about Haitian music published on an Haitian website though, [4].

In 1957, compas music began to win a name for itself via the popular tours and performances of Nemours Jean Baptiste and Webert Sicot. Jean Baptiste, a saxophonist, author, and musical innovator, is often attributed as the genre’s grandfather. Webert Sicot, also a Haitian horn player, composer, and co-maestro, was Jean Baptiste’s friend and partner. After establishing a vision, the duo created their genre-changing group, “Conjunto International.”

Together, Jean Baptiste and Sicot traveled around the Caribbean, influencing other with a new and jazzier take on Haiti’s fortuitous meringue. Conjunto International’s konpa dirèk was a hit. The style was new enough to feel fresh and relevant but traditional enough to feel safe to audiences during the time. The band gained a considerable following before conflict arose internally. Jean Baptiste and Sicot disagreed on the musical direction of Conjunto International, insulting one another with their individual compositions. After some time, the pair fell out and formed individual bands; to differentiate himself from his dissolved past, Sicot coined a new genre “cadence rampa,” which went on to be popular in itself. Legend has it that Baptiste and Sicot aimed to settle their differences in a football (Americans read: soccer) match between their bands, but that the score ended up as an ironic 1-1 tie.

This article contains some false and misleading information in conflict what the official website of Nemours Jean-Baptiste and other sources debunk.

First, it is indeed true that Sicot and Jean-Baptiste were both the founders of the band [10]. However, Webert Sicot was member of Conjunto International for a month only [9], so he did not make tours together with Jean-Baptiste with this band. Sicot toured with his own Ensemble he founded after some time he left Conjunto International.

Second, it is plausible they were friends before they fell out in 1955, but Jean-Baptiste and Sicot became life-long rivals who couldn’t stand each other and function together. Jean-Baptiste was originally a student of Sicot [11].

Third, Jean-Baptiste and his band created compas direct / konpa dirék in 1957. Webert Sicot was not member of Ensemble Nemours Jean-Baptiste, and was not even in Ensemble Aux Calebasses. Conjunto International was not the genre-changing group, Ensemble Nemours Jean-Baptiste it was [9].

And finally, the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 9, on page 69, also amplifies Webert Sicot’s brief period at Conjunto International, and also highlights that Jean-Baptiste created the band [12]:

Jean-Baptiste’s creation of the band Conjunto International in 1955 marks the foundation of the new music genre [compas]. Rival saxophonist Webert Sicot played with the bans for a brief period but left to form his own ensemble. Sicot’s version of compas music, known as cadence rampa, was more sophisticated than that of Jean Baptiste. By 1957, compas music was the most popular music in Haiti. Compas music, especially the compas direct vareity, dominated the Haitian music scene during the 1960s and 1970s.

Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 9, on page 69

The football game sounds like an urban legend. However, there is supporting evidence that it really happened years after Conjunto International [5]:

During Jean-Baptiste’s early career, he played in a band with fellow Haitian artist Webert Sicot called Conjunto Internacional. Years after the band dissolved, Webert Sicot introduced a new dance rhythm that bore many similarities to Jean-Baptiste’s compas. During the period of argument and controversy that followed, the two took lyrical jabs at each other in their songs. The competition between the two culminated in a soccer match between the two artists and their respective bands, which ended in a 1–1 tie.

According to the website of Adrien B. Berthaud*, where a dozens of famous Haitian musicians have their biographies and detailed music history analyses of their works (in French),

On 8 April, 1964, a musical duel and a football match were set between the two orchestras (Sicot’s and Jean-Baptiste’s) at the Stade Sylvio Cator. Raoul Guillaume (Haitian composer, arranger and saxophonist) was the promoter of this event. He was assisted by line judges Serge Martelly and D’Or to ensure the rules of the match are kept. The football match ended as Raoul predicted it in his musical play: Cadence-Compas 1-1, and everyone’s amazement, the rain wasted the event. What a coincidence! A boxing match was also planned between Sicot and Jean-Baptiste. Unfortunately, this dream could not come true because the health of Nemours was deteriorating [11].

* Adrien B. Berthaud is a fairly accomplished guitarist and a prolific composer from having penned nearly one hundred songs. His tunes have been interpreted by the famous Haitian singer Joe Trouillot and Maestro Tony Moise. For more than two decades, Adrien was the voice of Moment Creole Retro every Sunday on WLIB1190 A M. During his tenure at moment creole, Adrien showcased his excellent knowledge in the of Haitian music history every sunday [13].

4. Webert Sicot and cadence rampa

Webert Sicot (1930-1985) was one of the most influentials band leaders and musicians in Haitian popular music [14]. Nemours Jean-Baptiste was actually a student (!) of Webert Sicot [11]. Sicot was more talented than Jean-Baptiste. The name cadence rampa was more popular term outside Haiti, in the Caribbean because of Sicot’s exceptional harmonic skills.

Sicot was born on 14 April, 1930, in a small city of Anse-à-Veau, and was taught in music school. His first instrument was the flute, but fell in love with alto saxophone; an instrument he handled extremely well. In the beginning, he was taught by Gerard Dupervil (famous musician, a founding member of Super Jazz des Jeunes) until his older brother, Raymond (trumpet and trambolin player) took charge of his musical education. Webert was the “product” of the Centrale Des Arts Et Métiers art school [11] (today, there is an university named “Academie des Arts et de Métiers” in the Haitian capital).

Webert Sicot (1930-1985)
An Haitian saxophone player, composer, and the life-long rival of Nemours Jean-Baptiste.

Based on a comment at a Youtube video [15], Discogs [16], and Adrien B. Berthaud’s essay [11], we have the correct timeline of events that lead to the creation of cadence rampa 5 years after (!) konpa was created by Nemours Jean-Baptise.

Webert Sicot left Conjunto International after a month in 1955 (Nemours replaced him with saxophonist Franck Briyol who played in the Citadelle Orchestra).

In 1956, Webert Sicot went to the Latino Orchestra.

Sicot went to Italy in 1957 to perform with Joe Trouillot’s Casino International band for months. Afterwards, he travelled to Miami on a study trip to better understand the language of sounds and soften his style.

In 1959, after returning home, Webert with Raymond Sicot, André Dorismond, Garry French, Dufond Mayala had the idea to form a band, and started looking for musicians. On August 22, 1960, after having all the members, they presented the new formation called La Flèche D’or D’Haiti at Gerard Prophet’s house. This band became the Super Ensemble Webert Sicot. The first release with the name “cadence rempa” appeared in 1961.

On August 10, 1962, they presented cadence rampa to the public the first time. The very same year, they had a release with the name La Flèche D’or D’Haiti.

So Webert Sicot created his own band, and called his music “cadence rampa” (kadans ranpa, or just simply kadans in Haitian creole; meaning: rampart rhythm) in 1962 to differentiate it from konpa, especially when he took it abroad, and so the rivalry between Sicot and Jean-Baptiste resulted in creating the name cadence rampa by Sicot. The rhythm of kadans ranpa almost identical to konpa [17], there were slight different styles – so the distinction is extremely hard.

Ensemble Webert Sicot – Carnaval cadence rampa (cadence rampa, 1962)
Webert Sicot with an alto sax

5. Konpa music characteristics

The word “Compas” means “measure” in Spanish or “rhythm”, and one of the most distinctive characteristics of konpa is the consistent pulsating tanbou beat (the tanbou drum is considered the national instrument of Haiti) [18].

The name “cadence rampa” (kadans ranpa) is the result of the rivalisation between Sicot and Jean-Baptiste, and was created by Sicot to differentiate his music. Kadans and konpa are almost the same with just slight differences. Here, konpa and kadans is used interchangeably, as a synonym (for a dancers perspective it is fine, we are not musicians and thus hardly can make the distinction). “Cadence” is an English word, and one of its meaning is also “measure”, so it is a well fit for the genre.

Webert Sicot, the originator of cadence known for his great virtuosity, mostly harmonic skills, was well appreciated in the Caribbean. This is why the term cadence was more popular than compas.

Konpa is characterized by several elements [4]:

  • its consistent pulsating tanbou beat, constant uptempo rhythm,
  • its percussive aspect comes from the drum (in particular, the steady one-beat bass drum), the accentuated use of cymbals and, to a lesser extent, the high hat [19] plus a distinct beat of the cowbell [20] (tok, to-tok, tok-tok-tok), and a conga drum beating a dash of méringue;
  • its steady brass orchestra, a big band feel, and a solid melody (I note here, that some bands, especially in the mini-djazz era, used lead guitar, and did not have / had little brass);
  • its space for musical improvisation over the orchestral backbone;
  • and its spicy Latin-esque rhythm.

The tanbou drum (Haitian Creole pronunciation: [tãbu]) is the national musical instrument and type of barrel drum from Haiti [21].

Generally, in instrumental konpa direct, a sultry saxophone is the leading voice (in the mini-djaz era, a number of bands used lead guitar instead) – it aims to tell a piercing yet captivating story. Lyrics for konpa dirèk are normally written in any of the languages of Haiti or the neighboring Caribbean islands: Creole, French, Spanish, English, or Portuguese.

5.1. Mini-djaz bands

Mini-jazz (Haitian Creole: mini-djaz) is a reduced méringue-konpa band format of the mid-1960s characterized by the rock band formula of two electric guitars, one bass, and drum-conga-cowbell; some use an alto sax or a full horn section, while others use a keyboard, accordion or lead guitar [22]. Before, konpa bands were like orchestras consisting of dozens of members.

The popularity of Nemours Jean-Baptista’s and Webert Sicot’s music gradually faded away. New bands take over their places. It all started with Les Shleu Shleu. Nemours reached his top popularity in 1966, but the youth move away in favour of the “Mini Jazz”. To his own misfortune, Nemours was the one who introduced the band Les Shleu Shleu to the big audience of Cabane Choucoune (one of the best méringue dance clubs) [10].

The 1915-34 US occupation introduced jazz music to Haiti. Local music bands were sometimes called jazz in comparison to the American big band jazz. The word “jazz” has become the equivalent of band or orchestra. The mini-jazz movement started in the mid-1960s, when small bands called mini-djaz (which grew out of Haiti’s light rock and roll bands of the early 1960s) played konpa featuring paired electric guitars, electric bass, drumset and other percussion, often with a saxophone [23]:

Mini Jazz, or mini-djaz in Creole, began once many Port-au-Prince musicians, influenced by the uncanny popularity of American big band and the voodoo-fusion, mixed their musical styles with konpa. The movement started in the 1960s, after the U.S. occupation had long since ended and the cultural scars had had time to heal over and spread influence. In the massive mashup of genres, paired electric (jazz) guitars, an electric bass guitar, a horn (usually a saxophone), and a drum kit were employed.

This trend, launched by Shleu-Shleu after 1965, came to include a number of groups from Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods, especially the suburb of Pétion-Ville. Tabou Combo, Les Gypsies, Les Difficiles, Les Loups Noirs, Les Frères Déjean, Les Fantaisistes de Carrefour, Bossa Combo and Les Ambassadeurs (among others) formed the core of this middle-class popular music movement [22].

Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville – La Tulipe
Les Gypsies de Petion-ville
Les Gypsies de Petion-ville

However [18],

In the 1970s, mini-djaz moved back toward the jazzy origins in Haiti by returning to a commonplace implementation of a horn section. This distinguished popular merengue bands from mini jazz at the time, as most serious merengue players strayed away from the use of large brass. With a fresh and renewed sound, mini jazz inspired newfound attraction and landed some local hits. In the mid-1980s, this tapered off to an extent – but today, the genre can still be found in Creole communities. (…)

In the early 1970s, the full-horn-section kadans band Exile One, led by the talented Gordon Henderson, was the first to use the synthesizers to their music, that other young kadans or konpa bands from Haiti (mini-jazz) and the French Antilles emulated in the 1970s [23]:

Exile One, a very famous and influential kadans group who had their beginnings from the early 1970s, was a practitioner of mini-djaz from the start. They utilized synthesizers and a full horn section that inspired the trend toward returning to a heavy brass effect. They also proved that, with good musicianship, even something as structured and traditional as kadans can be molded into a new and exciting sound.

During the same period, popular mini-jazz groups such as Tabou Combo, Original Shleu Shleu and Volo Volo de Boston were touring throughout North American cities with musicians of the Haitian diaspora, establishing a mini-jazz scene most notably in Miami (Magnum Band) and New York City (Les Gypsies de Queens, note the stealing of the name Les Gypsies!) [22].

Just for reference (especially for the newcomers who are not yet familiar with this beautiful genre) here is a very incomplete (!) list of some famous (mini djaz) konpa bands to get started with:

  1. Gemini All Stars de Ti Manno,
  2. Tabou Combo (de Petion-Ville),
  3. Les Shleu Shleu,
  4. Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville,
  5. Les Difficiles (de Petion-Ville),
  6. Skah Skah #1,
  7. Les Vikings D’Haiti,
  8. Les Ambassadors,
  9. DP Express (Ti Manno used to be a member),
  10. Super Combo,
  11. Bossa Combo,
  12. Scorpio Universel,
  13. Digital Express,
  14. System Band,
  15. Volo-Volo,
  16. Magnum Band (based in Miami),
  17. Djet-X,
  18. Top Vice, T-Vice (successor, based in Miami),
  19. Les Loups Noirs,
  20. Dixie Band,
  21. Djakout Mizik (from Carrefour, Haiti),
  22. Mini All Stars,
  23. Shoogar Combo,
  24. Jet Live
  25. etc.
Super Combo – Moin domi dérho (1975)
Shoo Blak & Joseph “Blagueur” Laine – Lelene Cherie 1977
Skah Skah #1 – La Vie-a Bella (Carnival) (1980)
DP Express – Pran plasi Nou (1982)
Les Difficiles – L’école Lagué (1984)
Tabou Combo – Mabouya (released in 1989; mabouya is the name of the largest lizard on the island)
Magnum Band – Experience
Les Frères Dejean – First class. It is a composite of 3 songs (breakpoints at 2:59, 4:58). It is common that the bands reuse and combine different (even copying them from other, older bands, or making some modifications) songs (or parts of them) with each other to create these more that 10 min songs. However, long konpa songs exists. The duration of konpa songs is variable, but generally not above 6-8 minutes. Composites can be more that 10 minutes in duration (in general).

Most of the Haitian konpa musicians / bands emigrated abroad mainly to the US, to France, to Canada etc., long time ago, probably due to the worsening political and economical situation in Haiti (during the time of the Duvalier dictatorship), and the better oppurtunities they had as musicians, in hope for a better life.

Most of these bands are defunct now, their members either died or at an old age. Tabou Combo still exists though (it was founded in 1968, in Petion-Ville, Port-au-Prince). Tabou Combo is the biggest international success of Haitian konpa [24].

Selected songs:

6. Konpa dance

The dance-style that accompanied compas in 1957, is a two-step dance called carré (square) introduced by Nemours Jean-Baptiste in 1962. As a méringue, a ballroom dance, konpa is danced in pairs. Sometimes partners dance holding each other tightly and romantically; in this case often most of the moves are made at the hips [8].

7. Konpa’s popularity outside Haiti

Konpa is the main music of many countries such as Dominica and the French Antilles. Whether it is called zouk where French Antilles artists of Martinique and Guadeloupe have taken it, or konpa in places where Haitian artists have toured, this modern méringue style is very influential in part of Caribbean, Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, Angola, and many others West African countries, France, part of Canada, South and North America. Today, konpa’s impact is far-reaching and felt all throughout both the Caribbean nations and the rest of the world [8].

Some kadans / cadence-lypso artists outside of Haiti to get started with:

  • Les Vikings de Guadeloupe (Pierre-Eduard Decimus was member of the band, who later co-founded the zouk band Kassav’),
  • Gordon Henderson’s band, Exile One (Dominica, cadence-lypso),
  • The Grammacks (Dominica, cadence-lypso),
  • Georges Plonquitte (Martinique),
  • La Perfecta (Martinique),
  • Les Aiglons
  • Jean-Philippe Marthely (konpa, zouk, member of Kassav)

Two of one of the best-known zouk and konpa producers with own labels are Ronald Rubinel (Martinique, 301 record credits according to Discogs) and Henry Debs (1932-2013, Guadelope, 832 (!) record credits according to Discogs). They released insane amount of quality records. The name of other producers should be researched too. For example: Jacky Nayaradou’s 3A Production label released 296 records, according to the Discogs database.

7.1. Selected konpa / kadans songs outside of Haiti:

Mainly from Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Protesta de la Martinique 972 – Liberte (konpa)

Puissance 8 de la Martinique – Paix Sur Terre

La Protesta de la Martinique – Fanatique Protesta

Magma de Martinique – Martinique Sensationell

Magma de Martinique – Tendresse

Selecta Martinique – Arletti

Galaxy – Ail Toyota La

Les Maxel’s de la Guadeloupe – Bon Courage

Les Maxel’s de la Guadeloupe – Kimbe Raid Pas Moli (1976)

Les Maxel’s de la Guadeloupe — La Tête Et Les Jambes (1979)

Les Leopards de Martinique & Paulo Albin – Hypocrisie (1980)

Les Léopards de St. Pierre (featuring Jacky Nayaradou) – I.V.G. (original release: 1983, konpa)

Groupe E Plus (+) & Paulo Albin – Koud Main (1981)

Les Pedagogues – Mal Palant (1981, a rare song)

Ronald Rubinel & Operation 78 ft. Jean-Philippe Marthely – Mi Milo (1981)

Battery Cremil & Les Pedagogues – Assou-la-te (1984)

Jacky All Stars – Rete Gade Yo (1985, Martinique, with some zouk influence)

Compakolor / Ronald Rubinel – Medley

Vikings Guadeloupe – Contestation

Vikings 972 de la Martinique – Jacqueline (Copycat of Marina) (A copy cat song from Les Vikings de la Martinique in the style of Les Freres Dejean – from a comment)

La Rose Et Missile 727 – Mandela

Les Maxel’s de la Guadeloupe – Bon Courage (konpa)
Puissance 8 du Martinique – Paix Sur Terre (konpa)
Edith Lefel – Bonm’ saint doux (1996, mostly konpa). The composer and the piano player was Ronald Rubinel. Members of the Les Frères Dejean Haitian konpa band are also contributors to this konpa song.Edith Lefel was the wife of Ronald Rubinel. Sadly, Edith passed away at the age of 39 in 2003 (she was born in 1963).

7.2. Exile One – Cadence-lypso in Dominica

Caribbean genre created in the 1970s by Dominican musicians based in Guadeloupe by combining elements of Haiti’s kadans with Trinidad & Tobago’s calypso. Gordon Henderson’s Exile One band created Cadence-lypso. Another notable Dominican band is The Grammacks.

Cadence (but later) and calypso were the two dominant styles in Dominica hence the name cadence-lypso. According to a konpa dance school [18], the great majority of the songs of Exile One are either calypso, reggae and mostly kadans or konpas. Arguably, if there is any fusion it should not be significant enough to be listed on album or CD covers [18]:

It is not sure whether the band’s [Exile One] intent was to fusion Trinidadian calypso with Haitian cadence or compas since little was done. The song “La Dominique” in the Album “Exile One Old School Session” could be an attempt, however, not often repeated. The band music repertoire is mostly cadence or compas with all the features of the style.

It is likely that cadence-lypso is also a marketing term, used to promote Exile One’s newer sound. In a then saturated market, they needed to stick out from the other bands. Later, Kassav accomplished similar with the name zouk, which is of course a new genre.

However, Gordon Henderson clearly stated in the Facebook interview [25] (organized by University of Kizomba – the article will come soon) that his cadence-lypso is a new style where the band combined kadans with calypso (a fusion style). Lets accept his version because he is the musician and the founder of the style, not this particular dance school.

Exile One – Aki yaka (cadence-lypso)
Exile One – Rosita (on Barclay label, cadence-lypso)
Exile One – La Dominique (cadence-lypso)

Selected cadence-lypso songs

Liquid Ice – Leve Kadence (cadence-lypso band from Dominica)

Exile One – Rosita (cadence-lypso, 1976)

Protesta 77 de la Guadeloupe – Gacon (cadence-lypso)

Georges Plonquitte – Madam’ en moin laisse moin (cadence-lypso)

Georges Plonquitte – Rosalie (cadence-lypso)

The Grammacks – Cauchemar (1974-1976, cadence-lypso)

The Grammacks – La Vie Disco (cadence-lypso)

Les Vikings de la Guadeloupe – Dégagez (1977, cadence-lypso)

Les Vikings de la Guadeloupe – I love you (cadence-lypso)

Les Maxel’s – Le Retour de Toto (cadence-lypso, not 100% sure)

Les Maxel’s de la Guadeloupe – Ti bêtes a maman (cadence-lypso)

Belles Combo (Dominica) – Simplify Yourself (1970’s, cadence-lypso)

Bill O Men – Cadence Nova & Enlightened (1979, cadence-lypso)

Exile House – Les Souriantes (1979, cadence-lypso)

Bill O Men – African Music (1978)

7.3. Konpa influence on coladeira in Cape Verde

There is a strong konpa influence in Cape Verdean music. During the 1960s-1980s Haitian artists and bands such as Claudette & Ti Pierre, Tabou Combo and especially Gesner Henry alias Coupe Cloue and the Dominican group Exile One were very popular in Africa. Cape Verdean artists have also been exposed to konpa in the U.S. and France [26].

In addition, the French Antilles Kassav and other French Antillean musicians, whose main music was zouk, toured the islands on various occasions.

Many Cape Verdean artists feature “light konpas”. Talented Tito Paris’ “Dança mami Criola” (1994), is a good example; this CD features music close to Haiti’s Tabou Combo, Caribbean Sextet, Exile One, Tropicana and the French Antilles’ Kassav’ [26].

Tito Paris – Dança ma mi criola

7.4. Influence in Angola

Angola has been receiving Haitian influence for years before zouk even existed. For instance, great meringue queen Haitian Martha Jean-Claude lent her voice and music to the Angolan revolution; she came with the Cuban troops (she was exiled from Haiti to Cuba) [27-28]. During the ’70s, Haitian bands and artists such as Coupe Cloue, Tabou Combo, Bossa Combo, DP Express and Dominican bands like Exile One and Grammacks were popular in Africa [18].

7.5. Zouk

Zouk will be discussed in detail in the Kassav article (under writing).

Pierre-Eduard Decimus left the Les Vikings de Guadeloupe kadans band to co-found Kassav in 1979, in Paris. Gordon Henderson’s cadence-lypso inspired French-Antillean musicians (Guadeloupeans and later Martiniqueans) to create something new, of their own, which eventually became zouk. Technological innovation also played a role in the birth of zouk.

Zouk is a fusion of different styles [29]:

If there ever was a Caribbean collaboration of culture, zouk-love music, otherwise known as simply zouk or (incorrectly) zouk béton, is it. The genre is a festive mix between the Dominican cadence-lypso and bélé, French Martinican beguine, gwo ka from Guadeloupe, and kadans ranpa from Haiti. Cadence-lypso provides much of the rhythmic and song structure to the music; bélé, beguine, and gwo ka inspired much of the instrumentation (particularly that of 21st century MIDI instruments and loops); and kadans ranpa gives the music the Haitian connection and flair.

Zouk was an attempt to develop a proper local music that would lessen or even eradicate the meringue-kadans or konpa influence from the French islands. When the MIDI technology came out, Kassav’ used it fully, creating new sound in both their fast carnival beat and konpa. The Antilleans were all over with zouk, but as other bands from the Caribbean and Africa added the MIDI technology to their music people got used to it. Because it was a jump up beat the fast zouk béton faded away in the same 1980s [29]:

Many people mistake the entire popular genre as being a truncated version of the sub-Caribbean zouk béton. This incorrectly-labeled music type was a brief spout of music created by French Antilles musicians, many of whom were versed in multi-cultural musical styles – a derivate. The structure was quick and heavily laden with MIDI instruments and sampling. Because it was a new and experimental sound, it became rapidly popular before abruptly fizzling out.

Despite the popular misconceptions, the medium tempo zouk came to being first, followed by the fast zouk of Kassav (zouk béton or zouk chiré), and finally zouk-love was created. This info is from the Manu Lima interview / article.

Sometimes it is hard to notice the (generally small) konpa ingredient in zouk, but you can clearly hear the konpa parts in the background in this zouk (zouk love) song:

Sandra Nanor, Darius Denon – Mon ange (zouk with konpa)

7.6. Twoubadou

It is a popular genre of guitar-based music from Haiti that has a long and important place in Haitian culture. The degraded name “twoubadou” actually comes from the word troubadour from Europe – these were mediaval-time love songs originally. (Interesting fact, „contradans” is also a degradation from „country dance” from which the Angolan circle dance, massemba / rebita drew some inspiration as well.)

Twoubadou was developed in the early 20th century. It combined music derived from the guajiro traditions of Cuba with a Haitian méringue. Twoubadou was brought back by Haitian migrant laborers who went to work as cutters on sugar plantations in Cuba who traveled back and forth to harvest the seasonal crop at the turn of the century [30]. It was easy since to travel since Cuba and Haiti is separated by 50 nautical miles, or 80 kilometres, of sea at the Windward Passage [31].

Perhaps the most famous contemporary component of the twoubadou style among popular entertainers in the latter twentieth century was Jean-Gesner Henry, better known as Coupé Cloué was renowned for his sexually suggestive lyrics [30].

Coupé Cloué – Mon Konpé / Ti Bom

Selected Twoubadou songs

In Haiti

Coupé Cloué – Mon Konpè / Ti Bom (twoubadou)

Coupé Cloué – Myan Myan

Orchestre Meridional des Cayes – Pitie Pou Fem

Outside of Haiti

It is no wonder I featured here 2 songs of Franky Vincent from Guadeloupe (Fruit De La Passion is his very popular zouk song). He was member of Tabou No.2 konpa band. These are twoubadou songs:

Francky Vincent with Tabou No.2 – La Vie En Rose 2 (1979, Guadeloupe)

FRANCKY VINCENT with Tabou n°2 – La Braguette D’Or (1978, Guadeloupe, label: 3A Production)

7.7. Gouyad (Warning: this is NOT konpa!)

This new genre emerged after the Millennium as a result of the gradual degradation of konpa. The 3rd generation of Haitians created gouyad in the USA. Their mainstream music is computer-generated with R’n’B influence, a synth, and a little leftover from konpa. It is kind of similar to ghetto zouk (ghetto zouk was created in Holland by the 2nd generation of Cape Verdian emigrants).

These kids have lost all cultural ties to Haiti, and it is mainly a western music genre. Most people fooled by ignorant dance schools teachers think that gouyad is konpa. Which is false!

The origin of the word gouyad: The national dance meringue incorporated an emphasis on the gentle rolling of the hips seen in many Caribbean dances. In Haiti, this movement is sometimes called gouyad (verb from the French gouye, from the French grouiller, to move or stir) or mabouya, the name of the largest lizard (a gecko species) on the island [32-33]. It is similar to tarraxinha movements (even the verb attarraxar means to screw, to stir).

Dj Keishawn x Kayos – Say My Name

Klik Kompa – Prie’m (late konpa in transitional phase into gouyad)

Djous – Piyay La Fini (2001, US, late konpa in transitional phase into gouyad)


Konpa from Haiti

  1. Gemini All Stars de Ti Manno – Mariage d’intérets
  2. Ti Manno – Souvenir
  3. Tabou Combo – Papillon vole
  4. Tabou Combo – New York City (live)
  5. Tabou Combo – New York City
  6. Tabou Combo – Tu as volé
  7. Les Shleu Shleu – Ce La Ou Ye
  8. Les Shleu Shleu – Moun Damou
  9. Les Shleu Shleu – Solange
  10. Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville – Pacole
  11. Les Gypsies de Pétion-Ville – Patience
  12. Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville – Courage
  13. Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville – La Tulipe
  14. Les Difficiles de Pétion-Ville – Mesdames Yo
  15. Les Difficiles de Petion-Ville – Espoir (1984)
  16. D.P. Express – Pran Plesi Nou
  17. DP Express – Carnaval Souke Ko Ou (very fast)
  18. Les Ambassadors – Moin Revive (Apye Nou Ye)
  19. Skah Skah #1 – Le Vie-a Belle (Carnival)
  20. Skah Shah D’Haiti #1 Plus – Colombus (1981)
  21. Skah Shah #1 Plus D’Haiti & Joseph “Blagueur” Laine – Skah Shah #1 Plus
  22. Les Chômeurs D’Haiti – Telephone (1975)
  23. Dixie Band – Lolita
  24. Mini All Stars – Patience (rework of Les Gypsies – Patience)
  25. Super Combo – Moin domi dérho
  26. Bossa Combo – Permanente
  27. Djet-X – Egal-Ego
  28. Top Vice – Sinfoni Damou
  29. Top Vice – Vole Lanmou #2
  30. Scorpio Universel – Compas universel
  31. Digital Express – Travay
  32. System Band – Rencontre Inoubliable
  33. Volo Volo – Amour volo
  34. Magnum Band – Adoration
  35. Les Loups Noirs – La Sirène
  36. Djakout Mizik – Septième ciel
  37. Djakout Mizik – Ma Seule Folie
  38. Shoogar Combo – Lèlène Chérie
  39. Magic Connection Music Stars – Zanmi (1984)
  40. C.C. All Stars – Vire Bo Kai
  41. Les Consuls d’Haiti – Belle Sirene (1974)
  42. Les Ambassadeurs D’Haiti – Piro (1977)
  43. Les Ambassadeurs D’Haiti – Regrets
  44. Les Vikings d’Haiti – Choc Vikings
  45. Compas Express – Vie Musicien
  46. Les Frères Dejean – First Class
  47. Les Frères Déjean – L’univers

Rare and unique Haitian songs

Credits: A lot of thanks to E4Mizik’s YouTube channel for collecting a lot of these old and rare songs from Haiti:

The Cuban influence on Haiti’s music was strong: danzón, son, cha cha chá, bolero, etc. was definitely known in Haiti.

Super Ensemble Webert Sicot – Club Des Quatres (1968, cha-cha-chá kadans ranpa)

Raoul Guillaumme & Son Orchestre – Yoyo & Pese Cafe (the first song is son, the second is méringue)

Guy Durosier – live @ Carnegie Hall – Pitit Yon Zanimo & A 16 Ans

Guy Durosier – Mathilda (méringue)

Orchestre Septentrional d’Haiti – 1er Janvier (méringue with danzón)

Les Vikings D’Haiti – Dansez (1973, konpa with danzón)

Webert Sicot – Deux Guidons (kadans ranpa)

Webert Sicot – Ti Mal (kadans ranpa)

Super Ensemble Webert Sicot – Moin Pap’ Ca Marie Ave’Ou

Webert Sicot & Le Thoray All Stars – Ogou Badagris

Webert Sicot – Desde Panama

Webert Sicot – Minouche

Webert Sicot – Gina (cadence rampa, but has a synth in it that cadence-lypso uses, starting from 01:15)

Webert Sicot – Just for you. – Jazz in Haitian interpretation. He dedicated this song to his wife and children.

Issa El Saieh – La Sirene, La Baleine (méringue)

Issa EL Saïeh and his Orchestra – RELE’M (1960s) (meringue)

Issa El Saieh Orchestra & Herby Widmaier – Woman In Love (1956)

Les Diplomates – Simbi (196X)

Meridional des Cayes – Sam Fè yo

Les Freres Dejean – Concerto Pour Un Coeur (1974)

Joe Jack Recontre Fedia Laguerre – Realite (1983, it is a duet song)

Experience 7 – Isabelle (1978)

Rodrigue Milien – Necessité (bolero, there is a bachata rework of this song by Bachata Haiti)

Réginald Policard – Diane (mainly bossa nova)

Voodoo Drums – Contradanse Avant Simple and Meringue with Flute

Meringue – Jean Léon Destiné et sa troupe

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Denise

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Vacances (1962)

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Tout Moun Dou (Haiti 1963)

Super Jazz des Jeunes – J’ai Péché (1962)

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Bonne Année

Gérard Dupervil – Choubouloute (he was member of Super Jazz des Jeunes and one of Webert Sicot’s music teacher)

Gérard Dupervil – Fleur de Mai











[10] Adrien B. Berthaud – Nemours Jean Baptiste L’architecte du Rythme Compas Direct

[11] Adrien B. Berthaud – Webert Sicot

[12] David Horn, John Shepherd (eds.) 2014. Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 9: Genres: Caribbean and Latin America. Bloomsbury Publishing, London. pp. 69.

[13] (click on “about us” at the footer – a popup will appear with the information about Adrien B. Berthaud)























Appendix A – Merengue or méringue?

Méringue (French pronunciation: ​[meʁɛ̃ɡ]; Haitian Creole: mereng) is a dance music and national symbol in Haiti [32]. Méringue was heavily influenced by the contredanse from Europe and then by Afro-Caribbean influences from Hispaniola.

In the Dominican Republic, despite of popular misconceptions, the national music and dance is actually merengue (/məˈrɛŋɡeɪ/, in Spanish: [meˈɾeŋɡe]) [34], and not bachata! Rafael Trujillo, the dictator from 1930 to 1961 (Appendix B), promoted the genre, who turned it into the national music and dance style of the Dominican Republic:

However, in the 1930s, merengue came into its own during the dictatorship of Rafael Turjillo. Because of his country roots, he was already a merengue fan; during his presidential campaign, he asked several bands to write merengue music promoting his political bid and was a champion of merengue as the symbolic music of the national culture. But Trujillo’s rule was a reign of terror, and the somber mood of the country was reflected in its music.

Haitian méringue is a different genre from the Dominican merengue, despite the similarity of the name! Both genres originate from the mid-19th century according to Wikipedia. However, it is likely that during the Haitian invasion of Santo Domingo from 1822, Haitian musicians were influenced by Dominican / Spanish music during that period (Santo Domingo used to be a Spanish colony).

Recommended listening: 10 Merengues instrumentales de Trujillo, Vol. 1

Appendix B – Why the Haitians and Dominicans hate each other?

There was a conflict and war between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the 19th century. Haiti invaded the newly independent (the Spanish rule ended in 1821) Santo Domingo from 1822, and in 1844 the Dominican War of Independence broke out. The Dominicans won in 1856. This happened a long time ago, and very unlikely is the main cause of recent conflicts between the two nations.

After US occupation of Haiti*, in 1934, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo used anti-Haitian sentiment as a nationalist tool. In an event that became known as the Parsley Massacre, he ordered his army to kill Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. Few bullets were used – instead, 20,000–30,000 Haitians were bludgeoned and bayoneted, then herded into the sea, where sharks finished what Trujillo had begun [35].

* Germany’s increased influence in Haiti prompted anxieties in the United States, who had also invested heavily in the country, and whose government defended their right to oppose foreign interference in the Americas under the Monroe Doctrine. In 1915, Haiti’s new President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam sought to strengthen his rule by a mass execution of political prisoners. Outrage at the killings led to riots, and Sam was killed by a lynch mob. Fearing possible foreign intervention, or the emergence of a new government led by the anti-American Haitian politician Rosalvo Bobo, President Woodrow Wilson sent U.S. Marines into Haiti in July 1915. A new pro-U.S. Haitian president, Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave, was installed and a new constitution written that was favorable to the interests of the United States (Source: Wikipedia, [3]).

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