Table of Content

  1. Haiti
  2. Historical origins of Kompa
  3. Konpa’s birth – Nemours Jean-Baptiste
  4. Webert Sicot and cadence rampa
  7. Appendix A – Merengue or méringue?

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 konpa (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, “konpa is a slowed-down version of Dominican merengue típico” (also known as merengue cibaeño) [it is an oversimplification: merengue típico was influential at least at the very beginnings of the konpa movement – ed.]. 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, since 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 world 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. These were the main 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 konpa 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 dynasty 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 (early years)!

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, a composer, and a 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 in one part 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 – in the beginnings, 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 [Sic!], 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 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 Sicot (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 hard.

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

To be continued…


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

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