Table of Content

  1. Konpa music
  2. Mini-djaz bands
  3. Konpa dance
  4. ADDITIONAL SELECTED SONGS FROM MY COLLECTION
  5. REFERENCES

1. 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.

2. 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 (also read the Gordon Henderson article) [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].

3. 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].

To be continued…

ADDITIONAL SELECTED SONGS FROM MY COLLECTION

Konpa from Haiti

  1. Gemini All Stars de Ti Manno – Mariage d’intérets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyp41VW6O3k
  2. Ti Manno – Souvenir https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiI6UZ74H7k
  3. Tabou Combo – Papillon vole https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xY7LoyXqH9M
  4. Tabou Combo – New York City (live) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2loEu5EMEkE
  5. Tabou Combo – New York City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgUW4gvQfVM
  6. Tabou Combo – Tu as volé https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUI4G5l0AYI
  7. Les Shleu Shleu – Ce La Ou Ye https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAmoQSqUOhU
  8. Les Shleu Shleu – Moun Damou https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG1eHwbp9ec
  9. Les Shleu Shleu – Solange https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGb9Upu5aqg
  10. Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville – Pacole https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qYiiTpEA0Y
  11. Les Gypsies de Pétion-Ville – Patience https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgyjvA7G6G4
  12. Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville – Courage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb5SZopEmfY
  13. Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville – La Tulipe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE0n5WpRVZE
  14. Les Difficiles de Pétion-Ville – Mesdames Yo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ASS1avkUKw
  15. Les Difficiles de Petion-Ville – Espoir (1984) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uah93S5K1P4
  16. D.P. Express – Pran Plesi Nou https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKXdBtWHNpA
  17. DP Express – Carnaval Souke Ko Ou (very fast) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr_I4qW7lGc
  18. Les Ambassadors – Moin Revive (Apye Nou Ye) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbGN94_v9jA
  19. Skah Skah #1 – Le Vie-a Belle (Carnival) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p26ob3Ak14
  20. Skah Shah D’Haiti #1 Plus – Colombus (1981) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=se41VWSyH_c
  21. Skah Shah #1 Plus D’Haiti & Joseph “Blagueur” Laine – Skah Shah #1 Plus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALD54uqkHwk
  22. Les Chômeurs D’Haiti – Telephone (1975) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iySD6oNplbk
  23. Dixie Band – Lolita https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB0Zx-7IxNg
  24. Mini All Stars – Patience (rework of Les Gypsies – Patience) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du9JMQHDlNg
  25. Super Combo – Moin domi dérho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUZIXebZr9Q
  26. Bossa Combo – Permanente https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_u4i8rR7Q0
  27. Djet-X – Egal-Ego https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYypLm9m5Lg
  28. Top Vice – Sinfoni Damou https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS8NTXzZ4-M
  29. Top Vice – Vole Lanmou #2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB7oz8WPw-8
  30. Scorpio Universel – Compas universel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3gJKd6_Fxs
  31. Digital Express – Travay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZoF2JJvPpg
  32. System Band – Rencontre Inoubliable https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDWHg2dNyuI
  33. Volo Volo – Amour volo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCnqpPJN9fU
  34. Magnum Band – Adoration https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPWEGe4dAV8
  35. Les Loups Noirs – La Sirène https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OES7WKReN5o
  36. Djakout Mizik – Septième ciel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69CHZ5DtsW4
  37. Djakout Mizik – Ma Seule Folie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1tQmqkogoU
  38. Shoogar Combo – Lèlène Chérie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9x-yUysAzlg
  39. Magic Connection Music Stars – Zanmi (1984) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-I1z6HPr30
  40. C.C. All Stars – Vire Bo Kai https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyP-CtEzJ_M
  41. Les Consuls d’Haiti – Belle Sirene (1974) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXBtewqhhgk
  42. Les Ambassadeurs D’Haiti – Piro (1977) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq9UTO4rH_w
  43. Les Ambassadeurs D’Haiti – Regrets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PUjE5VWsLk
  44. Les Vikings d’Haiti – Choc Vikings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y75FjRGAxU
  45. Compas Express – Vie Musicien https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYCxLNzE74c
  46. Les Frères Dejean – First Class https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of9mp_8JyPE
  47. Les Frères Déjean – L’univers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-quaLZ-Z-8

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: https://www.youtube.com/@E4Mizik

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) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs3rFZWkMRM

Raoul Guillaumme & Son Orchestre – Yoyo & Pese Cafe (the first song is son, the second is méringue) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koasAGJ8e68

Guy Durosier – live @ Carnegie Hall – Pitit Yon Zanimo & A 16 Ans https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIkc_ybO7-0

Guy Durosier – Mathilda (méringue) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJE35pUO4vg

Orchestre Septentrional d’Haiti – 1er Janvier (méringue with danzón) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGeK_DYbO6U

Les Vikings D’Haiti – Dansez (1973, konpa with danzón) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mWvwJSLhZw

Webert Sicot – Deux Guidons (kadans ranpa) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX50oeUhd50

Webert Sicot – Ti Mal (kadans ranpa) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCVfrgtQoPo

Super Ensemble Webert Sicot – Moin Pap’ Ca Marie Ave’Ou https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crHMRtqJPOE

Webert Sicot & Le Thoray All Stars – Ogou Badagris https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxSiwr9nOAc

Webert Sicot – Desde Panama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItaOf5cPDY4

Webert Sicot – Minouche https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf6AMCYULvs

Webert Sicot – Gina (cadence rampa, but has a synth in it that cadence-lypso uses, starting from 01:15) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnheGva8v8I

Webert Sicot – Just for you. – Jazz in Haitian interpretation. He dedicated this song to his wife and children. https://youtu.be/jZd9wXbuWYI

Issa El Saieh – La Sirene, La Baleine (méringue) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1h3qx4XM7s

Issa EL Saïeh and his Orchestra – RELE’M (1960s) (meringue) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qm_2P18OnY

Issa El Saieh Orchestra & Herby Widmaier – Woman In Love (1956) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7VsTcXyyd0

Les Diplomates – Simbi (196X) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40ZUZ2iAN58

Meridional des Cayes – Sam Fè yo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKnkgD6fRco

Les Freres Dejean – Concerto Pour Un Coeur (1974) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95UgOoRcRnY

Joe Jack Recontre Fedia Laguerre – Realite (1983, it is a duet song) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anCgwMaewYk

Experience 7 – Isabelle (1978) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrgadIGkUXI

Rodrigue Milien – Necessité (bolero, there is a bachata rework of this song by Bachata Haiti) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-M2M1riEXc

Réginald Policard – Diane (mainly bossa nova) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd1efdYt5AM

Voodoo Drums – Contradanse Avant Simple and Meringue with Flute https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KNFoolEDl8

Meringue – Jean Léon Destiné et sa troupe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXMcqrXwVS4

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Denise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3yjahrgr9s

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Vacances (1962) https://youtu.be/EeWr9rGtWUQ

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Tout Moun Dou (Haiti 1963) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t87J0Ck5LFA

Super Jazz des Jeunes – J’ai Péché (1962) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAQvt0APFRc

Super Jazz des Jeunes – Bonne Année https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPMTiq7Ps14

Gérard Dupervil – Choubouloute (he was member of Super Jazz des Jeunes and one of Webert Sicot’s music teacher) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IVjs0ZA8wk

Gérard Dupervil – Fleur de Mai https://youtu.be/-sSr4KLVIqg

REFERENCES

[1] https://www.britannica.com/place/Haiti

[2] http://www.haitianmusic.net/haitian-music-history/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti

[4] http://www.haitianmusic.net/popular-haitian-music/kompa/

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemours_Jean-Baptiste

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ti_Manno

[7] http://www.haitianmusic.net/haitian-voodoo-drumming/

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compas

[9] http://nemoursjnbaptiste.homestead.com/index.html

[10] Adrien B. Berthaud – Nemours Jean Baptiste L’architecte du Rythme Compas Direct https://adrienberthaud.com/Nemours/

[11] Adrien B. Berthaud – Webert Sicot https://adrienberthaud.com/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. https://books.google.hu/books?id=3RbzX4PjxtgC&pg=PA69&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

[13] Itah.com https://www.itiah.com/index.html (click on “about us” at the footer – a popup will appear with the information about Adrien B. Berthaud)

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webert_Sicot

[15] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5WDTK3FoQk&lc=Ugygf0MB4zrAVO5RChJ4AaABAg.9MY2cVwXpvK9MbpCgQat9S

[16] https://www.discogs.com/artist/1843379-Super-Ensemble-Webert-Sicot

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadence_rampa

[18] https://wikotr.com/index.php/what-is-konpa/

[19] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hi-hat

[20] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowbell_(instrument)

[21] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanbou

[22] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini-jazz

[23] http://www.haitianmusic.net/popular-haitian-music/mini-jazz/

[24] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabou_Combo

[25] https://www.facebook.com/kizomba.edu/videos/903151987034175

[26] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coladeira

[27] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Jean-Claude

[28] https://www.lunionsuite.com/haitian-black-history-singer-martha-jean-claude/

[29] http://www.haitianmusic.net/popular-haitian-music/zouk-love/

[30] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twoubadou

[31] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windward_Passage

[32] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9ringue

[33] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_house_gecko

[34] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merengue_(dance)

[35] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsley_massacre

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