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CADENCE DES ILES
|WELCOME TO KOMPA MUSIC BIOGRAPHY|
KOMPA - HAITIAN PRIDE
KOMPA - THE HISTORY
People across the globe dance to the rhythm and the harmony of Konpa although they enjoy the rhythm and beat of the music, most people are not aware of real history of Konpa. Musicians from all over the world have traveled to Haiti to learn and gain more insights on Konpa and its roots.
These international artists play famous folk lyrics and Konpa songs without giving credit to the Haitian artists who created them. One example is the interpretation of the Haitian classic, "Yellow Bird", by Arthur Lyman released by MCA Records in 1992. One can only attribute these stories of success to certain groups like Jazz Des Jeunes, Atomic, Tana, Titato, Maison Ante, Zobola, Diabolo, SAE orchestra, Les Etoiles, Ti Paris, Nirvana, Altchery Derival, Septentrional, & Tropicana of Cap Haitian, Jazz Des Jeunes, and Meridionale des Cayes. These bands and individuals made the debut
performance of their musical careers through Latin style music such as Rumba or Meringue, which also have their roots in traditional African music.
The 1940's and 50's musical era produced talented and respected Haitian musicians. The list includes Charles Dessalines, Lucien Noel, Charles Avoine, Leon Atus, Jean Claude Paul, Gary French, Jean Ener Devis, Serge Delaleux, Louis Layence, Anulus Cadet, Mozard Monfort, Richard Duroseau, Destinoble Barateau, Joe Trouillot, Edzer Duroseau, Monfort Jean Baptiste, Raroule Guillaume, Tales, Maz Pierrot, Les Freres Guillard, Eddy Prophete, Deroulo, Yapha, Nenet Domingue, Lominy, Gerard Dupervil, Charles Napoleon, Andre Dorismont, Raymond Gaspard, Candio Despradine, Malary Gay, and of course Webert Sicot and Nemours Jean Baptiste.
The origin of KONPA DIRECT, as it was known, began with these musical masters. Nemours Jean Baptiste (born in 1914) and Webert Sicot (born in 1934) formed Coronto International on July 25, 1954. The group included Julien Paul, Monfort Jean Baptiste, Anulis Cadet, Mozard Duroseau and Edzer Duroseau. These musicians were very well known within the Haitian circle and as a result the group became an overnight success. A few months later, Webert Sicot left the band and joined a group called "Latino". Webert and Nemours were two musical geniuses with unique but different styles and ideas. Due to their differences, they could not coexist and flourish in the same band for long. Eventually, Nemours and Sicot had to go their separate ways to fulfill their musical goals which turned out to be for the benefit of Konpa and Haitian music.
In 1955, Nemours Jean Baptiste became the maestro of Coronto. He later introduced the electrical guitar, timbale, cowbell, and tom-tom floor to the band. Nemours changed the name of the band to "Enssemble Au Calbasse" (and later to "Enssemble Nemours Jean-Baptiste") which featured the talents of Julien Paul, Pierre Blain, Arthur Louvelass, Leconte Vilvaless, Louis Layance, Jean Claude Paul, and Willy La Croix. After the breakup "Latino", Webert Sicot -- in an attempt to balance the equation, established his own band called "Enssemble Webert Sicot" with its home-base at "Au Calbasse" nightclub in Mariani, whereas Nemours' band performed at "Au Calbasse" nightclub located in Kinscoff. Nemours' band became so popular they were invited to play at Palladium in New York City in 1957. Of the two groups, "Enssemble Au Calbasse" was also preferred by the bourgeois and some in the Duvalier family, specifically Marie Denise Duvalier, daughter of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. However, Jean Claude Duvalier "Baby Doc" later embraced Sicot.
When Nemours and Sicot were part of the same band, they were in competition with "Jazz Des Jeunes", a very popular band during that particular time. "Septentrional", "Vesperal", "Meridional", "Ti Paris", "Altchery Dorival", and other bands of the countryside were very popular as well. Sicot and Nemours traveled to different provinces all over the country to play with these bands. They were in a better position financially than the other bands to put their music on record. Therefore, they "borrowed" some of the most popular tunes from the groups mentioned above and engraved them on their musical archives.
After the separation, people realised that there was no major difference between their musical styles. So, in an attempt to distinguish himself from Nemours, Sicot came up with his own style called "CADENCE RAMPA”. While Sicot’s music was more sophisticated, the Haitian elite were not receptive to the style. Nemours' music was based on improvisation, simple with an easy rhythm flow. As a result, It became easier for student musicians to follow.
Although Sicot and Nemours were competitive rivals as musicians, they were best friends. They referred to each other as "Compere", but it was Nemours who was the godfather of Sicot's nephew. According to certain musicians who played with both groups, Nemours and Sicot met regularly to discuss musical strategies. Sicot and Nemours created an interest never seen before in the Haitian music scene, these two individuals with their bands captured the spirit of the Haitian population.
In addition to the “band a pied” (street bands), Sicot and his group was the first band to participate in the Carnival in 1967. Nemours followed suit in 1968, and in the same year there was the emergence of the “mini Jazz” bands. These bands included Les Fantasies de Carrefour, Les Shleu- Shleu, Les Embassadeurs, Bossa Combo, Les Gypsies, Les Difficiles, Tabou Combo, and Les Freres Dejean.
In 1968, Sicot left Haiti to tour the United States and Europe. Nemours stayed behind to entertain a nation that embraced Konpa with their heart and soul. After leaving Haiti, Sicot left a void in the musical scene. In 1971, he returned with his first solo album, “Just For You.” However, it was too late for him to recapture a public that religiously fell in love with Konpa. Nemours permanently imposed Konpa as the dominant form of music in Haiti. This was evident based on the fact that most upcoming bands seemed to adapt to Konpa rather than Cadence Rampa. For instance, Les Shleu-Shleu, a very successful band in the 70’s era, followed Nemours’ trend and performed with him on several occasions.
During the 70’s, Nemours and Sicot traveled often to the United States and the Caribbean to expose Konpa to the international community. In the meantime Shleu-Shleu, Bossa Combo, Les Loup Noirs, Tropicana, Septentrional and others bands were making their presence known in Haiti. Due to their absences, Sicot and Nemours became less visible in Haiti and the mini Jazz took over the industry.
Despite all of their contributions to Haitian music, Nemours Jean Baptiste and Webert Sicot are not getting the recognition they deserve, and there isn't much being done to preserve their legacy while producers and records companies continue to produce and sell Konpa. Nemours Jean Baptiste and Webert Sicot were musical icons and brought joy to their fanatics and contributed greatly to the evolution of Konpa.
Sicot and Nemours are to Konpa what Beethoven is to classical music and Michael Jackson to pop culture. They were the heart and soul of Haitian music across the globe. They were not just musicians, they were entertainers, rankable in the class of Frank Sinatra, Charles Aznavour, Sammy Davis JR, who showcased their talents in live concerts throughout Haiti and the in international community. In his own words, the well-known percussionist, Mario DeVolcy said “Sicot and Nemours formed one body and soul with their respective bands on stage, and they were true embassadors of the Haitian culture at home and abroad”.
to Mario DeVolcy & Adrien Bertho who contributed to this article.
webmaster: Lucson Fortune