My Country, My Music

This is an entry originally posted at Live From Brooklyn, which I thought might be of interest here.

Haitian music is influenced by the cultures that have influenced the country, namely Europe (France) and Africa (West and Central). It is also heavily influenced by its neighbors: the Dominican Republic and Cuba. The result is a mixture of sounds, each more diverse than the next. There are many different types of Haitian music, including voudoun, rara, mizik rasin, etc. Today, I want to talk a bit about the popular music of the country, called kompa (also konpa or compas).

Kompa or kompa direk is a musical Haitian rhythm that uses the beat of meringue as its foundation. It was created in the 1950s by a man named Nemours Jean Baptiste, a saxophonist, arranger and composer. Baptiste was often criticized as having betrayed the roots of Africa in Haiti, until the 1960s and 70s, when kompa exploded. Now he is praised as the father of kompa, often called Maestro Nemours Jean Baptiste (Maestro means “teacher” or “master” in Spanish).

Up until the 80’s and 90’s, kompa was always played by a live band with horn and rhythmic sections. With the advent of modern technology, most young groups play their instruments via a drum machine or keyboard, but the guitar remains an important part of the sound.

To hear what kompa direk sounds like, the Ethnomusic Podcast has a kompa direk series, Parts 1 and 2.

To hear some modern kompa, Heritage Konpa has a top ten song list that is updated weekly.


~ by Reveye on December 18, 2008.

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