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Haitian Old-School

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Shleu-Shleu : 3 Forces
taken from the album “Les Shleu-Shleu A New York” on Mini (197?)

Djet-X : Oh Mayeye
taken from the album The Rising Stars on Marc’s (197?)

Alix Jacques Cole Cole Band : Tessa’s Theme
taken from their self-titled album on Macaya (197?)

Continuing my Caribbean exploration, I pulled out these Hatian oldies this week. The music is very hard to describe, in part because it keeps changing throughout the track. Like Bollywood in some ways, the songs on these records tend to last way past the six-minute mark, often changing tempo and style altogether (occaisionally multiple times in one song!). The most straight-forward of these tracks is definitely 3 Forces, which sounds to my ear the most directly tied to West African music. There’s also touches of montuno and a smooth rolling calypso feel that comes from the sax. Once the groove gets going, it’s a steady swinging ride ’til the end of the tune. Don’t know what you call this style of music, but I’m loving it.

Oh Mayeye and Tessa’s Theme are more typical of other Haitian records I have from the same time period. Nasty opening funk or soul grooves which then break into this “booom – ka-boom-ka” Haitian bounce at around one minute into the track. Is this “Cadence Rampa”? Someone who knows more about Haitian funkiness, please school me. More style switches ensue, keeping my interest for the eight-minute-plus length of the jam. I’ve heard that there are some record stores out in Queens that still have a bunch of this stuff. One of these days…