Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In a kompa state of mind

By Bevan Springer
New York Amsterdam News:

Over the past few months, I have been listening to the creole rhythms of an incredible musical genre called kompa.

Bevan Springer is a New York Amsterdam News columnist who writes frequently on travel and tourism issues. He also produces the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism - CMEx.As a young West Indian lad traveling around the Caribbean on national tennis duty, I was exposed and attracted to both Spanish and French Caribbean melodies which have contributed to my musical appreciation of the creative cultural sounds that emanate from all corners of the region.

But I am not quite sure what got me hooked on this latest round of musical vibrations this year. Could it be the background music while getting my hair cut at the Haitian barber shop in New York that I have frequented for more than a decade? Or was it because I had worked tirelessly on a fundraiser for Haiti with a fellow islander who speaks French in Toronto? Even as I write this, the sounds of kompa on YouTube are the musical inspiration for this weekly column.

Kompa, the Haitian music with African and European roots, has been adopted and recognized as the national music of Haiti, and it is often featured at Haitian festivals and events, including the three spots I visited within the last week to hear exponents of the art form at their very best.

The first stop was at La Brasserie Creole restaurant in Queens where after enjoying a delectable seafood offering of snapper and king fish with another dear friend from the Caribbean, we then kompa'd the night away to the new generation sounds of Carimi - Carlo Vieux, Richard Cave and Mickael Guirand who along with their versatile band have been releasing big kompa hits since forming about a decade ago.

There were only a handful of people at the Creole restaurant when we arrived an hour before midnight. Four hours later, the place was packed and Carimi must have "shut down the Brasserie" around sunrise. The next day, I invited a friend of Cape Verdean descent, who is also familiar with creole music, but of the Portuguese variety, to SOB's (Home of Universal Music) in Manhattan, for a Haitian Dance Party.

The Carimi Crew: From left: Mickael Guirand, Richard Cave and Carlo Vieux.We both enjoyed the kompa vibrations of the Haitian "Music Marshall" Sweet Micky who with his humorous, yet at times overly colorful expressions, left patrons on a musical high after hours of pulsating rhythms which celebrated the spirit of the Creole Caribbean.

And was that enough kompa for me? I guess not, since on Saturday night, I landed myself at the well-appointed and West Indian-operated Moka Night Club and Lounge in Queens where Carimi joined forces with Kreyol La for another night of energetic vibes.

And on Sunday night where was your 38 year-old scribe? You got it. Chez moi in my bed, now with kompa memories on my mind, but more deliberately giving the old bones some rest. As my Haitian friend Caroline would say, the experience was "anfòm anfòm" - an awesome three nights of kompa in "the greatest city in the world"! Until next week mes amies, stay well, restez bien!

April 13, 2010