Archive: HCX | Mizik Ayiti! presents Obed Jean-Louis and BélO

This review of HCX | Mizik Ayiti! Summer Concert with Obed Jean-Louis and BélO at Shape Shifter Lab will give you warm memories as HCX starts toward Autumn. Also watch a recap of the intimate concert on BCAT TV’s longest-running community events program, Brooklyn on Site (video below).

En Route to an Indian Summer
September 2012

When you know that summer goes by rapidly and you live in New York City, you strive to keep a mental note that says “Get out of your routine and indulge in the cultural richness of your city!”  This summer seemed to only last the blink of an eye, but I definitely took advantage of what the city had to offer. I satiated my appetite for eating out  at Republic, Chez Oscar and Walters on DeKalb, my all-time favorite spots, and discovered fantastic new  ones, Lulu and Po on Carlton Avenue and Celestine on Halsey (my pocket has a lot to say about that).  And movies.  I literally went to see a film every other Friday.  The characters from Polisse remain with me.  The images from “The Beast of the Southern Wild” still haunt me and I believe that I can still remember some very funny moments from “To Rome with Love”.  It goes without saying, I attended several music events. As a fan, I really enjoyed seeing Bebel Gilberto at Central Park and Amel Larrieux at Weeksville Heritage Center.  But the most memorable summer concert of 2012 was Obed Jean-Louis and BélO on July 19 which was organized by Haiti Cultural Exchange. Memorable because it involved Haitian culture, because it allowed me to discover a new Haitian sound through Obed Jean-Louis and to become more acquainted with another, BélO .

So many music lovers have told me about the sultry voice and guitar skills of Mr. Jean-Louis but I had never had the privilege to witness it for myself.  Nor could I ever find his name on iTunes or in music stores.  I began to doubt his actual existence until I found proof on YouTube. Yet during the HCX performance at Shapeshifter Lab, Obed was anything but imaginary. Obed performed on a low bench very close to the floor, and barefooted.  His guitar seemed to be a continuation of his hands.  I had the impression that the instrument rarely leaves him.  From his presence emanated the rhythmic aura of a lyricist.  His beard and wild hair silently spoke of revolution, not at all sure of what kind.  Of the spirit perhaps. Accompanied by a skilled quartet (a pianist, two guitarists and a drummer) he fervently commenced with a song Beethovas Obas wrote for him titled “Cheri ou la”, followed with his own compositions written in Haitian Creole and English.  He spoke of universal love and history in a poetic manner: “I am dreaming –When I wake up things will start sinking – I’ll recreate the magic at will – There will be sunshine all the way”. His modulated voice and striking presence embodied both harmony and the power of his message.   His tunes captured all of my senses and the stage’s soft light navigated from blue to green transporting me to new musical worlds.

I had seen BélO live twice before but never in such intimate settings.  I am familiar with his music enough to sing along and hum when I do not know the words.  But the highlight of his performance that evening was not the songs from Lakou Trankil (his first album) or Haiti Debout (his most recent one).  This event for me went beyond his exceptional entertainment skills.  The apogee of this event was the Q & A led by Régine Roumain the director of Haiti Cultural Exchange.  I hope that it is not cliché to say that I had a glimpse at the man behind the music.  His dynamism goes beyond his sound: he studied accounting; he had an agreement with his mother to finish school before pursuing a music career; he is one of eight children; he is an ambassador to several worthy causes. What emanates from the man is confidence, a sense of knowing who he is, a great sense of humor intertwined with a marvelous philosophy of life.  BélO does not take his success for granted but he seemed to understand that his talent can be transcended.  I was delighted by his commitment to the “Caravane de la Francophonie”.   This   project which is sponsored by OIF (l’Organisation International de la Francophonie) travels from city to city exposing the many audiences it encounters to musical events that feature collaborations between different artists. It also emphasizes the importance of Haiti’s alliance with the Francophone block taking into account its geographical location (Haiti is surrounded by Hispanophone and Anglophone countries and in that sense is isolated).  His other project which really resonated with me is the launch of a music school in Croix des Bouquets.  He recounted that his father donated the house where he grew up to that end.  A gift from his father.  His gift to Haitian music.   BélO’s creation of an ideal legacy that seeks to nurture future musicians (the way he would have wished to be nurtured musically as a youngster) speaks volumes to me about his character as a musician and as a visionary.

Summer is over.  The fall will pass with the bat of an eyelid.  As I did last year I will attend a number of literary talks and readings; Zadie Smith, Orhan Pamuck and the New Yorker Festival are all on my calendar.  I will make every effort to show up at a number of gallery openings and let’s not forget the upcoming events of HCX…  But, unlike the summer the fall always seems to tell me to wind down. There will be more Friday nights at home cooking pumpkin soup, drinking Cabernet Sauvignon while nibbling on smoked Gouda and listening to good music.  Fortunately for me good music has no off-season. So while the days are getting shorter I will still be blasting Obed (from YouTube while awaiting his debut album) and BélO on these ever-lengthening Friday nights.

-Marsha Leconte

This entry was posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012 at 9:54 am and is filed under Archive, Events, HCX Programs, Mizik Ayiti, Music, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.