Archive for the ‘Mizik Ayiti’ Category

Archive: Kont ak Mizik Anba Tonèl: Ochan pou Mimi Barthélémy


Kont ak Mizik castThe finale of the 2013 Mizik Ayiti! Summer Concert Series on August 24th at FiveMyles Gallery was a bittersweet evening under the Brooklyn stars. Directly following the opening reception of Haitians from the Diaspora: Creativity & Focus, the audience made their way outside. As the sun began to slip behind the clouds, the lights came on casting red and purple shadows that cloaked the stage in mysterious colors of tales yet told.

Kont ak Mizik Anba Tonèl: Ochan pou Mimi Barthélémy offered up Haitian folktales and songs in tribute to the late Haitian folklorist. Born May 3, 1939 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Mimi Barthélémy studied in France where she received a doctorate in dramatic studies. As a storyteller, actress, writer and director, Mimi lived abroad and performed in countless festivals and book affairs including the Suburban Blues Festival, the Caribbean Identity Festival at the Odeon, and the Conciergerie aux Rencontres Internationales du Conte.

Mimi’s journey began in 1979 where she worked with the Honduran Garifuna community to create a show in aimed at reclaiming their forgotten history. Mimi told her stories in French and Creole, performing either alone or with musicians in cultural centers, libraries, apartments, prisons and hospitals.

Throughout her theatrical career, Mimi received numerous honors including the Arletty Universality of the French Language and several national awards of France including the National Order of Merit, the Order of Arts and Letters and the Legion of Honor.

After selected recordings of Mimi Barthélémy, HCX Executive Director Régine M. Roumain gave a moving introduction to the evening’s performances. [Transcribed below]

“KRIK! [Audience responds ‘KRAK!’]

Tonight, we honor the work of the late Mimi Barthélémy who passed on April 27, 2013. We share her stories, her songs, her laughter, and her desire to ensure that Haitian oral traditions are kept alive.

Mimi worked and lived in Paris, France but traveled the world to share Haitian folktales. Through numerous books and CDs including Haïti Conte, Dis-moi des Chanson d’Haïti, La Reine des Poissons & Contes d’Haïti, as well as her most recent theatrical release Koute Chante, Mimi enthralled audiences with her voice, her wit, and her passion.

I had the opportunity to sit with Mimi in her beautiful home in Paris when HCX was founding out Krik ? Krak ! program fpr children. She was so full of anedotes about growing up in Haiti, witnessing the earthquake, her family… we spoke for hours. I left her home with a suitcase full of books and music and have greatly enjoyed sharing them with my two daughters and the great number of childrenand families who have participated in our Krik ? Krak ! Program over the years. I thank Mimi deeply for providing us with such treasures.

Her good friend and collaborator, Muriel Bloch, had this to say in an article recently published in French – « Tu restes au cœur de tant d’amis, grands et petits, a’ailleurs et d’ici. Mimi la Reine des conteuses, diva de la vie, Femme-Cararaïbe ardent et baroque, à tour épique et droilatique oscillant souvent entre le mervilleux et le tragique, femme tonnerre et femme tendresse » Mimi, you remain in the heart of so many friends, big and small– from near and far. Mimi the Queen of Storytelling, dive of life.

This evening, we bring you storytelling in Kreyol and Englush, as translated with care by my mother Maryse Roumain with performance by Melissa Beauvery, Jennifer Celestin, Atibon Legba, and Laura Simms and music by Riva Précil and Jean Mary Brignol. Tonight we bring you Mimi Barthélémy. Ochan pou Mimi.”

Following opening remarks, the talented traditional drummer Jean Mary Brignol performed a moving tribute. Kont ak Mizik then presented a series of folktales and songs that were captured from works and infamous renditions by Mimi including “Ti Fi & the Key to Knowledge” which was performed by Melissa Beauvery, “The Lady & the Three Beans” performed by Jennifer Celestin and Laura Simms, and “Bouki Dances the Kokioko” as performed by Atibon Legba and Jean Mary Brignol. The stories were followed by a special set of folk songs with Riva Nyri Précil and Jean Mary Brignol which had the audience dancing and singing along.

The audience departed into the cool evening night with a spark in their eye of memory, magic, imagination set wild in a world of selfish blubbering frogs, water spirit, talking fires, and the unfortunate sufferings of silly Bouki.

Mimi, èske ou te koute?

Mizik Ayiti! Summer Concert Series and Kont ak Mizik Anba Tonèl: Ochan pou Mimi Barthélémy could not have been possible without the contributions of our talented artists, supportive community members, and generous donors. Thank you.

A special thank you to these sponsors:


MA13 sponsor blok long


The 2013 Mizik Ayiti! Summer Concert Series is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).

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Archive: HCX Mizik Ayiti! Summer Concert Series presents Tit Pascal & Talie Cerin



Talie Cerin performs at Mizik Ayiti! - July 2013

Heat WAVE — Though the heat raged unmercifully on July 20th, over 80 people flocked to the doors of Five Myles Gallery for Haiti Cultural Exchange’s second concert of their Mizik Ayiti! Summer Concert Series featuring guitarist Tit Pascal and singer & songwriter Talie Cerin.  The soft buzz of the fans scattered throughout the gallery hummed throughout the first hour of the evening. As people trickled through the door, with some waiting for their friends and family to arrive, attendees wandered in and out of the gallery with water bottles and wooden fans in hand, looking for any chance of a breeze. The performances added to the romance of the rainy summer evening.

Talie Cerin began with a powerful number sending her alto voice soaring over her Haitian neo-twoubadou and US blues guitar. Following Talie, Haitian guitar legend Tit Pascal joined us for a brief discussion before his performance. A musician all his life, Tit spoke about his past performing with other groups in Haiti and the U.S. Suddenly, a thunderclap signaled relief from the  heat, and in a few minutes, a long-awaited thunderstorm released torrents of rain onto the baked Brooklyn pavement. Tit hugged his guitar as he played heart-wrenching and delicate cords that the audience leaned in to– drinking in every note’s angelic softness and harmony. The serenades seemed to bring the highly anticipated deluge of summer rain, and with it, a coolness that settled into the night. July’s Mizik Ayiti! was an intimate evening showcasing contemporary Haitian guitar that left the audience with a more rounded sense of modern Haitian sound – that of a legend that is Tit Pascal and that of a rising force that is Talie Cerin.

View more photos of Mizik Ayiti! Summer Concert with Tit Pascal & Talie Cerin here.

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Archive: Pwezi ak Mizik Anba Tonèl


Check out this account of August 25th’s Pwezi ak Mizik Anba Tonèl at FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn!

 « De la poésie avant toute chose » (Verlaine) 

Ceux qui pensent que la poésie n’a plus sa place dans nos sociétés surdimensionnées, hautement dominées par les technologies les plus pointues  ont dû peut-être se mordre les doigts samedi dernier 25 août à l’occasion de la manifestation culturelle mise sur pied par Régine Roumain et l’association « Haïti Cultural Exchange » qu’elle dirige à New York depuis trois ans environ. Régine – et je voudrais ici la remercier du fond du cœur pour cette soirée si captivante, si élégante – avait dénommé la manifestation « Pwezi ak Mizik anba Tonèl », titre hautement symbolique  pour  signifier  la résilience  de la musique et de la poésie capable de se nicher dans les endroits les plus inattendus même dans une société aussi technologiquement orientée que New York. Les dizaines de participants qui ont répondu à son appel ont prouvé que le monde de la poésie possède encore de longs et beaux jours devant lui, quoiqu’on en dise.

En effet, tout ce que New York compte – toutes générations confondues – de fervents de  poésie, de musique moderne, de culture haïtienne revitalisée en diaspora, s’était donné rendez-vous à 558 St. Johns Place, au cœur de Brooklyn, NY pour clôturer cet été 2012 qui a été si chaud. Ils n’ont pas été déçus. Il y avait de la musique, de la poésie, et surtout ce côté détendu, sympa, pas guindé pour un sou.

Après l’introduction  par  Dr. Millery  Polyne, historien et professeur à NYU, la soirée commença en musique. Elle était assurée par « Vo-Duo », composé du guitariste et chanteur Monvelyno Alexis et du percussionniste Markus Schwartz qui ont réussi un savant mélange de « Mizik Rasin », jazz et rock dans la bonne tradition de la musique sacrée du vodou haïtien. Puis vint le moment de la poésie. Tour à tour,  Jeffrey Dessources, Jean-Dany Joachim, Ibi Zoboi, Jany Tomba, Syto Cavé, Josaphat-Robert Large nous ont fait vibrer en lisant des extraits de leurs œuvres poétiques, riches, fortes, excitantes. Jeffrey Dessources  a intégré certaines bonnes vieilles  traditions culturelles haïtiennes dans sa poésie moderne, vigoureuse et décapante ; Jean-Dany Joachim a voulu flirter avec un lyrisme tout en retrait ; Ibi Zoboi que je connaissais davantage comme auteure de récit depuis son texte inoubliable dans « Haiti Noir » d’Edwidge Danticat (2011) a révélé un autre aspect de son talent littéraire tout en finesse et en délicatesse ; Jany Tomba a été  superbe et toute auréolée de  sensibilité et de conscience poétique ; Syto Cavé, à la poésie racée et d’une sensibilité rare, poignante, touchante, nous a émus par sa capacité à nous rappeler  notre destin éphémère ;  Josaphat-Robert Large, dont la présence  sur  scène n’a d’égale que sa poésie somptueuse, aux accents passionnés, nous  a rappelé que le grand art repose aussi sur un travail constant, quotidien sans lequel le talent risque de s’effilocher sans qu’on s’en rende compte.

Le grand moment de la soirée a été l’arrivée du poète national Anthony Phelps, introduit par son grand ami Josaphat-Robert Large. Dans son introduction, le poète et romancier Large a proposé de consacrer cette année de grâce 2012 au fameux auteur du recueil de poésie « Mon pays que voici » (1968) en la dénommant « l’année Phelps ». Je souscris avec enthousiasme à cette proposition puisque l’écrivain Phelps a marqué l’année 2012 de deux coups d’éclat, de deux « gestes », pour répéter le mot célèbre de mon ami le poète et collègue linguiste Robert Berrouet-Oriol. Le premier coup d’éclat a été le refus spectaculaire d’accepter une décoration présidentielle  afin de protester contre l’impunité  dont continue  à  jouir le dictateur Jean-Claude Duvalier, narguant sans remords au pays même tout un peuple que lui et son père ont tant fait souffrir pendant presque trente années,  le second coup d’éclat est le prix de poésie du 14ème Salon international du Livre insulaire de Ouessant, dans le Finistère, en France, qui lui a été attribué pour son livre « Nomade je fus de très vieille mémoire » (Editions Bruno Doucey, 2012), exactement une semaine avant son anniversaire.

Phelps, après avoir distillé un avant-goût de sa poésie à une audience déjà captivée, a procédé à la vente-signature du livre pour lequel le jury de Ouessant lui a décerné le prix de poésie, c’est-à-dire « Nomade je fus de très vieille mémoire », une anthologie personnelle de son immense œuvre poétique.  Il va sans dire que l’assistance s’est ruée pour acheter et se faire signer un exemplaire de ce texte littéraire. Nous ne manquerons pas quand nous en aurons terminé la lecture d’en rédiger une recension. Qu’on me permette de souligner le tact et le réalisme de Régine qui a pris le soin de mettre sur pied une manifestation trilingue anglais-français-créole, donnant ainsi aux trois langues comprises d’une manière générale par la communauté linguistique haïtienne d’être représentées au cours de cette soirée.

La soirée s’est terminée avec un gentil hommage rendu à Phelps par Régine et Haiti Cultural Exchange à l’occasion de son anniversaire de naissance. Je me joins à Régine et à son sympathique groupe pour souhaiter Joyeux anniversaire à notre poète national.

-Hugues Saint-Fort

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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

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