Archive: An n’ Pale | Café Conversation with musician and archivist Georges Vilson, An n’ Pale|Café Conversations

Georges Vilson


After a brief summer hiatus, An n’ Pale returned in September with Haitian musician and archivist of traditional folk and Vodou music, Georges Vilson.  Georges grew up in a family which valued Haitian culture and its musical traditions. His mother ignited his passion by immersing him in a magical world of music, replete with Creole lullabies, traditional folk, and classical and religious hymns. Early on, she recognized his musical gift and nurtured his vocal and musical talents. His latest work, KANDELAB 101: Notated Haitian Folks and Vodou Songs Volume 1, along with a 4 CD box set, is the culmination of years of work to ensure that these songs are preserved for future generations.

The conversation was led by Executive Director, Régine M. Roumain who inquired about George’s influences, the process of collecting and archiving hundreds of songs, the stigmatization of Vodou, and the role that the Diaspora should play in helping to maintain our cultural traditions.

Speaking to the climate of folk music in Haiti, Vilson described his interaction with youth in Port-au-Prince and how little they knew of these cultural treasures.  Vilson has invested himself in making sure that this music is archived and available for younger generations to learn and he often travels to conduct workshops on the subject.

Georges described his attempt to capture some of the nuances in Haitian Vodou music that are tied to specific regions of Haiti — his journey to Fonds des Blancs where he had to wait until night had fallen for the townsfolk to share their stories, meeting with ougans in the lakous all over the country. He also described his work to bring these songs and stories to children in Haiti.

The conversation was followed by questions and comments from the audience – what is the impact of negative perceptions of Vodou in Port-au-Prince, a city often considered the country’s cultural center? Will Vodou traditions be lost?  How do we work to ensure that they are preserved? Does one have to practice and believe in order to appreciate?

In his responses, we could see the sort of side-smiling laugh of a knowing man. Vodou is not going anywhere, Georges said. And he’s right, the culture and beliefs will be carried on as long as the drum beats.

The conversation was lively and could have gone on for hours… but, the music was calling us.  What followed was a 30 minute set of Ibo, Nago, & Rara rhythms with Georges on vocals, Chico Boyer on bass, and Jean Mary Brignol on drums.  Dancing ensued and a good time was had by all.

Thank you Georges!

KANDELAB 101 is available for purchase at the HCX Boutik, 558 St. Johns Place in Brooklyn.  Call 347-565-4429 to make an appointment to visit.

Check out some photos from the evening here!  

Thank you to photographers Tequila Minsky & Jocelyn McCalla.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 30th, 2013 at 4:03 pm and is filed under An n' Pale, Archive, Events, HCX Programs, Music, Public Forums. 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.