Reissue of 1983 album “Koté Ou” brings jazzlike enclaves of beauty and depth in a Haiti of violent politics.
Once upon a time, a musician named Gerald Merceron was Haiti’s most important music critic. Merceron had been a jazz critic for US and French publications, and had moved back to Haiti with a deep understanding. At his side, youngsters came to the their own, including a young man named Mushi Widmaeir. Mushi played on Merceron’s little known avant-guard albums (and others) before launching the group Zekle on his own, and then a second, Mushi & Lakansyel. Zekle made history as popular music, Mushi & Lakansyel as art music.
Granit Records has reissued Mushi & Lakansyel’s one album “Kote Ou,” or “Where Are You,” first released in 1983. It’s an album of songs constructed as jazzlike enclaves of beauty and depth in a Haiti of violent politics, strife, of “dilere” (a woman left her husband / to live in a beautiful house / it’s where she got sick / god take her, o) as a classic rara sons titles itself to mean misery. Thus the names of the albums songs, like “Port Salut” or “Kalalou”: things that are phenomenal about Haiti. They, coupled with the name of the album, make it an intensely philosophical album, a proposition of truth.
Lakansyel? I have no real idea, though I can say that lakansyel or rainbow is very important in Haitian Vodou. For one, the serpent and the rainbow are father and mother to this world. Secondly, the Boumba deities, the ones that Dessalines served, according to houngan Andre Basquiat, from the Congo, are rainbow deities, for serving Eskalye Boumba brings you to heaven.
“Kote Ou” is a brilliant album, one of the best that Haiti has to offer. It tells of Haitian beauty, blatantly. It asks of us to sit and feel, to make a wish.