Emeline Michel, Queen of Haitian Song

Yesterday, James Nadal (All about Jazz) managed to put a smile on my face, which was exhausted from frowning after days of pouring over the tragic news about Haiti’s plight. As a tribute to Haiti’s resilience and courage in the face of adversity, he has dedicated his recent profiles and articles exclusively to Haitian artists, such as the legendary Coupé Cloué and Emeline Michel, and to what he calls a long line of “spiritual and musical warriors.” As Nadal mentions, CNN presented a clip of people dancing and singing in the streets of Port-au-Prince, to the amazement of journalists. We must not forget the power of music to rally and strengthen us, especially in times of crisis. Listening to Emeline Michel’s “Gade Papi,” reminded me of the fact that certain voices can indeed transmit a ray of hope.

The following is based on Nadal’s profile of Emeline Michel:

A captivating performer, versatile vocalist, and one of the premier Haitian songwriters of her generation, Emeline Michel has been dubbed the reigning Queen of Haitian Song.  Singing both in French and Haitian Creole, her best-selling albums, have catapulted her to international acclaim. Well-known for combining traditional Haitian rhythms with social, political, and inspirational content, she is part of a unique generation of Haitian musicians that emerged in the late 1980s, which also includes guitarist/vocalist Beethova Obas and the bands Boukman Eksperyans and Boukan Guinen. This wave of artists emphasized complex themes, conscious lyrics, and a broad palette of musical styles, including the native Haitian compas, twoubadou, and rara.

Her releases “Tankou melodie” [Like a Melody] and “Flanm” [Flame] established her as one of the top artists in Haiti and the French Antilles, and she was soon hailed as the “new goddess of Creole music.” The album Ban ‘m Pase (1996) fully incorporated her jazz/blues/samba influences and secured her position as one of the leading songwriters in the Haitian Creole language. In 1999, Michel formed her own production company (Production Cheval De Feu) to gain full control of her career and artistic vision. Her 2004 album Rasin Kreyol [Creole Roots]—selected as the Best World Music Album of 2004 in Canada—spawned major hits such as “Banm La Jwa” [Give Me Joy], “Nasyon Soley” [Sun Nation], “Lom Kampe” [When I Will Stand Up], and “Beni Yo” [Bless Them], which became an inspirational anthem to the Haitian nation during the violent political struggles in the middle of the decade. Her latest work is Reine de Coeur (cover featured here), a CD “loaded with delectable music morsels and autobiographic stories such as ‘Gade Papi’ [Look Papa] which reminds us to dream our dreams.”

For full profile (by James Nadal), see http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=19631

For her poignant and uplifting song “Gade Papi” (thanks, James!), see

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