Lénord Fortuné, Azor, singer and drummer for the band Racine Mapou de Azor passed away on July 16 at the young age of 46. The singer, who had just performed at Saut d’Eau as part of the celebrations of the Feast of Mont Carmel, was taken to the hospital at Bernard Mevs, where he died during the night.
His national funeral is under way in Port-au-Prince, where a peristyle and platforms have been erected in front of the Museum of the National Pantheon, which will serve as a temple to give the last farewell to a man whose music has been described as embodying the soul of the nation.
Yesterday an artistic vigil in his honor was held at the Champ de Mars, from 6pm to midnight, drawing more than thirty artists. Gracia Delva, the president of the Commission on Culture, Communication and Tourism, paid tribute to the artist in Parliament.
Today, Azor’s body arrived on the Champ de Mars on a horse-drawn carriage, where the singer was posthumously decorated by Michel Martelly. Rasin Mapou performed in honor of their founder before the body left for the Pax Villa crematorium.
The popular musician was one of the virtuosos of traditional music and a tireless ambassador of Haitian culture. With the music of Vodou ceremonies as his foundation, Racine Mapou de Azor toured the world helping his audiences discover the value of the music of the lakous and its link to Haitian identity.
In his remarks today, Martelly praised the courage and talent of Lénord Fortuné and sent condolences to his family and all those who knew him, for whom his music was a ritual of reassurance.
Azor had been a member of several bands of konpa (SS One and Scorpio) and folklore (Bakoulou group), before joining “Racine Kanga de Wawa”. With Wawa, Azor started to play Vodou music in concert, shifting it from the Vodou ounfò to the live stage. His success with “Racine Mapou de Azor” contributed to the recognition of Vodou as an integral part of Haitian culture, and the acceptance of the African and rural part of Haitian identity.
From this perspective, the members of the band, who are Vodou practioners, explicitly joined the traditions and symbolic universe of Vodou. They aspire to maintain contact with the roots of their traditions and with the sacred mapou trees whose imposing roots are known for sheltering the spirits.
“Racine Mapou de Azor” plays traditional music or pure rasin, i.e. without modern arrangements or electric instruments. Their music is marked by the tireless beat of the drums of petro inspiration. Azor’s own voice, now silenced, evoked the voice of the Vodou oungan or priest, and accompanied by a chorus of women’s voices, celebrated the Vodou spirits or lwa.
His artistry, so prematurely lost, will be sadly missed.
My thanks to Nadeve Medard for sending some of the information for this post.