La Troupe Makandal’s Frisner Augustin Passes Away

Frisner Augustin passed away on Monday, February 27, 2012. The master drummer was the artistic director for La Troupe Makandal. The funeral will take place Saturday, March 3, at the St. Rose de Lima funeral home at 256 Rue de Centre/18 Ruelle Carbonne. It will go on to Église St. Anne for a Mass and then to the Grand Cimitière. Vodou rites will take place Friday at 12 Ruelle Gabelis in the Portail Léogane district, Haiti.

Frisner Augustin was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he studied ritual drumming in the temples of Vodou. In 1972 he emigrated to New York, where he established himself as a master drummer in Vodou rituals, as a performer for Haitian community festivals, and as a drum instructor. In 1981 Mr. Augustin took over the direction of the company La Troupe Makandal. His recordings with the Troupe (A Trip to Voodoo, Erzili, and The Drums of Vodou) feature his settings of traditional Afro-Haitian dances. He has recorded as well for jazz artist Kip Hanrahan and for the soundtrack of the film Beloved.

In addition to performing in theaters, galleries, festivals, and educational venues, Mr. Augustin teaches a workshop in Haitian drumming at Hunter College, the Krik! Krak! workshop for children at three sites in Brooklyn, and classes and lecture-demonstrations through the Brooklyn Arts Council and City Lore. He also works with the Haitian-American children’s dance company Tonel Lakay. Above all, his dynamic drumming continues to tempt the spirits to the Vodou houses of New York. Keenly aware of the negative stereotyping of Vodou, Maestro Augustin uses his drum to recast the mystery of the religion from a positive perspective.

Because of his dedication, he received a People’s Hall of Fame award from the cultural center City Lore, and a Certificate of Achievement from the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. In 1999 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a National Heritage Fellowship, this nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

[Many thanks to Stéphanie Melyon-Reinette for bringing this item to our attention.]

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