Film: Frantz Voltaire’s ‘Maestro Issa’


I am so grateful to find out that Jean-François Chalut has made this magnificent film, Maestro Issa (Productions CIDIHCA, 2008, 52 minutes), available online. In French and Creole with French subtitles, this film was directed and written by Frantz Voltaire, with cinematography by Jean-François Chalut. As Dr. Thomas Spear points out (via FB), it is fantastic for music lovers and includes great footage from Havana and Port-au-Prince in 40s and 50s. Personally, I was captivated by the cinematography, the music, the exploration of Haitian popular culture, and the compelling presence of Issa El Saieh and the other artists interviewed in the film. [Many thanks to Thomas Spear for bringing this item to our attention; also see previous post Film Premieres: Menelik Shabazz’s “Lovers Rock” and Frantz Voltaire’s “Maestro Issa El Saieh”.]

Description: This documentary on Issa El Saieh traces the unusual trajectory of this son of Palestinian immigrants born in Petit- Goâve, who spent his adolescent years in the United States in the 1930s. Upon his return to Haiti in the 1940s, he set into motion a musical revolution. During his stay in the United States, he was influenced by the sounds of jazz and Cuban music. He also had the advantage of having studied classical music at school.

He came to Haiti under the government of Élie Lescot, when stress on tourism was established. The documentary focuses on the years—1942 to 1959—in which his outstanding career developed. He discovered young musicians full of talent, such as Jo Trouillot, Guy Durosier, Raoul Guillaum, who played in his big band ensemle. He used great musical arrangers, like Bobby Hicks (U.S.) or Bebo Valdés (Cuba). He made ​​recordings with unforgettable songs under the label he created—“La Belle Créole”—and he hosted evenings at Cabane Choucoune and the Casino. He also discovered great popular musicians such as the Sicot brothers or drummers Ti-Ti Roro and Ti-Marcel. Before retiring, he recorded for Radio Progreso in Havana (in 1958) and left his orchestra Jo Trouillot (in 1959).

See complete film here (we are presently trying to locate a version with English subtitles):

For access to online video archives of Jean-François Chalut’s work, see

Also see other films by Chalut [such as Manno Charlemagne Konviksyon (2010)] on his YouTube channel

For more information, see

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