Executive Director of La Troupe Makandal, Inc., Lois Wilcken, has released a new posthumous album with the music of Frisner Augustin, a Haitian Vodou master drummer and leader of the Brooklyn-based Troupe Makandal. The album—An Intimate Touch: From Frisner, with Love—features ten compositions of solo drumming, which offer “more than a dozen styles of classic, sacred Haitian drumming through the palms, the fingertips, and the soul of an award-winning musician.”
Augustin, who is credited with being a major force in preserving and popularizing his Afro-Haitian heritage and devoting his life and career both to battling negative stereotypes about Vodou, was born on March 1, 1948 and died on February 28 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, see previous post La Troupe Makandal’s Frisner Augustin Passes Away.] He was a major performer and composer of Haitian Vodou drumming and the first citizen of Haiti to win a National Heritage Fellowship (1999) from the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States, where he resided for forty years.
Here are excerpts from The New York Times obituary:
“A youth prodigy on the traditional drums of Haitian Vodou in ritual context, Augustin took his genre to the modern stage, often exploring its common roots with various jazz styles. From his initial forays in Haiti with Lina Mathon Blanchet, Jacky Duroseau, and Jazz des Jeunes, he went on to work in the United States and Europe with Kip Hanrahan, Edy Brisseaux, and Andrew Cyrille. He also recorded for filmmaker Jonathan Demme.
Leading La Troupe Makandal, a drum and dance group, and performing in both vodou ceremonies and secular events, Mr. His personal style was meticulous not only about rhythm but also about the melodies made by drum tones. “He would say the drum is like a piano,” Ms. Wilcken said.
[. . .] Mr. Augustin immigrated to New York City in 1972 and worked with various groups as a drummer; he also began his lifelong second career as a drumming teacher. In 1981 he took over as artistic director of La Troupe Makandal, a Haitian ensemble named after a Haitian revolutionary and mystic, when it relocated from Port-au-Prince to New York.
La Troupe Makandal has performed for both Haitian and world-music audiences. When it brought abridged vodou ceremonies to public stages, the rhythms were so traditional and intense that unplanned spiritual possessions sometimes took place in secular spaces. The troupe also performs choreographed programs devoted to Haitian history and culture. It has made four albums of traditional Afro-Haitian music: “A Trip to Vodou,” “Èzili,” “The Drums of Vodou” and “Prepare.”
In 1983, Mr. Augustin began teaching the Haitian Drum Workshop at Hunter College, with instruction not only in vodou but also in other Haitian traditions. He also taught drumming at regular workshops in Brooklyn neighborhoods and worked with a Haitian-American children’s dance company, Tonel Lakay.”
To purchase the CD, go to http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/frisneraugustin