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by Romain Staros Staropoli

Music. Melissa Laveaux: a sassy and stellar voice

Translated Thursday 19 July 2018, by Annette Mitchell

Music. Melissa Laveaux: a sassy and stellar voice
FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2018

For her third album, titled Radyo Siwèl, the Canadian singer, musician and composer revisits traditional songs and appropriates fragments from texts that she discovered during her research.
Roman Staros Staropoli
The singer, story-teller of Haitian descent, pays homage to her island, in record, concert and in the theatre. Dazzling!
Her parents fled the terrible regime of Papa DOC, supported by the West, and found refuge in Canada. That’s how Melissa Laveaux was born in Montreal. After living in Ottawa, she settled in Paris, and enjoyed a successful collaboration with the independent label, No Format.
She show-cases songs from her brilliant CD, Radyo Siwèl on tour. In addition, this weekend at the Tarmac, accompanied by musicians, she is giving two exceptional performances of a theatrical and musical work in homage to Haiti, ‘And Sometimes the Flower is a Knife’, directed by Pierre-Vincent Chapus. The fable, for which she wrote both music and story, invokes the memory of the slave trade and of resistance...Djeuhdjoah Y officiates as guitarist and narrator, as he did so brilliantly in Kalakuta Dream (a musical piece by Nlend and Koffi Kwahulé).
"As a kid, I listened to Martha Jean-Claude, the iconic protest singer"
Haiti, the first independent black Republic, is the thread running through both the disc and the work (which are nevertheless distinct). When the radiant thirty-something visited the land of her ancestors in 2016, where she had not been for twenty years. "I felt the need to reconnect with a rich repertoire, some pieces of which had cradled my childhood in Canada," she explains. As a kid, I listened to Martha Jean-Claude, iconic protest singer, imprisoned in 1952 and exiled in Cuba where she recorded Haitian folk songs with local artists. For her 3rd album, Melissa revisits and masterfully reinvents traditional songs and borrows fragments of texts that she discovered during her research. "I wanted to highlight a little-known part of my heritage, namely a period from 1915 to 1935, during the occupation of Haiti by the US Army". she says. For the first time, she performs the whole disc in Creole. In the past, the use of this language prevented the colonials from understanding what was being said. Words and phrases in Radyo Siwèl, use metaphors and double-meanings which allowed people to mock the occupier, the powerful. "I also draw on the legacy of Voodoo, which allowed people to gather, rebuild an identity and exorcise suffering... The song Nibo, by Ludovic Lamothe (1882-1953) speaks of an indomitable young bohemian. It was often sung when the American occupants left Haiti. »
Nibo Illustrates the artistic approach of Radyo Siwèl, produced and performed by the erudite trio A.L.B.E.R.T. Synthesizers, bass and electric guitars dance arm in arm with an African balafon, a Cajun scraper and a Latin American cuatro... And, on the wings of Melissa Laveaux’s sassy, stellar voice, one is swept in a liberating trance towards Radiohead, Tinariwen or even Bann Grenn Siwèl, the Haitian Orchestra of Country troubadours. Defying time, borders and clichés, the activist who sings against all forms of oppression – women, racialized people, LGBTs, oppressed classes – delivers a work that dazzles and delights.
Melissa Lee, June 14th and 15th, And Sometimes the Flower is A Knife, Tarmac, Paris. On tour, for June 16, in Toulouse, in Rio Loco; and November 9, in Paris, at the Gaîté Lyrique. CD Radyo Siwèl (No Format/Sony), https://fr-fr.facebook.com/Mélissalaveauxoff.

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