Thursday, January 14, 2010


Believe it or not, there was a time when Haiti wasn't ruled by a dictator, had a prosperous middle-class, a vibrant night life. Let's go back to those days...well, actually, to a nutty '50s chacha novelty that surely rocked many a tiki bar, sung by a saucy American. This tune used to be a staple of my exotica mixes. Bailey doesn't really sing the inane lyrics so much as do a Mae West-like drawl:

Pearl Bailey "Haiti Blues

How 'bout we get a bit more authentic? From Haiti's most famous exports (apart from the Fugees), a more recent classic from these compas (pronounced "kome-PAH") legends:

Tabou Combo "Pa
se Sou Ou" - like they say: "too, too funky"

Compas is more like African styles such as soukous then most Carribean musics, but if I were to compare com
pas to, say, calypso/soca, dancehall, or salsa, I'd say it's like comparing Al Green to James Brown - it's more smooth and subtle. Must be that French influence. It still rocks the party like a mutha, tho.

The father
of compas was Nemours Jean Baptiste, and in the early '80s the Mini All Stars (musicians of the New York-based Mini Records label) covered some of his hits, taking advantage of the modern recording technology of their new American home. This album is a non-stop party, with tracks like the berserk Mardi Gras anthem "Carnaval Compas Direct" comitting total dance-floor mayhem:
Mini All Stars "Fanatiques Compas"
Nemours was sick and blind by the early '80s and died in '85, so I'm glad that he lived long enough to experience these recordings' huge success in the Haitian music world.

Here's an album recorded off of worn vinyl - I cleaned up the audio as much as p
ossible, but this 1970 release features such devastating compas (like the title track and "Le Vrai Bonheur") that cd-quality sound really doesn't matter. Still, I hope the band reunion of last year will spur these guys on to reissue this classic:

Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville "Haiti"
The now Florida-based madman guitarist of the band, Robert Martino, has a seemingly endless bag of catchy riffs at his disposal. Good luck, Haitian peoples!


Anonymous said...

great post, tabou combo reminds me of sunday morning at my grandma's :)

Dj No Breakfast said...

"Les Gypsies" also available here with more infos about the band :

Mr Fab said...

That's a different group! Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville (not just 'Les Gypsies') were Haitian, not French. But thanks Phantom, those other Gypsies look very cool, I'll check 'em out.

Unknown said...

Well....what about Group "Zek'le"?!,
they are the best of the best.
I am delighted with its music, and
never forget the beautiful
"San Mele (Adje)"...for God's sake! this is a precious gem.

Mixtapes said...

Great post, thanks for the share.

Anonymous said...


Mr Fab said...

I know that comment from "buy viagra" is spam, but it's mangling of the language is so funny, I'm leaving it.

The Basement Rug said...

Thanks so much for this! I just picked up "Courage", the 3rd LP [1973] by Les Gypsies de Petition Ville and it is incredible! When I have time, I will likely rip it and upload it to

Mr Fab said...

Tres cool Mr Basement Rug, looking forward to it!

BalthusMussels said...

Your blog gives me wood! That of a 100 year old Birch Tree. Thanks, I shall pilfer mercilessly.