The new CD was this time produced at theFugee's studios in New Jersey. 'Revolution' is a form of declaration of independence from Boukman Eksperyans, which back in Haiti was filled with new hope and inspiration and at the same time, by incorporating English verses and Japanese folk melodies, broke all the conventional barriers of the Misik Rasin scene.
Two hundred years ago the seeds of the French Revolution began to grow in the colony of Haiti to the beat of drums and the melody of song in the sacrificial dishes of Vodou ceremonies under the leadership of the houngan (Vodou priest) Boukman Jetty. Even after having attained freedom in 1803, the first manumission of slaves in the New World, the proclamations of Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité have up to the present day not become entirely still. They are as justified as before, when freed Creole took over a system of power from the colonists and exercised down a hierarchical ladder of underprivilegement based on skin colour, region of origin, former owner and social background Vodou, as syncretized folk religion, has remained until the present the social, cultural and spiritual haven particularly of the poor and dispossessed. If in yesteryear the Catholic priests in Brazil, Cuba or Haiti avoided the hinterlands predominantly under the control of black slaves and their cults, as it was supposedly "devil's territory", then the Haitian music groups like Boukman Eksperyans have to get accustomed to hearing words from the black elite classes like: "You play the music of the Satan." As if really believing in this, Haiti's renowned bloodsucker 'Papa Doc' Duvalier also made good use of the services provided by Vodou priests. The fact, however, that Lolo Beaubrun considers most Haitians as still being slaves, who only in the physical sense have thrown off their chains, has little to do with the influence of the Vodou priests, but more with the murderous antics instigated by the oppressive Duvalier regime, and their predecessors, and their successors.
The time of 'Baby Doc' Duvalier and his sunglasses wearing Tonton Macouts marks roughly the early beginnings of the group Boukman Eksperyans, whose founders are Lolo Beaubrun and his wife Mimerose. His father, Theodore, could be regarded as a kind of Haitian Bill Cosby, a comedian of the satirical type, who also appeared as a guest star in the USA and, as Lolo remembers, brought a James Brown LP back with him, which made a lasting impression. After his parents divorced, the children followed their mother to Brooklyn, USA. In the USA Lolo studied two years Business Administration.
When Lolo returned to Haiti in 1978 bands known as Minidjaz bands, as part of the first Roots-Music-Fusion movement (Nikol Levy, Bossa Combo among others) were pottering about, but seemed to pay no particular attention to songlyrics dealing with reality. On the contrary, bands like Bossa Combo and other formerly acclaimed top bands were sometimes even accused of standing too close to the Duvaliers.
With Lolo and Mimerose the strong African element in Haiti's culture experienced (different to the opposite Negritude hypotheses from L.Senghor and F.Fanon) a rejuvenating thrust from within. What could have done this better than to combine roots music with Vodou? Lolo and Mimerose had sought, however, to combine metaphysical elements of another vision: the structures in common found in the world religions to be educed and liased with Vodou. A global syncretism.
Lolos Grandfather knew a lot about the Vodou world, but his parents did not make it available. Lolo and Mimerose entered for the first time a famous Vodou lakou-s, a sort of Haitian style spiritual Kibbutz, where they met musicians and singers and where they got a first real glance at the African culture of Haiti in the form it was handed down form the members of various tribes (nanchon-s) abducted from their African homeland. They founded a group to study Vodou music, gave it the name Moun Ife (people of the abode of the deities) with which they thereafter appeared as a live act in the 1980's. The traditional roots instruments were supplemented by electric instruments, like the bass and two guitars played by members like Eddy Francois and Daniel 'Dady' Beaubrun, Lolo's brother and for a while the band's chief arranger. Following the example of the a.m. 18th century Vodou priest and the 'high priest' of rock music Jimi Hendrix the name "Boukman Eksperyans" came into being. According to Lolo's words: I heard Hendrix and Santana, but it was actually Bob Marley, who made me think.. When I heard him in 1976, I decided that I could do something similar to that in Jamaica in Haiti, with Vodou. Since the very beginning, starting with the first encounters made by the Beaubruns with the deeply set African tribal roots in the 'lakou' communities, Boukman Eksperyans has remained steadfastly linked to the Ginen (Guinea) Vodou line. They call it 'Vodou Adjaye' after a likewise named temple dance performed directly after ceremonies. This was also the title of their first LP. African drums accompanied angel-like choirs, Carnival Rara-Riffs and the Vodou songs entwined in the electronic sounds of the rock generation.
The Boukman Eksperyans band , together with Foula, Ram or Rara Machine are perfect representatives of the new Mizik Rasin, i.e. Root-Music with a strong African accentuation. Gage Averill, an adept and chronist of the modern Haitian Pop Music scene portrayed Mizik Rasin in his book, A Day for the Hunter, in the following words:
one discovers in the music and sloganeering of this period is a complex
web of intertextual
After many appearances in the pubs in the suburbs of Pétionville Boukman Eksperyans won in 1989 the third Konkou Mizik (Pop Music Competition) with a Rara-Rock title, 'Pra chenn wet denn.'
ANGRY; REMOVE THE CHAINS
A year later they became even more famous when they presented their song 'Ke-m pa sote' in Carnival. This Carnival festival in 1990 was the second one that was allowed to be celebrated since 1985. The government reacted somewhat perturbed to this song, which was rapidly incorporated into the repertoires of all Haitian bands.
HEART DOESN'T LEAP; I'M NOT AFRAID
The musical background to this song was that of the hymns of the war deity, meaning that it is impossible to poison a person possessed by Ogou Balendjo. In Haiti the song flourished as a massive upheaval against the prevailing living conditions induced by the ruling government. It was then after Carnival, as a young girl was shot dead by the military, that the song became an out and out battle hymn admonishing the government as a pack of swindlers and idiots. At the end of 1990 three members of the band left, among them Eddy Francois, in order to set up their own group, Boukan Ginen.
Shortly afterwards the priest Jean Bertrand Aristide posed as election candidate and from the song Ke-m Pa Sote became the polling-song Ke-m Pa Sote Ak Titid, we are not afraid of Aristide.
The collapse of the Aristide government brought on by the military invited once again in 1992 a contemptuous commentary from Boukman Eksperyans in their song KALFOU DANJERE (Dangerous Cross-roads).
YOU'LL BE IN DEEP TROUBLE
Ginen (Guinea) is not one of those secret societies that arose from the colonial days.
In 1992 the likewise titled CD 'Kalfou Danjere' appeared under the 'Mango Label', which was able to hold its place in the Billboard Worldmusic Charts for several weeks, and in the same year was nominated for a Grammy Award.
For Haiti and Boukman Eksperyans, whose songs at the end of the eighties were no longer permitted to be played by Haitian radio stations, hard times were once again to come. The band members were not directly threatened, but they were adamantly advised: 'never go out at night.'
In 1993 they set out for their first big North American tour. A year later the presence of the Haitian military became even more formidable and explicit. At one concert they stifled the song Kalfou Danjere with tear gas and the racking sound of their weapons. The American embargo imposed on Haiti was also one of the factors responsible for the shortage of medical supplies, where in the same year the band's bassist and percussionist, Oliche Lynch died helplessly of meningitis.
Boukman Eksperyans went in exile to Jamaica and there recorded in Marley's Tuff Gong Studios their third LP: Liberté. Because of the then prevailing political circumstances, an intended second North American tour did not come to fruition. The band was not granted entry permission to the USA and the money held in American accounts was frozen.
Meanwhile Boukman Eksperyans have returned once again to Haiti. The new CD was this time produced at the Fugee's studios in New Jersey. 'Revolution' is a form of declaration of independence from Boukman Eksperyans, which back in Haiti was filled with new hope and inspiration and at the same time, by incorporating English verses and Japanese folk melodies, broke all the conventional barriers of the Misik Rasin scene.
Lolo once said about Vodou: 'The Catholic goes to church to speak to God. The member of the Vodou dances in the hounfort in order to become God.' By that he means the moment where the Loas (spirits) enter the body of the medium . The members of Boukman Eksperyans to the present day enact short rituals before they appear on stage, because that is where they derive their power from: Ayibobo!