Wanito proves untapped potential of Haiti’s youth

Wanito albumWanito albumSinger, songwriter Wanito is Haiti’s latest folk/pop sensation. The artist has been stirring the scene with his thoughtfully penned songs for a few years now and we have finally laid hands on his first release, “Biyografi Mwen” – a 10 song journey backed by a progressive c American music organizations PeaceTones — which promotes "fair trade" music.

I usually reserve this part of my writing to talk about the artist but he does a fine job on track #3 of the release. Let’s talk about Wanito’s backers, Peacetones — an organization that is trying to usher in new business models to support and promote today’s serious musicians.

PeaceTones is an organization already located in a half-dozen countries (Brazil, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Israel, Ghana and now Kenya) that focuses on helping third world music artists establish online businesses and helps them publish and distribute their albums globally. Musicians chosen by the organization have to tie their product to some community initiative in their home countries and 90 percent of profits are returned to these artists and their community initiative. The grassroots campaign works through advocacy and education to promote quality music, establish mutually beneficial financial partnerships between artists and music venues.

PeaceTones founder Ruha Devanesan initiated the “Haiti Sings 2010” project in an effort to help promising artists in one of the hemisphere’s most battered Islands. The winner of that contest was one Beaubrun Juanitho, a.k.a. “Wanito”. That fateful win has led to the release of “Biyografi Mwen” — Wanito’s first album. It also resulted in a first short tour of the US a few months ago where the artist was able to wow Haitian audiences in Manhattan’s SoB’s music club.

If you fly into Haiti today, find a group of teenagers walking by and ask them to sing you a song by Wanito. They’ll pull ten other friends over to sing, “Gad on Rev”, Wanito’s major hit and the album’s first song. It’s a modern coming of age tune that sends strong messages about slipping too soon into parenthood, the lack of opportunity for Haiti’s young – thus the trend for many to seek their fortunes in politics — and showcases Wanito’s gift for creating vivid images with Kreyol words. In “…Rev” he weaves the perfect nightmare scenario for any young working-class Haitian. The song’s hero starts off bargaining for a crib for a child soon to come. His dreams are crushed, his family has turned their backs, his friends are all preparing political campaigns and, of course, he’s broke. He finds himself with his lady in a windowless shack and endures the grind of cultivating a small plot to support his family. He holds on to the faint hope that his friends will at least fall over themselves to be his baby’s godparents. The message is backed by a Jamaican-style Nyabinghi rhythm, the artist’s raw vocals and his lone guitar. I’ve spent too much time on this song but you know I only do this when the rest is all good!

Wanito’s first release is an astounding argument for further investment in the potential of Haiti’s youth. Without an opportune intervention from a BU Law grad and his idea to host a song contest in Haiti with some additional support from a few well-meaning Boston based music studios and musicians we might have missed out on Wanito’s astounding talent. Gotta love how Boston is all over this story! Musically speaking it looks like the plan is to “Belo-ize” the sound of this youngster, it’s all American or Reggae rhythms front by Kreyol issues but given the global ambitions of this venture, that might be unavoidable for now. It is nonetheless unfortunate that such potent Kreyol messages (check out Blokis) are mostly set to foreign rhythms.

Do not deny yourself this treasure of an album! Rediscover Haiti through the eyes and words of Wanito and find reason to hope and dream again! A demain!

Knock Out
Duo Hors Categorie

The HMI welcomes a new group of Haitian rappers to the scene. The Rhum Barbancourt and K.O. Labo Records backed duo who are the act “Knock-Out” have recently released their first 15 song long album.
The Haitian Rap movement is always in a state of flux. One moment groups like Barikad capture a part of the public’s imagination and sometimes it’s enough to get the attention of the likes of a Wyclef Jean and perhaps a legit recording deal; then comes a period of tormented silence and inactivity that can only disband promising acts. However, this struggling movement continues to inspire new artists who stand on the shoulders of their predecessors to push the movement a bit further. MCs “K.Libr” and “Ouragan”, who are the formation of “Knock-Out”, seem to be part of a new crop of Haitian artists pushing the music and message of this genre one more step into a promising future.

The album “Hors Categorie” is a hard-hitting underground achievement with all the courage and grit that accompanies this phase in a rap group’s career. You’ll know these poets mean business as soon as you feel their heated intro but it’s in numbers like, “Ma Dope” - which effectively uses a classic Ansy Derose track with a Kanye West flair - that one feels the potential of the production team behind these poets and the huge improvement these guys are from their predecessors. Contrast “Map Dope” with compositions like, “Nap fel pou yo” and one can hear the music on this album draws from both East coast and South American beat traditions. In tunes like “Pran Plezi’w” and “Manyien yo tout” it is evident these artists lean toward sophisticated harmonic and melodic ideas in their catchy hooks when they’re not busy taming hard beats with their best verses. The track, “Tous les Memes” which makes use of a traditional Yanvalou rhythm is this album’s most interesting and lends hope that Haitian rhythms will soon be a central feature of the beats that back Haitian rap artists.

One of the charms of this album is its overt commercial orientation. “Duo Hors Categorie” is very musical and very well written. These guys prove they are among the masters of the Kreyol language and make full use of its rhythmic charms and sonic qualities. The beats on this release are very good and definitely touch the American standard they are emulating. The overall mix of the album is serious business - leaps and bounds over what has been presented in this genre previously. The stars of the show, MCs “K.libr” and “Ouragan” pour their hearts into every song but slip a bit when they rap in English. Dessin Valckensy aka “K.Libr” has to be commended for being the man behind a lot of these hot and well produced tracks.

If you are into the Haitian Rap music scene, this product is not one you’ll want to miss. Get a copy today.
The Reporter Thanks: Patrick St. Germain for availing the CDs for review. These releases can be purchased at Parfumery International located at 860 Morton Street, Dorchester (617)825-6151.