Dola Mizik delivers the goods in sophomore release
By Steve Desrosiers, Contributing Editor
Aug. 24, 2012
New York Time
We’ve been waiting for a sophomore release from one of New York’s talented musical acts and are happy the album, “New York Time” is here at last. Dola’s latest independent release features a modest 12 original pieces.
Dola’s promise was evident after their very first release. The album, “Brasse” was executed under the leadership of two of New York’s leading musicians, Jean Max Valcourt and Armstrong Jeune. Valcourt was known for his talents as a studio session player and Jeune was a hot commodity after his critically acclaimed performances on New York All Star’s “Pou La Vie” album. The two men aired ambitions to seriously impact the industry with their release and that they did with an exciting roster of songs steeped in modern trends and inspired by the best of “old school” Konpa.
Unfortunately, consumers who appreciated the rigor of that album were not consistent concert goers who could give the band a strong and immediate fan base. In the past year, Dola’s leaders fell out over issues of discipline and the causes of their lackluster commercial success. Valcourt kept most of the band together and incorporated new singers in an attempt to add a bit more commercial swagger to the line up.
Fortunately, Dola’s “New York Time” continues the standard established in “Brasse”. The thoughtful arrangement of songs like, “New York Time” with its inspired horns and smooth chord progressions; its attention grabbing choruses and modern flourishes is a nod to a standard of performance missing in many of today’s albums. It will feel like Armstrong Jeune never left the band once you hear singer Paul Borno’s (Polo) Armstrong Jeune inspired technique (unless this is Armstrong himself singing) in “Show me the way”, a fine number featuring angelic harmonization, a memorable chorus that effectively blends songwriting in both English and Kreyol.
The creative rush of chords, a robust marriage of lead and rhythm guitars and fantastic synth work from band leader Jean Valcourt makes this tune more than memorable. You will find a piece of the Mini All Stars era in the song, “Voye Konpa” that literally sets former Mizik Mizik lead singer Clinton Benoit flying over a liquid lead arrangement straight to the kind of groove section that would make legendary Mini-Records producer Fred Paul proud! Other memorable songs include, the fluid “Leve Kow” , the adventurous “Banm Konpa’m” and the heated, “Party Time” the latter two fully benefitting from Armstrong Jeune technique.
Albums like “New York Time” come few and far between. While not a flawless achievement, it is serious and substantial work.
There is serious risk involved when a band steps away from its lead singer. It is usually the case that the band’s identity is locked to that singer’s presence. In this case, a decent set of singers have replaced Armstrong and Valcourt has done a fine job of keeping Dola’s musical identity intact. Nonetheless, the band has not stepped away from Armstrong’s broad shadow, lead singer Paul Borno’s use of Armstrong’s tone and technique is a major part of the album’s charm. The band’s second lead, Clinton Benoit does a decent job where he is featured but clearly has work ahead of him if he is to assume the place of one of our generation’s great singers. The supporting cast of guest artists, men like Carimi’s Stanley Jean, Shedly Abrams and women like Martine Marseille and more do a great job of supporting Valcourt’s very coherent vision for this album.
Waste no time, discover this little gem today!
Eud and Dred KRA-Z
The underground rap scene in Haiti continues to produce artists of strong character and caliber. We have the honor of presenting the work of two new artists who have joined forces to produce the album, “Lumye Wouj”. The independent release hosts 15 original compositions.
The female half of this rap duo – “Eud”- is currently one of Haiti’s better known and celebrated Kreyol Lyricists. “Eud” is a young mother whose skills as a singer and rapper have earned her significant street-cred among her mostly male peers. She has been celebrated on the industry’s major websites and seems dedicated to making serious headway on the rocky terrain of the Haiti’s Rap scene. Dred KRA-Z is a relatively new and dedicated figure on the scene whose current work may earn him a place among Haiti’s top poets. The great thing about these artists is that like the often over looked Haitian Racine (Roots) scene, their messages are full of substance, conviction and a healthy sense of ambition.
“Limyie Wouj” is an edgy album that is as driven by interesting melodies as it is by lyrics. Tunes like, “Pezo”, with its edgy sound pillows a fine set of long-winded hooks with very “out-of-the box” melodic progressions that borrow heavily from modern Jamaican trends. The rapping from Eud and KRA-Z is more sung than spoken, features wide percussive variation in lyrical delivery and showcases the great confidence these artists have in a studio environment (which usually means great live performances).
The creatively “chopped” “Mwen Anvi”, modernizes a very traditional Caribbean progression (think of the classic, “ti fi ki pa konn lave, pase, chita kay manman’w) with a Jamaican Dancehall drum track and it is here that one really feels the potency of these two artists as vocalists and rappers. The composition, “Serious” has great energy, especially where KRA-Z delivers in Kreyol the feel and energy of American Rap artists. Again the melodic appeal of this track is as much of a selling point as the words being aired by these talented artists.
The collaboration between Eud and KRA-Z in “Lumye Wouj” is lively and ambitious. The album follows American norms in terms of presentation, song-length and the power of its execution. The nice part is that Caribbean ideas in music are not entirely left out and in numbers like, “Mwen Anvi” and “Jan nou viv” the production behind the album is pursuing ways to effectively incorporate more native ideas into the music that backs their poets. Eud and KRA-Z perform at their highest capacity throughout the release and one feels their dedication and sense of conviction. Their weakest work is that done to native rhythms unfortunately and that is probably testament to unbalanced listening habits; an overexposure to Jamaican and American ones and not enough time spent understanding Haitian rhythms.
If you are a follower of the Haitian Rap scene, this album is one for the collection. Serious work has been done here and you don’t want to miss this pair!
The Reporter Thanks: Patrick St. Germain for availing the CDs for our review. The releases can be purchased at Parfumery International located at 860 Morton Street, Dorchester (617)825-6151.