Haitian Music

Top 5 Chart Toppers: Island vs Island

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For an artist, “making it” in their hometown is a huge accomplishment but making it overseas is where the true success lies. This month, instead of picking a specific island to focus on, we will focus on them all to figure out which area of the Caribbean has the United States rocking the hardest, the history of how that style came to be and the journey it took to make it over.


Reggae originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s and quickly emerged as the country’s dominant music. By the 1970s it had become an international style that was particularly popular in Britain, the United States and Africa. It was widely perceived as a voice of the oppressed. Reggae was later embraced in the United States largely through the work of Marley—both directly and indirectly (the latter as a result of Eric Clapton’s popular cover version of Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” in 1974). The dancehall DJs of the 1980s and ’90s who refined the practice of “toasting” (rapping over instrumental tracks) were spare headers to reggae’s politicization of music. By doing so, these DJs extended the market for reggae into the African American community.

Trinidad & Tobago

Originating in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1970s, Soca music combines funk, soul, and calypso to create a style of music that’s both soulful and catchy. Credited with the inspiration for Soca is Trinidadian-native Garfield Blackman, who combined traditional calypso music with Indo-Caribbean music in the 1960s, a fusion that led to the Soca style nearly a decade later. The grooves migrated to the states as the people did. One person put on another and Soca became widespread.


‘Haiti’s national music,’ compas (also known by the French as compas direct and as konpa dirèk [or simply konpa] by Creole speakers. The botched spelling “kompa” is a result of a phonetic misunderstanding between French and Haitian Creole). Often described as a “modern merengue,” compas is wildly popular throughout the entirety of the Caribbean; though because of Nemours Jean Baptiste’s musical contributions to the genre, compas direct is normally seen as rooted in Haiti. Today, kompa’s impact is far-reaching and felt all throughout both the Caribbean nations and the rest of the world.


Calypso music’s history traces all the way back to the 1700s and continues to be seen as a way of projecting the voice of African, French, and Caribbean peoples around the world. The Calypso style of music incorporates many different instruments as well as vocals to create a harmonized melody, with soulful intonations similar to those of the African spirituals sung during the days of African slavery. In fact, along with Reggae, Calypso music has always been identified as the music of the oppressed – in the 18th century, it was performed by the slaves of French planters in the French Antilles.

Which of the following Caribbean grooves do you move to? Did you know its origin?

Haitian Music

Top 5 Chart Toppers: Haiti

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It is no secret that we all, especially being Caribbean, love to rock to any beat we hear. There is always a new artist to explore, new dance to learn or something in equivalent surrounding music that fills us with joy every day. For this rendition of “Top 5 Chart Toppers”, we head to Haiti to explore, new and old, which artists are receiving the most streams by listeners.

Emeline Michel

Reigning queen of Haitian song Emeline Michel covers a lot of ground, writing songs that draw upon Haitian compas, twoubadou and rara as well as jazz, rock, pop, bossa nova and samba. Whichever direction Michel goes, her voice is clear and forceful as she dramatically imparts her political lyrics in Haitian Creole and French, offering up messages about AIDS, social justice and peace. While the singer has released a handful of albums as imports over a 15-year career, Rasin Kreyol, her Times Square records debut, is a standout that should help U.S. audiences catch up with the French speaking world that already adores her.

Jephté Gillaume

Guillaume is a Haitian-born DJ, bassist, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist from Brooklyn whose signature Haitian folk song infused house music was signed and promoted by the New York-based Spiritual Life Music brand.

His Tèt Kale sound combines acoustic grooves with electronica.


Hours and hours at the studio in the hopes of creating a new sound, one that was uncommon in the music industry at the time, the band found themselves putting on paper some profound, socially shared lyrics that encompassed the disorders of their native land. Instantly, Carimi became a household name.

They are known as one of the first younger generation digital bands to put out music that reflected upon the political pressures and the deteriorating security of Haiti. They had mass appeal to the Haitian diaspora who fled the country and through their allure lyrically, musically and sex appeal for the ladies, Carimi had thrived throughout the years.

Originated with 6, then had 9, before splitting up. They included:
Carlo Vieux: keyboard voice/leader
Richard Cavé: keyboard voice/leader
Michael Guirand: voice/leader
Glenny Benoit: bass guitar
Stanley Jean: tanbou
Jean-Marie: conga
Noldy Cadet: bass
Marc C. Widmack: conga
Alex Thebaud: percussion, voice

Boukman Eksperyans

Boukman Eksperyans is a mizik rasin band from the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The band derives its name from Dutty Boukman, a vodou priest who led a religious ceremony in 1791 that is widely considered the start of the Haitian Revolution. The other half of the band’s name, “Eksperyans”, is the Kréyòl word for “experience”, and was inspired by the band’s appreciation of the music of Jimi Hendrix. The band was at the height of its popularity in 1991 when the presidency of Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a military coup d’etat.

Like many other artists and performers, Boukman Eksperyans fled the country to live in exile. During their time abroad, the band performed and spoke out against the military dictatorship of Raoul Cédras. In 1994, after Aristide was restored to power, the band returned to Haiti, where they continued to play concerts, record albums, and perform at the Carnival celebrations.

Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean is a Haitian-American rapper and producer, known for his membership in the superstar hip hop trio The Fugees, and known now for a series of high-profile hit singles. Jean moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was nine, then to Northern New Jersey, where he began playing the guitar and studying jazz in his high school.

In August of 2010, Jean announced his intent to seek the presidency of Haiti. This move came after his increasingly high profile humanitarian work in the wake of the earthquake that devastated that nation.

Each month we will debunk different areas “Top Charters” so we can all become well versed, or even get introduced to something new to groove to.

If you have listened to any of the artists listed above, let us know how you felt about them. Do you have a favorite? What area in the Caribbean would you like to see featured next?

Top 5 Chart Toppers: Jamaica

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As people, though we may come from far and wide, our ability to express ourselves through music always remains the same. Everyone loves to groove to a rocking beat. It is the highlight of any party. Other than the food, people will always remember a gathering for its good rhythms that had (or didn’t have) the guests moving. This summer, we were blessed with some tunes that rocked the charts week after week. Now, we travel to Jamaica for this month’s rendition of “Top 5 Chart Toppers.”

1. Toast by Koffee

This vibrant new face of Jamaica has remained #1 on the charts all summer long. Her single, “Toast”, celebrates all of life’s blessings. Thanking God for the journey, its ups and downs and reminding those listening to remain humble once the success finally comes. It is a feel-good song that is very hard to not “buss a toast” to no matter where you are when it is heard.

2. Contra La Pared by J. Balvin, Sean Paul

We all know Sean Paul from his biggest hits “Get Busy”, “Temperature” and “I’m Still In Love With You”. The new face, J. Balvin, is a Colombian reggaeton recording artist. Along with “Contra La Paeed”, he has been featured on other popular songs such as Cardi B’s “I Like It”. Though the song may be a little hard to understand, because of his parts being in Spanish, the beat takes over your body almost forcing you to tap a toe, bop a head or rock a shoulder … and that Is at the very least.

3. Medication by Damian Marley, Stephen Marley

Imagine an old school beat with a new age feel and you have the formula to this hit. Damian Marley’s third album, “Stony Hill”, was released in 2017 and still holds a spot in Jamaica’s top 5 charted this summer. That alone should make you eager to tune in. In case you were unaware, Damian and Stephen are the children of the late Bob Marley. Some say Damian is the one who sounds most like his father. If you haven’t already, give this tune a listen and see if you agree.

4. Rapture (Remix) by Govana, Koffee

In this tune, Koffee and Govana are owning their talent and impact on the beat. “Koffee come in like a rapture”, wreaking havoc on the game of music that she has, what almost seems like overnight, dominated. She doesn’t forget to give back in any way she can, as pointed out several times by Govana. Though we love to whine and have our fun, it is nice to hear sensible lyrics that still make you want to dance all night, and that is exactly what the world gets from a tune like this.

5. Any Weather by Vybz Kartel

From day one, Vybz Kartel has not disappointed his fans. That is why his spot on the top 5 charts should not be a surprise. Kartel is known for his party anthems and we must make sure to add this new song to that long list. If you listen closely, it is in his intention to motivate those listening through the topic chosen. “All ghetto youth, get your money longer” and the words to follow in the chorus expresses the want for his people to make something better for themselves and we hope they all don’t take that suggestion lightly.

Each month we will debunk different areas “Top Charters” so we can all become well versed, or even get introduced to something new to groove to. If you listened to any of the songs listed above, let us know how you felt about them. Did you have a favorite? What area in the Caribbean would you all like to see featured next?

Island TV