Lakou Mizik: Bringing joy straight from Haiti
By Donte Kirby
Lakou Mizik is taking the traditional rhythms and spirit of Haiti across the United States to show the world Haiti’s resiliency and shed a positive light on the country. Los Afro-Latino’s journalist, Donte Kirby, caught up with the group on Sunday, April 23, 2017, before a performance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The multi-generational collective of musicians formed after the 2010 earthquake, by Steve Valcourt, Jonas Attis and Zach Niles. Lakou Mizik began when Attis and Valcourt went to displacement camps with a guitar and congo to bring joy to the residents through music. Upon meeting Zach Niles, the trio broadened their vision.
Niles’ documentary work with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars set the stage for what Lakou Mizik would become.
“I saw the ways that music could connect people in positive ways to places that only get negative news,” said Niles. Showing the culture of Haiti allows the country to persevere despite natural disasters and corrupt politicians.
The band re-imagines traditional Haitian folk or racine (roots) music.
“We started working with old songs and giving them new life,” said Niles.
Lakou Mizik’s debut album Wa Di Yo encompasses all the multitudes of rhythms and cultures that intertwine to make Haiti. Poly-rhythms originating from Africa, vodou spiritualism and folk song, coupled with the French accordion all mix together to create a sound rooted in the melting pot of Haiti.
“Everyone of us comes from different backgrounds and that gives a little pepper to what we do,” said Valcourt. “Which is bring the Haitian culture all around the world where we go.”
As a nine-piece ensemble, Lakou Mizik spans generations. There’s the father and son, Sanba Zao and Woulele who bring the traditional racine (roots) music. There’s Nadine Remy that comes from a Christian background and brings powerful feminine vocals to the predominantly male band. Accompanied by the joyous festival rhythms of Rara Cornet players Peterson “Ti Piti” Joseph and James Carrier.
The lyrics and vocals are in creole and the energy and rhythms of the band are universal. Lakou Mizik is about building cultural and generational bridges through music. In Haitian Creole, lakou has multiple meanings. It can mean “home,” or “backyard” or gathering place where people meet to sing and dance. Lakou can also be defined as “where you are from” and is filled with the spirit of ancestors born of the locale.
“It’s the soul, the positivity and vibe that goes through the songs,” said Valcourt. “Lakou Mizik is going to give you some joy straight from Haiti.”
As the band takes its second tour through the states, its members are excited to get back to Haiti and start production on their sophomore album. It will incorporate the rhythms and lessons they’ve learned traveling the world.
The band has begun melding racine music with EDM (Electronic Dance Music) in recent songs like Gaya with Michael Brun and J. Perry. The track takes the joy of a Caribbean festival and packs it inside a strobe light filled nightclub. Lakou Mizik is blending genres to bring racine to modern audiences.
“It’s one big thing,” said Valcourt about the popular music of the past, present and future. A young musician whose grown into the wisdom of an old soul, recognizing there’s nothing new under the sun. “You cannot separate the old tradition from the new generation.”
Visit crossroadsconcerts.org/lakou-mizik for more information about future events.