Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of Haiti

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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson

Haiti might be one of the poorest countries in the world, having barely survived the brutal regimes of Papa Doc Duvalier and his son, Baby Doc, but it still produces some remarkable music, as this compilation, intelligently put together by BBC DJ Andy Kershaw, shows. While there are plenty of the native compas grooves (a kind of slowed-down Dominican merengue that remains eminently danceable), ranging from the Mini All Stars to the smoother sound of Mizik Mizik and Tabou Combo, plenty of varying Haitian styles are represented, whether it's the swinging big band of Orchestre Tropicana; the punk/traditional fusion of Ram; the Fugees-influenced rap of Masters of Haiti, who sound superb on "Ti Chans"; the Cuban connection of Haitando; or the zouk-soukous freedom of DP Express, which links Haiti directly with the recent music of West Africa, and has the added bonus of fabulous guitar and sax solos, and some very sophisticated arranging on the tune. Those links run deep, though, and Boukman Eksperyans explore them on "Baron," in their racine style, with its strong voudou elements. Issa El Saieh et Son Orchestre and Super Jazz des Jeunes help represent the older contingent, while the wonderfully raw Ti Coca & Wanga Negess give a version of the unofficial Haitian anthem, "Ayiti Cherie." A fascinating look at some of the best music in the Caribbean.

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