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Lakou Mizik Channels The Resiliency Of Their Home Haiti In New Album


The band Lakou Mizik embodies some of the resilience of Haitians, who've endured decades of political turmoil and natural disasters, including, of course, the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. The band was formed in response to that quake, from which Haiti has still not recovered. The nine bandmates of Lakou Mizik now have a new album. And they hope that it might heal and teach others about their home country. It's called "Leave The Bones."


LAKOU MIZIK: (Singing in non-English language).

SIMON: And we're joined now by Steeve Valcourt in Haiti, who's one of Lakou Mizik's band members. Thanks so much for being with us.

STEEVE VALCOURT: Thank you very much. We're happy to be here. And on the name of Lakou Mizik in Haiti, I salute you.

SIMON: Oh, well, thank you. Also, Joseph Ray, Grammy Award-winning electronic musician - he collaborated on "Leave The Bones." Mr. Ray, thank you for being with us.

JOESEPH RAY: Yeah. Thanks so much for having us on here.

SIMON: How did you meet Steeve Valcourt and hear this amazing music?

RAY: So I had a friend who was working in Haiti. And I decided to go and travel. And I found myself in a town called Jacmel, which is on the south coast, and just drove past this school with a sign saying audio institute. And I was like, well, what's that? And it turns out to be amazing audio production and engineering school. And it turned out Steeve was a teacher there. And we got talking. And he invited me to a show at this little beach club. And so I went along, drank a little bit of rum and was blown away by the music.

SIMON: And let's introduce Lakou Mizik's music. Let's listen to one of the songs, "Bade Zile."


LAKOU MIZIK: (Singing in non-English language).

SIMON: Wow, what a song. And, Mr. Valcourt, this is a Vodou spiritual song, isn't it?

VALCOURT: Yes. "Bade Zile" is a Vodou song that they perform in a ceremony, like, authentic ceremony.

SIMON: But we hear electronic...


SIMON: ...Stuff, if I might put it that way, mixed up in there, too, don't we?

VALCOURT: Yeah. Yeah, that's where it's beautiful. It's where, like, we never thought that we could mix all that, which is the Vodou side of Haiti and then the electronic side of the world music.


LAKOU MIZIK: (Singing in non-English language).

SIMON: Has anybody said to you, wait a minute. That's a spiritual song. You shouldn't be dragging electronics in there?

VALCOURT: I mean, in my side, at a certain point, I was the one thinking about - no, this is not going to happen because of this. But Lakou Mizik is known as bringing new generation to the old traditional song of Haiti. So when we get that project, since we already worked on this, we know how to touch it to not disturb the spirituality on the song.

So our first song that we made in Lakou Mizik was "Peze Kafe." And, you know, we would had to go to the tribe, to the Lakous and say, so this is what we did to it. How you like it? And did we not destroy the song and everything? But now, since we have the feeling of it, the hang of it - and then we understand that there is no walls between artistic and music and culture. So we starting to put down the walls and connect some bridges, and then there it is.

SIMON: Yeah. Mr. Valcourt, let's listen to another song, if we could please - "Oguo."


LAKOU MIZIK: (Singing in non-English language).

SIMON: It's so beautiful. And Ogou, I'm told, is the Vodou spirit of iron and war. Is that correct?

VALCOURT: Yes, it's correct. It's the spirit that goes to war and that protect. And it's the spirit of fire and iron, fear (ph).

SIMON: Do you feel this is a spirit Haiti could use now?

VALCOURT: We've been always using it since day one, since we got here. I mean, it's a day-to-day spirit that's always with every Haitian and every people that - here on Haiti, because, as you know, Haiti is a struggling country. Like, every day, we're facing different things, different challenge and different problems. And I think when you talk to someone in Haiti and you say, (speaking non-English language) because the signature would be (speaking non-English language). So (speaking non-English language). Everybody like, yes, this is the spirit that help us going through. I think it's the "Ogou" that's my best - my favorite song because it says a lot. It tells a lot between generation. And the phrases (speaking non-English language), meaning that, Ogou, you led us here, and you have - you're taking care of us.


LAKOU MIZIK: (Singing in non-English language).

SIMON: Joseph Ray, what do you hope people in Haiti who hear the music and people outside of Haiti who hear the music will take away from it?

RAY: Well, for me, these songs - I found out, you know, they're centuries old. And, you know, I didn't understand myself where they came from at first. And it's been this learning process of, you know, what the lyrics refer to and what the spirits are and how that's used in traditions. But when I think about people outside Haiti listening to it, I don't think it matters if you don't understand the lyrics and don't understand perfectly the tradition. But the spirit's there. And to think about people now dancing to these songs that have been danced to for centuries is pretty amazing, I think.


LAKOU MIZIK: (Speaking non-English language).

SIMON: Steeve Valcourt - he's one of the bandmates of Lakou Mizik in Haiti - and collaborator Joseph Ray. Their new album - "Leave The Bones." Thank you both so much for being with us.

VALCOURT: Thank you very much.

RAY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SONG) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.