Lakou Mizik: HaitiaNola

April 21, 2020

Home Away from Home

Listening Post 249. Iko Iko is a much-covered song about the collision of two Mardi Gras Indian tribes. On their second album, the Haitian ensemble Lakou Mizik reworks it as Iko Kreyòl, leaving the cryptic chorus intact but applying new verses about pride in the Creole heritage that stamped both New Orleans and their own land (video 1). It’s part of an electrifying collaboration between the acclaimed roots band and an illustrious roster of Big Easy musicians, exploring their common origins. Lakou Mizik formed after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake to project a positive national image through music. After their first album the group was invited to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival—a trip that became a pilgrimage as group members found reminders of home in the local music, food and architecture. That recognition was the spark for HaitiaNola (Haiti to NOLA), honoring a connection that runs deep: After the Haitian Revolution began in 1791 its refugees—slaves, free people of color, French settlers—flooded New Orleans, doubling its population and forever changing the cultural landscape. The 14-track collection is a reblending, as twoubadou, rara horns and vodou themes meet zydeco, soul, Cajun and Dixieland sounds. The album radiates joy, the American cousins exploring Haiti as much as the reverse. In Renmen (Love), Charlie Gabriel and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band blow Mardi Gras into Kanaval (video 2); and in Pistach Griye (Grilled Peanuts), Trombone Shorty joins Caribbean brass in an ode to simple pleasures (video 3). Leyla McCalla’s dulcet voice and plucked cello swathe Rasanbleman (Come Together) in the spirit of a work party—the Haitian equivalent of communal barn-raising—also reflecting an ethic of shared response to scourges from quakes and hurricanes to poverty and exploitation (video 4). The celebration and discovery are nonstop, and though Iko Kreyòl rejuvenates one iconic song, on HaitiaNola it’s just the tip of a musical monument. (Cumbancha)

Lakou Mizik: HaitiaNola
Louis Lesly Marcelin (aka Sanba Zao): Lead vocals, tanbour, percussion, guitar
Steeve Valcourt: Lead vocals, guitar
Jonas Attis: Lead vocals
Nadine Remy: Lead vocals
Junior Lamarre: Bass, chorus
Peterson Joseph (aka Tipiti): Drums, rara horns, chorus
James Carrier: Percussion, rara horns
Beniste Belony: Accordion, chorus
Saïda Bellamour: Chorus
Samuel Priviose: Chorus
(“Lakou” is the Haitian concept of “home,” embracing meanings from backyard, to gathering place, to the dwelling shared by the living and the spirits of their ancestors)

Guest artists: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, Jon Cleary, 79rs Gang, Ashton Hines, King James, Daryl Johnson, Raja Kassis, Damas Fanfan Louis, Leyla McCalla, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Jeremy Phipps, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Soul Rebels, Logan Schutts, Daniel Tremblay

Related post. Lakou Mizik: Wa Di Yo, Listening Post 57, July 24, 2016

Lakou Mizik: Wa Di Yo


Iko Kreyòl (feat. Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 79rs Gang)
Traditional, Steeve Valcourt, Romeo R Bougere, Jermain June Cooper, Eric Briggs Heigle

(From the lyrics in Haitian Creole and English)
My culture is my identity, from Haiti to NOLA/
Spirits of Congo, we are brothers and sisters
We’re ready for all that is against us, stand firm and tell them we’re here/The drum beats and the roots entwine, we are Creole

Hey now, hey now Iko iko an day
Jockomo feenah ah na nay Jockomo feena nay*               

We are united in music, represented by our flags/Whichever road we take we are going to eventually meet
When we play the rara cornet we harmonize with trumpets and trombones/Proving that we’re family, we are Creole

Hey now, hey now Iko iko an day
Jockomo feenah ah na nay Jockomo feena nay                 

Said I’m Louisiana Creole, and they Haitian Kreyòl/From New Orleans to Jacmel, said the band be raisin’ hell
Hey, hey, Mama, say nobody don’t worry/Big Chief tell the story of the morning glory

When I go to Treme or walk down St. Bernard/I see how we look the same, and I think about our history
My godmother and my godfather sitting in the backyard/My godfather says to my godmother, that he loves this song… singing!

Hey now, hey now Iko iko an day
Jockomo feenah ah na nay Jockomo feena nay       

My face painted red, on a Mardi Gras Day/Spy on the corner, do whatcha wanna
Say Lord, have mercy, gonna kill em’ in the worst way/Way downtown, no turnaround

* Only the broadest consensus exists on the meaning of the original Iko Iko chorus—that it is affirmative and celebratory. The origin is variously attributed to Haiti, West Africa or an Indigenous American culture. One proposed translation (among others):
“Hey now! Hey now! [Ena! Ena!]
Listen, listen at the back
All our love made our king be born
All our love made it happen”


Renmen / Love (feat. Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
Jonas Attis, Steeve Valcourt

(From the Haitian Creole lyrics)
I love to smile, I love life, I love feeling good/
I love beautiful water and beautiful trees that flower
I love nature from the smallest to biggest/I love all that my eyes can see and my heart won’t turn back

God gives you a heart so you can love, so let it love/Let yourself go, let it take you, it won’t lead you astray
We are the salt of the earth, you are close to me, we are neighbors/The same way I love, you can love, come on let’s love

Haiti is Nago, Haiti is Congo
Hey la, coconuts, avocados and cassava bread, sugared cakes

Everything makes more sense with a little silence/I love prudence, a powerful lyric or a poetic phrase, I love music
Respect, wisdom, humility, that’s my compass/I love all that stays positive and love to find my own vibe

I say, ayy Haiti is Creole, Haiti is working together, Haiti is my symbol
Haiti is my magic, rolled coconuts/Hey la, avocados and cassava bread, sugared cakes

Hey la, Haiti is my pride, Haiti is my treasure/Hey la, Haiti is my strength, Haiti is my home
Hey la, rolled coconut, avocados and cassava bread/Hey la, sugared cakes, rolled coconuts


Pistach Griye / Grilled Peanuts (feat. Trombone Shorty)
Jonas Attis

Last night I awoke and started to think about/All the little pleasures of life in Haiti
Despite all the problems, Haiti is a diamond/A beautiful history that they want to trap in a drawer
You show your face even when you’ve taken a hit

They tell you threats that you take and never give back/Haiti, honestly you are a marvel
Haiti, country in the sun/Haiti, truly you have no equal
I love you so much, dearest mother/I carry you in my heart

Roasted peanuts seller, give me a little taste just to see if they’re salted/Roasting coffee, porridge, hot chocolate, millet
We’re gonna eat/Barbequed breadfruit, white rice and vegetable stew

A bit of sweet fudge, we’re gonna eat/How you doing?
I’m going to Blue Basin/How you doing?
I’m going to climb Mount Makaya/How you doing?
I’m going to the Citadel/How you doing?
I’m going to Jeremie/What’s up Brother?
We’re here, yeah!/What’s going on, my family?
We’re here, yeah!/What’s up little ones?
We’re here, yeah!/Jeremie! Jacmel, Cap Haitian, Côte de Fer – we’re proud!
My Haiti!/My culture!
My country!/My history – we’re proud!
We’re proud because we’re Haitian!/How you doing?

I’m going to St. Michel/I’m going to Mirebellais
How you doing?
I’m going to La Vallée/
I’m going to Aux Cayes


Rasanbleman / Come Together (feat. Leyla McCalla)
Steeve Valcourt

I watch as the sun rises/Under this tent it’s hot like a fire
I’m living in a wasteland/Nothing I plant will ever grow
Everything is blocked and now a storm is coming/The wind destroys houses
And all the people are starving/There’s a lot of talk out there
They are saying the end of the world is near/These things break our hearts and make our better angels turn upside down

It’s time we break the chains that made us forget/That you and I (we all) are family
It’s time we find that strength that gave us our freedom/When it happens we’ll understand again who we are

We are Haitian/I hear voices singing
I see tears in the eyes of children/I hear souls that are in revolt, freedom is written in their eyes

Prepare your pick, your hoe, your field blades
Let’s come together/The time has come
Tie up your pants (woman), pull on your pants (man), work bag on your back
The sun is going down, the work starts now/I can’t count the miseries we’ve endured
But I know that God exists/So as long as I’ve still got my head, I’ll wear a hat of hope
Haitians must stand strong, our time will come soon



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