Vodou Horn

by Paul Austerlitz

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about

Marasa Twa / Magic Triplets

This album is part of a trilogy called Marasa Twa: Vodou-Jazz-Merengue. In the spiritual traditions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Marasa Twa are magical triplets who manifest divine mysteries. The three offerings, The Vodou Horn, Water Prayers, and Dr. Merengue, present jazz fused with music I have studied as an ethnomusicologist.

I am privileged to have spent my life studying world music cultures. At the same time, I have plunged the depths as a musician and as a seeker of life’s meanings. Wedding my artistic and spiritual paths with scholarly research, these albums are the fruit of my sojourn as a musician-scholar. They focus on my principal instrument, the bass clarinet, and on the music and spirituality of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The trilogy calls upon wisdom generously bestowed upon me by my friends and musical collaborators. I am deeply indebted to, and feel great love for, all those who so warmly welcomed me into their rich worlds of African-based creativity. Considering that these traditions developed as responses to the vicissitudes slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism, my involvement in them necessitates prodigious soul-searching. What is my contribution, as a white man, to these music cultures? Unlike conventional research aiming for unbiased reportage, and unlike “world music” projects focused solely on personal expression, my involvement with African-based cultures is motivated by mystical needs, creative needs, and activism. My hope is that these musical offerings will contribute, in some small way, to propagating the transcendent vision that has long fueled the ongoing struggle for social justice from which these traditions emerged.

The Vodou Horn: Asakivle Meets Austeritz

Franck Desire founded the Asakivle drumming and singing group, which plays traditional ritual rhythms in concert settings. I met them in 2010, and we played together few times over the years. The word Asakivle means that “everyone is welcome.” This is apt, because the band has a warm spirit. I have always loved Haitian music and was elated to encounter a group of drummers and singers with whom I felt such synergy! Franck told me that the symbiotic feeling was mutual, so we decided to make an album. This offering combines traditional Vodou songs with jazz and rock. After recording live in a studio in Haiti, I worked in Brooklyn, NY with recording engineer / bassist Chico Boyer and guitarist Monvelyno to forge the finished product. Chico is a major figure of Haitian music in his own right, and we are fortunate that he joined this journey. Franck recorded three additional tunes with singer Melissa Gresseau.

Haitian religious songs present great wisdom; they constitute a kind of “Bible” of spiritual teachings. Hoping to share the wisdom, Franck and I decided to translate the songs. This proved easier said than done, because Haitian religious songs employ rich metaphors and multiple meanings to such a great extent that rendering them in foreign languages is difficult, and sometimes, impossible. Complicating matters further is the fact that they employ langaj, archaic forms of Haitian Creole consisting of African words that are no longer in use. For this reason, not all the album’s songs are translated. Like all spiritual “texts,” Haitian religious are subject to rich hermeneutics, to varied interpretations. Our English renderings are based on interpretations offered by Franck Desire.
Franck L. Desire
A native of Haiti, Franck Desire was raised and educated in Port-au-Prince. He left Haiti at age nineteen and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. He then moved to the U.S., where he dedicated himself to working with community development programs, for example, assisting Haitian children integrate into the American school system. He also co-founded Exchange of Hope, a program connecting American and Haitian schools. Raised as a Catholic, Mr. Desire embarked on a journey of personal discovery in the ways of life as discovered through the rich traditions of Vodou. He founded Asakivle, a Haitian dance and drumming troupe with members in Haiti and the United States. They perform traditional Haitian roots music in schools and universities, educating people about Vodou. Notably, Asakivle participated in the acclaimed Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou exhibitions in Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore and Detroit.
Dr. Paul Austerlitz

Dr. Paul Austerlitz is Coordinator of Jazz and Professor of Music and Africana Studies at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music, Gettysburg College. He combines his creative work as a musician with ethnomusicological research on Afro-Caribbean music. Austerlitz is especially active in blending the music of the Dominican Republic and Haiti with jazz, and in initiatives using music in the struggle for social justice. As an instrumentalist, Austerlitz has dedicated himself to mastering the bass and contrabass clarinets. He also plays Bb (soprano) clarinet, tenor saxophone, and flute. He has performed with musicians such as Ed Blackwell, Doc Cheatham, David Murray, Don Byron, Jimmy Knepper, and Julius Hemphill. Dr. Austerlitz has completed composing residencies at the Yaddo and Omi artist colonies, received grants from the Macoll Johnston Foundation and the American Composers' Forum (among others), and worked with the U.S. Department of State and grassroots community organizations in projects using multi-cultural music to foster social change in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Austerlitz is the author of Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race, and Humanity (2006, Wesleyan University Press), and Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican Identity (1997, Temple University Press). Jazz Consciousness was awarded the Merriam Award for Outstanding Book in Ethnomusicology by the Society for Ethnomusicology and an Honorable Mention for the Woody Guthrie Award by the International Society for the Study of Popular Music.


Paul Austerlitz
Gettysburg, PA, 2018

credits

released August 5, 2019

Musicians
Paul Austerlitz: Electronic Bass Clarinet and Tenor Saxophone
Franck Desire: Director of Asakivle, Voice, and Percussion
Chico Boyer: Bass
Monvelyno: Guitar
Fritzner Calixte: Voice and Percussion
Miseau Charles: Voice and Percussion
Elda Brunache: Voice and Percussion
Jerome Simeon: Voice and Percussion
Jean Marie Louissaint: Voice and Percussion
Melissa Gresseau, Voice

Recorded in Haiti by Jonathan Fallet and Gregory Forbes and in New York City by Chico Boyer. Mixed in New York City by Chico Boyer. Mastered by G and J Audio.

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Track Name: Gade Yon Rara
Gade yon rara,
Sent Andre, gade yon rara, oh!
Gade yon rara,
Sent Andre, gade yon rara, oh!

Lè m tande, m monte decann,
Lè m tande, m monte decann, m’ale, woo!

Lera wo, Lera wo,
Lera wo, Lera wo,
Sekan soti’m sa-a pou’m bay maman mitit mwen
Pa gen lajan ankò pou’m ba Lera manje, woo!

Look at that rara,
St. Andrew, look at that rara, oh!
Look at that rara,
St. Andrew, look at that rara, oh!

When I heard it,
I took off on my bicycle, following it!

Oh Lera, oh Lera!
When I left, I gave money to my child’s mother;
I don’t have any left to give Lera.
Track Name: Zaka's Wedding
Papa da-da-da-da-da-da daa,
Pappa dappa da-daa!
Papa da-da-da-da-da-da daa,
Pappa dappa da-daa!

Zaka k’ ap marye la!
Zaka k’ ap marye la!
Ogun ki paren,
Zili ki maren,
Zaka k’ ap marye la!

Papa da-da-da-da-da-da daa,
Pappa dappa da-daa!
Papa da-da-da-da-da-da daa,
Pappa dappa da-daa!

Zaka is getting married!
Ogun is the Godfather,
Erzili is the Godmother.
Zaka is getting married!
Track Name: Lamesi
Lamesi”
(Traditional; Dahome rhythm)

Men Lamèsi mande wèmen wanyoleee
Granmèsi wèmensi mentò wanyole manyèmen.
Track Name: Latibonit yo
“Latibonit”
(Traditional, from the Artibonite region)

Latibonit, oh,
Yo voye rele mwen, yo di m Soley malad!
Latibonit, oh,
Yo voye rele mwen, yo di m Soley malad!

Lè mwen rive mwen jwem Soley couche!
Lè mwen parèt mwen jwem Soley mouri, wo!
Sa se dè regrè, wo,
Pou’m antere Soley.

Oh, L’Artibonite,
They called me and said Soley is sick!
Oh, L’Artibonite,
They called me and said Soley is sick!

When I arrived, Soley was lying down,
When I got there, Soley was dead.
It is awful, oh,
For me to bury Soley.
Track Name: Carolyn and the Mermaid
“Carolyn and the Mermaid”
(Traditional; Kongo rhythm)

Karolin Akawo

Karolin Akawo, danse Kongo jis kò’m fè’m mal, oh!
Karolin Akawo, danse Kongo jis kò’m fè’m mal, oh!
Danse kongo, m’laye Kongo
Danse kongo, m’laye Kongo
Karolinn Akawo nèg nwè ti zorèy anraje

Lasirèn

Lasirèn, Labalèn,
Chapo'm tonbe nan la me.
Map fe kares pou Lasirèn,
Chapo'm tonbe nan la me
Map fe lanmou pou Labalèn,
Chapo'm tonbe nan la me.

Carolyn Akawo

Carolyn Akawo, I dance the Congo rhythm until my body aches!
Carolyn Akawo, I dance the Congo rhythm until my body aches!
I dance the Kongo, I show off with the Kongo!
I dance the Kongo, I show off with the Kongo!
Carolyn Akawo, the man with small ears looks enraged!

The Mermaid

The Mermaid, the Whale!
My hat fell in the sea!
I caressed the Mermaid,
And my hat fell in the sea!
I made love with the Whale,
And my hat fell in the sea!
Track Name: Sè Manbo
“Se Manbo”
(Traditional from Soucri)

Sè Manbo, Sè Manbo, Sè Manbo
Sè Manba sa-a!
Jou m ankòlè m konnen sa k fanmi mwen!

Sister Manbo, Sister Manbo, Sister Manbo,
This Sister Manbo!
When I am trouble, I found out who is family!

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