Every year my son Wyatt and I are privileged to attend the aptly named Blissfest Festival of Roots and Traditional Music in northern Michigan. Since I really want to avoid hyperbole, I’ll just say that Blissfest is the very best thing in the world. It was at Blissfest last month that we first heard the jpyous music of Haitian band Lakou Mizik. Lakou Mizik was just one of several highlights from the festival. But among the highlights, they had by far the most compelling story.
They were formed in 2010 by guitarist and singer Steeve Valcourt, singer Jonas Attis and American producer Zach Niles after Haiti had just experienced a devastating earthquake, and was in the midst of a cholera epidemic and huge political crisis. The three decided that Haiti’s musical culture could be instrumental in stemming the country’s misery. So they assembled Lakou Mizik, a Haitian music dream team consisting of legendary musicians and rising young talent.
Lakou Mizik spent their first few years in Haiti honing their electrifying live show. When ready they headed to the studio to record Wa Di Yo. The music reflects the African, French and Carribean influences that converge in Haiti. The nine piece band features multiple percussionists with a lead accordion, electric guitar and multiple singers. It also features rara horns, seemingly primitive horns played by multiple members of the band as an ensemble. The result is a soulful stew that prohibits you from sitting still. Dancing is mandatory.
Lakou Mizik tells their own story in this wonderful Video
Currently they are touring North America with the goal of building bridges and raising awareness of Haitian culture. Wyatt and I were blown away by their joyous live show. They are wonderful musicians who play with genuine purpose. The audiences at Blissfest were exuberant and the band fed directly from the audience’s enthusiasm. But despite the wonderful shows though, I did not have high expectations for the album. Often I’m knocked out by the live performances of world music bands only to find the albums lackluster and tame. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Wa Di Yo. Not only does it capture the energy of the live show, but it also documents a great studio band recording great songs. I’d love it even if I had never seen them live. It’s an album that I’ll keep coming back to. Check it out. And catch them live if you can.