Compiled by Hugo Mendez of Sofrito (out January 27th, Strut). Free download of a tune below...
"Strut presents Haiti Direct, one of the first internationally available in-depth explorations of the vibrant and varied colours of Haiti’s music from the early ‘60s to the late ‘70s.
Haiti Direct celebrates the overlooked musical legacy of Haiti, going beyond Ra-ra and voodoo stereotypes to trace the development of a unique sound that echoed across the Caribbean.
At the dawn of the '60s, as Jamaica twisted American R’n’B into ska and reggae, and musicians from Cuba and Puerto Rico codified the sound of Salsa, Haiti gave birth to Compas Direct, an updating of the traditional Meringue rhythm, adapted with a new swing and complex arrangements.
The driving sound and irresistible beat of Compas swiftly dominated the French-speaking Caribbean as well as taking root in the urban centres of New York, Paris, Montreal and Miami.
As the decade waned, the big band orchestras of Compas-originator Nemours Jean-Baptiste and musical rival Webert Sicot gave way to new, smaller groups like Shleu Shleu and Les Frères Déjean. Raw electric guitars, wailing sax lines and driving percussion combined as the groups blended local rhythms with rock and jazz influences, producing a raucous, punchy and densely textured sound that paved the way for the next decade.
Into the ‘70s, the Mini-jazz sound had become a major force across the Caribbean and into mainland Europe and South America. Tabou Combo filled New York’s Central Park for a Summer concert and topped the charts in France, bringing the sound of Compas to a new and wider audience. They would eventually form one of the cornerstones of the Zouk wave in the '80s.
Compiled by Hugo Mendez, co-founder of the excellent Sofritolabel and sound system, Haiti Direct features classic material from the early days of groups such as Tabou Combo and LesFrères Déjean as well as rarities from lesser known groups - bringing together the sound of Compas with Latin workouts, psychedelic experiments and the Cuban influenced Twoubadou singers that continued to be a key part of the fabric of Haitian musical life.
Featuring in-depth liner notes and interviews with some of the musicians and producers that shaped the sound, Haiti Direct is one of the first widely available compilations to celebrate the unique and innovative sounds of Haiti in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Haiti Direct will be available on 2CD, 2LP and digital formats. Part of the profits will be donated to the charity Partners In Health."