How do we view Haiti? This is an important question of our time, as it reflects how we view Africans, African Americans, and our true understanding of the history of slavery.
Haiti is the one. The only successful African slave rebellion in history. A nation with a view from outside direct systemic oppression. Yet Haiti has paid a steep price for their freedom: isolation, boycott, and constant media bias from colonial nations. The persistent media categorization of Haiti as an impoverished third world nation extends far beyond economics. It is the lens we have been told to use.
How does a culture become accustomed to owning people for their own economic advantage? Think of it, what is the reason for slavery? Economic advantage. We live in a world where economic advantage is celebrated, honored, and explained away as a basic human right.
Conversely, how does a nation exist and evolve as a free society under the duress of punishment from other countries? One would expect the response to be an adaptation of the culture, a fierce and equal response to oppression. But that is not what is coming from Haiti. What comes is a natural expression of the human condition - the enduring desire for LOVE, for respect of other humans, and the desire to spread that love for all to hear and feel.
Paul Beaubrun grew up immersed in music; his family formed Boukman Eksperyans, a mizik rasin band from Port-au-Prince. The band name is derived from Dutty Boukman, who is credited as the starting point for the Haitian Revolution in 1791, and from the English word ‘Experience’, which is a direct reference to Jimi Hendrix. The family was forever tied to the political upheaval in Haiti, and though they were forced in exile and subsequently returned to Haiti, they ultimately evolved to find a non-partisan stance that reflected the people, rather than a political ideology or leader.
As a teen, Paul was playing ball in Port-au-Prince and heard his mother on the radio, calling out to warn him of danger at their door. With the help of a friend he fled and made his way to New York. Here he honed his craft, but most importantly he carried his Haitian perspective forward – eager to learn, fascinated by the city swirling around him, Paul stepped forward with positive energy and embraced all things.
The movement of Africans to the western hemisphere was forced, and the music was often removed from the people. But the spirit was never lost, and soon the music was advancing the path – from Haiti to New Orleans, from New Orleans to Chicago and New York, from the US to London - African influences spread and mixed with local culture to create new forms and genres. Over time the power of this force revealed itself in new ways as these genres circled back to the islands and again formed new styles: Reggae and Mizik Rasin. Like Reggae, mizik rasin is old culture blended with new, imported sound. As the blues hit Haiti in the form of Rock music, Boukman Eksperyans advanced this new, blended sound. And now, Paul Beaubrun brings his perspective and carries the music back out to the world with ease – collaborating at every turn to learn new things, but also to connect through love and music. His positive view of humanity as a shining light is infectious, we all know it to be true despite the pain of history. We all need to believe, and Paul is a great ambassador of our hopes and dreams.
And so the music moves from the source to the people - the music is the language of natural human condition channeled to those who have a distorted view, to save them from their misconceptions. The greatest messengers know that they are simply messengers - unlike western idolization of talent - they realize the source is within them and without, and they seek the source and cast their particular style to translate the message for the masses.
Paul Beaubrun knows these things - he seeks to conquer the world with gentleness, with music. There is little need to dissect the message or the music - it is simple and it is indisputable. This is a human carrying the message of peace and beauty. The best way to describe this wondrous process is with the word Blessings – which is naturally the title of Paul’s album - Ayibobo
Lead Vocal, guitar, bass, percussion and synth - Paul Beaubrun
Haitian drums (tanbou), percussion and kòne - Morgan Zwerlein
Drums - Aubrey Dayle
Bass - Brad Cheeseman
Vocal, Violon - Yilian Cañizares
Percussion, Synth - Justin Meli
Bass - Ian De Souza
All songs are written and produced by Paul Beaubrun Except Love Sick and Remember co-written with Jahir Saddler
Mixed by Justin Meli / Mastered by Dale Russell