Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gamma Express - Vol. 6 - Têt Colé

Along with the cumbia that developed along the Caribbean rim of Colombia, Haiti's konpa is one of the most infectious dance musics to evolve in the African diaspora. Gamma Express was one of the leading bands in Haiti during the 1980s, led by Pierrot Kersaint. It is incredible that such joyous music would emerge from a country plagued with oppression and grinding poverty; but looking around the world, perhaps it is not unusual.

The title track, Têt Colé, has it all. It begins with half a minute of schmaltzy introduction before the vocal ensemble erupts and percussion and guitars set up an irresistible rhythm. Then horns enter, along with occasionally improvising synthesizer, ramping up the energy, and in steps lead singer Benito D'Haiti. Half-way through the eight-and-a-half minute song, the synth sets up a break; the rhythms resume, and a women's chorus drops in like a swinging Andrews sisters. Sweet!

All but one of the five songs on this album follow that winning formula, although lamentably the women sing on only two songs. The last song, though perhaps sweet for those in the know (or the family), reminds me of karaoke in a dive bar, and I apologize for not being fastidious in removing the pops and cracks. I just could not bear to listen to it more than once, and in fact removed it from my iTunes library. The rest of the songs are keepers; in fact I have been listening to them a lot recently.