Haitian roots revival collective Lakou Mizik kicks off Bandwagon Summer Series

PUTNEY — Next Stage Arts brings Haitian roots revival collective Lakou Mizik to the Putney Inn, 57 Putney Landing Rd., on Friday, May 13, at 6 p.m., in the latest edition of its Bandwagon Summer Series.

“Lakou Mizik is an opportunity to introduce Haitain culture to our community,” Keith Marks, executive director of Next Stage Arts, said in a news release.

“So much of our media attention around Haiti neglects to inform us about the rich cultural traditions that exist,” Marks said. “This show is going to be about celebrating the unique rhythms and dance that happen in Haiti. We're proud to host them in southern Vermont."

Lakou Mizik is a multigenerational collective of Haitian musicians formed in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. A description on their website reads, “The group includes elder legends and rising young talents, united in a mission to honor the healing spirit of their culture and communicate a message of pride, strength, and hope to their countrymen and the world.”

The idea for the band reportedly began in 2010 in Port-au-Prince. “Haiti was still reeling from the earthquake, a cholera epidemic was raging, and a political crisis filled the streets with enough tire-burning ferocity to close the international airport,” according to the news release.

The earthquake brought together Steeve Valcourt, a guitarist and singer whose father is one of the country's iconic, well-known musicians; singer Jonas Attis; and U.S. producer Zach Niles.

Niles, who previously explored ways in which music could help play a role in recovery and empowering social change in Haiti, “wanted to use music and the story of musicians to create a deeper connection to the country than either the one-note negative press or the falsified hope-and-inspiration NGO stories that get pushed to the public.”

The three created what they describe as their own “musical A-Team, a powerhouse collective of singers, rara horn players, drummers, guitarists, and even an accordionist.”

“Over the next few years,” the news release continues, “the band honed their electrifying live show, presenting hours-long concerts that blended the soulful spirit of a church revival, the social engagement of a political rally, and the trance-inducing intoxication of a Vodou ritual.”

The band's 2016 debut album, Wa Di Yo, reflects the African, French, Caribbean, and U.S. influences that collide in Haiti.

According to the group's website, the seed for Lakou Mizik's 2019 second album, HaitiaNola, was planted in 2017, when the band was invited to play the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. “The music, the food, the architecture all reminded them of home. To this day, Haitian influences can be felt in the music of New Orleans.”

A year later, Lakou Mizik returned to Jazz Fest, with a focus was on a new album and musical collaborations, including The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, pianist Jon Cleary, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Haitian-American singer/songwriter Leyla McCalla on cello, guitar maestro Raja Kassis (Antibalas), and The Soul Rebels brass band.

Eric Heigle and Jon Cleary traveled to Haiti to record with Lakou Mizik at the Artists Institute in Jacmel, followed by sessions with Cyril Neville, Trombone Shorty, Anders Osborne, Tarriona “Tank” Ball from Tank and the Bangas, among others.

This “collaborative gumbo,” according to the news release, resulted in the 2019 album HaitiaNola.

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