The upcoming performances sponsored by Haiti Cultural Exchange as part of their summer music program will be on July 19 with BeLO on acoustic guitar playing his signature “Ragganga”—combining reggae, jazz, rock, worldbeat and “rara.”
Local singer Obed Jean-Louis will open the evening that will also include an intimate conversation with BeLO. The venue: The Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitewell Pl. –1st & Carroll St. Park Slope, Brooklyn, 6:00 p.m.
This is the second in HCX’s Mizik Ayiti (Music Haiti) series that kicked off mid-June with “son of a Boukman” Paul Beaubrun and Zing Experience at Putnam Plaza on Fulton Street.
In 2004, the turmoil in Haiti disrupted the school calendar and Paul Beaubrun, found himself in the U.S. finishing the school year. He graduated from Prospect Heights High School.
The youngest of four children of Manze and Lola Beaubrun, founding members of the esteemed racine (roots) band Boukman Eksperyans, Paul grew up in the band’s sphere. It was “like going to music school,” he says, while naming all of the musicians in that circle he was exposed to: Eddy Francois, Bonga, and Zilibo.
Internationally performing and Grammy nominated Boukman Eksperyans was one of the early bands that mixed traditional vodou songs and rhythms with rock music. The band also incorporates folk melodies into their repertoire in addition to original music with very political lyrics. (The band fled the country in the early 90s because of their political stand.) So much of their songs are “classics” for Haitians that when the band is performing the audience sings all the lyrics.
Paul, who is the image of his father – like turning the clock back 30 years – said, “I think I really look like him and we have similar personalities and similarities in how we see life spiritually. My dad is my hero, I really look up to him.”
He doesn’t leave out his mom. “My mom is everything, she’s the backbone and conscience of the family. “
That being said, the father and son each have their own generation’s musical inspirations. Paul reflects, ”I’ve learned a lot from them and I’ve learned a lot without them.” Adding, “I love the blues, reggae, too, and roots. It’s all African, so it’s easy. You eat rice, white rice, yellow rice, and red rice. It all rice.”
Paul founded Zing Experience with his wife, dancer Cynthia Casasola who he met at an Schomburg Library event. The band debuted in 2006 and since has performed internationally.
In 2011, Paul and Cynthia were artists-in-residence in Montreal, sponsored by UNESCO-Aschberg Bursaries–a program to promote creation among young artists from developing countries and Montreal creators. For three months, the family, which includes Kai (son, now four) and Keila (daughter, now two), lived in an artist’s compound collaborating with local musicians. Their stay culminated when Zing Experience headlined the May 2011 Musique Multi Montreal festival.
On June 21, under a brutal sun in Brooklyn– one of the hottest days of the year, Zing Experience: Paul Beaubrun on guitar and voice, Cynthia Casasola (song and stylized dance), and Peter Barr on drums, performed at Putnam Plaza on Fulton St.
Neighbors, friends of HCX, and fans of the band sought shade, while enjoying the Haitian roots, reggae, and rock sounds, dancing when the air began to cool. “This feels like Haiti,” a hydrating audience member remarked as the heat glimmered off the pavement.
Ignoring the heat, Regine Roumain, stalwart director of Haiti Cultural Exchange joyfully led line dances with the children. “We can’t predict the weather,” she said, philosophically.
Zing is working on a CD that will come out later this year.