|Cultural origins||Mid 1950s, Haiti|
|Typical instruments||Tanbou, conga, cowbell, guitars, keyboards, horn section, bass, drum, synthesizer|
|Derivative forms||Cadence rampa, zouk, cadence-lypso, champeta, coladeira, kizomba, kuduro, soca, reggaeton|
|Haiti, French West Indies, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, France, Africa, Panama, Cape Verde, South America, North America, Portugal, Angola, Brazil|
|Music of Haiti|
|Media and performance|
|Music awards||Haitian Music Award|
|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
|National anthem||La Dessalinienne|
Compas (also known as compas direct in French, or konpa dirèk in Creole or simply konpa) is a modern méringue, the national music genre of Haiti that people have been dancing and singing since the 1800s. Popularized by Haitian sax and guitar player Nemours Jean-Baptiste in 1955, compas is the main music of many countries such as Dominica and the French Antilles, etc. Whether it is incorrectly called zouk where French Antilles artists of Martinique and Guadeloupe have taken it or compas in places where Haitian artists have toured, this méringue style is very influential in the Caribbean, Africa, Cape Verde, Portugal, France, part of Canada, South and North America.
Compas direct is a modern méringue popularized in 1955 by the Nemours Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian sax and guitar player. Nemours Jean-Baptiste presented his orchestra “Ensemble Aux Calebasses” in 1955 (named after the club “Aux Calebasses” located at Carrefour, a western neighborhood of Port-au-Prince; Haiti's capital where the band used to perform on weekends). Compas popularity took off likely due to the genre's ability to improvise and hold the rhythm section steady. Jean-Baptiste incorporated a lot of brass and easily recognized rhythms. Compas is sung in Creole, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc. Nemours' popularity grew in and out of the country. Its clean horn section was remarkable and the band featured méringue tunes that gained instant popularity.
Cadence rampa (also known as kadans ranpa in Creole or simply kadans) is a modern Haitian méringue, popularized by the virtuoso sax player Webert Sicot in the early 60s. Sicot left Nemours Jean-Baptiste's compas band and called his music cadence to differentiate it from konpa especially when he took it abroad, however, either one is the same modern méringue. Only rivalery between Sicot and Nemours created these names.
As early as the late 50s Nemours and the Sicot Brothers from Haiti would frequently tour the Caribbean, especially Dominica and the French Islands of Martinique & Guadeloupe to spread the seed of the méringue-cadence
Webert Sicot, the originator of cadence recorded three LPs albums with French Antilles producers: two with "Celini disques" in Guadeloupe and one with "Balthazar" in Martinique. In addition to the Sicot brothers, almost all existing Haitian compas bands have toured these Islands that have since adopted the music and the dance of the méringue. For example, in Martinique, several music groups: Ensemble Abricot (bienvenue, festival compas), les djoubap's (Isabelle), combo jazz (electronique compas, pa gadem sou cote), Georges Plonquitte (vini dance compas direct), etc. have all within a year conquered the public with the many tunes or compositions of Nemours. Haitian compas and cadence bands were asked to integrate Antillean musicians. Consequently, the leading "Les Guais troubadours", with influential singer "Louis Lahens" along other bands, played a very important role in the schooling of Antilleans to the méringue compas or kadans music style. Later Nemours became a favorite of Dominican president, Joaquín Balaguer who often contracted the band. This is why hits like "ti Carole", "Chagrin d'amour" featured by known Dominican stars Luis Miguel and others are also sung in Spanish.
The dance-style that accompanied konpa dirèk in the 1950s, was a two step dance called kare (square). As a méringue, a ballroom dance, konpa is danced in pair. Sometimes partners dance holding each other tightly and romantically; in this case often most of the moves are made at the hips.
The mini-jazz movement started in the mid-1960s, small bands called mini-djaz (which grew out of Haiti’s light rock and roll yeye bands of the early 1960s) played konpa featuring paired electric guitars, electric bass, drumset and other percussion, often with a saxophone. This trend, launched by Shleu Shleu after 1965, came to include a number of groups from Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods, especially the suburb of Pétionville. Tabou Combo, Les Difficiles, Les Loups Noirs, Les Frères DéJean, Les Fantaisistes de Carrefour, Bossa Combo and Les Ambassadeurs (among others) formed the core of this middle-class popular music movement.
From 1968 to the 1970s prominent bands like Bossa Combo, Les Shleu Shleu, Les Ambassadeurs, Les Vickings, Les Fantaisistes, Les Loups Noirs, Les Freres Dejean, Les Difficiles, Les Gypsies and mostly the majestic Tabou Combo have exerted a dominance on the Caribbean and many places in Europe and South America musical scene. For example, Tabou Combo has remained on the Paris hit parade for weeks with its "New York City" hit. Tabou did filled New York Central park in the same period. Guitar based mini-jazz like Les Difficiles and Gypsies influenced many flamenco artists. The guitar was the king instrument.
These young (Haitian mini-jazz) musicians were critical in the creation of new technics that contribute to the fanciness of the style. Although Raymond Guaspard (Nemours) had already started it in the 50s, however, guitar players such as Corvington (Les Corvington), Serge Rosenthal (Shleu Shleu), Ricardo/Tiplum (Les Ambassadeurs), Robert Martineau (Les Difficiles/Gypsies/Scorpio/Topvice...), Dadou Pasket (Tabou combo/Magnum Band), Jean Claude Jean (Tabou Combo/Super Star...), Claude Marcellin (Les Difficiles/D.P. Express/Zèklè...), Police Nozile (Les Frères Déjean/D.P. Express...) and many more have created intricate mostly rhythmic guitar styles that constitute a strong distinguishable feature of the méringue.
MIDI technology: New generation or light compas
The new generation was a moment of experiment with the MIDI technology. In the mid 80s French Antilles Kassav', whose music repertoire is 90% compas, was the first in the Caribbean to apply the MIDI technology, already in use in pop and rock bands, to compas. In the late 80's, After pianist/keyboard wizard Robert Charlot Raymonvil came out with Top Vice, young Haitian music groups applied the MIDI technology that reduced the band's size and offered a variety of new sounds. They were called compas nouvelle génération; however, most of them later, along with many other musicians in the world, went back to a full band with live instruments. The new generation was a moment of experiment with the MIDI technology. Popular new generation bands were Zin, Phantom, Lakole, Papash and a few more. Phantom was the first to return to a full band in less than two years while Zin, Lakol and Papash have continued with the MIDI without a live horn section.
In the early 2000, several compas bands such as Carimi, T-Vice, Top Vice, and Zeglen toured the French Antilles as usual with success. The singer Vro who sang in duet with Robert Charlot on her album Softcore and many other Antillean artists have adopted this light compas style, which is more popular in France and the Caribbean. The compas' fine guitar lines with the chorus and other synthesizer effects is being heard now in zouk, the French Antilles compas music. For example, French Antilles singer Tanya St. Val who has collaborated with many great Haitian compas artists like Alan Cavé, Dadou Pasket from the great Magnum Band, etc. is very close to this style. The beauty of this is that these compas lands influence one another with nice chorus, guitar lines, female voices...within the team up of the conga-drum-cowbell.
Cape Verdean, Caribbean and African artists usually feature one another via compas songs. A review of several CDs from African, Cape Verdean, French Antilles and Haitian artists shows many similarities.
Méringue-compas and its derivatives
Today the méringue-compas, deeply rooted in many countries, has influenced many music styles and been called other names:
Cadence-lypso is the Dominican kadans. The leading figure in the promotion of the Cadence-lypso was the Dominican group Exile One (based on the island of Guadeloupe) that featured Trinidadian calypso music, Jamaican reggae and mostly the Haitian Cadence rampa or compas. Cadence and calypso were the two dominant styles in the country hence the name cadence-lypso; however, most of the bands repertoire was kadans. This fusion of kadans and calypso, if there is any, accounts only for a small percentage of the band's repertoire: Exile One like all Dominica kadans bands featured reggae, calypso and mostly kadans or compas.
Exile one was the first kadans band to introduce the newly arrived synthesizer that some young guitar-based cadence or compas bands from Haiti (mini-jazz) and the French Antilles would use in the 1970s. Exile One exported kadans music to many places: Japan, the Indian Ocean, Africa, North America, Europe, The Cape Verde islands.
Aside from Exile One, other cadence bands included the Grammacks, Black Roots, Black Machine, Naked Feet, Belles Combo, Mantra, Black Affairs, Liquid Ice, Wafrikai, Midnighte Groovers and Milestone, while the most famous singers included Bill Thomas, Chubby Marc, Gordon Henderson, Linford John, Janet Azouz, Sinky Rabess, Tony Valmond, Jeff Joseph, Mike Moreau and Anthony Gussie. Ophelia Marie is a popular singer of cadence in the 1980s.
Zouk is a fast carnival jump up beat of rhythmic music originating from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, popularized by the French Antilles kassav in the 1980s. Music authors Charles De Ledesma and Gene Scaramuzzo trace its development to the Guadeloupean gwo ka and Martinican bélé (tambour and ti bwa) traditions.
Zouk beton or Zouk was a brief experiment; an attempt to develop a proper local music that would lessen or even eradicate the meringue-kadans or compas influence from the French Antilles of Guadeloupe and Martinique. When the MIDI technology came out, kassav used it fully creating new sound in both their fast zouk beton and mostly compas. The Antilleans have been since all over with zouk, but as other bands from the Caribbean and Africa added the MIDI technology to their music people got used to it. Because it was a jump up beat the fast zouk beton faded away in the same 80s and Antilleans would continue to play and dance meringue-compas or cadence. After all French Antilleans and Dominicans are important players of the style. The problem is that musicians from Guadeloupe and Martinique have intentionally labeled meringue-compas as zouk in order to survive; creating a big confusion in Africa, Cabo verde, Angola, Brazil, Portugal and other places. French Antilles kassav, the originator of the zouk beton is a superb compas band that has taken compas to several places.
Today, zouk's originator French Antilles' Kassav' is the only band that includes it in its repertoire to a lesser extent. Too fast, the style lost ground in the same 80s due to the strong presence of kadans or compas, the main music of the French Antilles.
Actually, zouk is the French Antilles compas.
From the 80s one can notice the strong compas influence in Cape Verdean music. Cape Verdeans artists have been exposed to konpa in the USA and France. During the 70s-80s Haitian artists and bands such as Claudette & Ti Pierre, Tabou Combo and mostly Gesner Henry alias Coupe Cloue were very popular in Africa. In addition, French Antillean kassav, which main music is compas toured Cabo island in various occasions. Many Cape Verdean artists feature compas music. talented Tito Paris "dança mami Criola" 1994, is a good example. This CD featured music close to Haiti Tabou Combo, Caribbean Sextet, Tropicana and French Antilles Kassav', etc. Today the new generation of Cape Verdean artists features a light compas close to Haitian and French Antillean konpa.
Kizomba is a popular music from Angola. It is a derivative of traditional Angolan semba with the French Antilles compas music. Although most music came from Africa, however, Angola has been receiving Haitian influence for years. For instance, great méringue queen Haitian Martha Jean-Claude has lent her voice and music to the Angolan revolution; she came with the Cuban troops.
During the 70s, Haitian bands such as Coupe cloue, bossa combo, Dp Express and Dominican bands such as Exile One and Grammacks were popular in Africa. During the 80s-90s, French Antilles Kassav' has toured the country with its fast zouk béton and mostly compas music, leaving great influence. Lately, kizomba has been close to French Antilles and Cape verdian light-compas music and sung generally in Portuguese. No wonder why kizomba shows that strong similarity with méringue compas.
The calypsonian Lord Shorty of Trinidad was the first to really define his music and with "Indrani" in 1973 and "Endless Vibration" (not just the song but the entire album) in 1975, calypso music really took off in another direction. Later in 1975 Lord Shorty visited his good friend Maestro in Dominica where he stayed (at Maestro's house) for a month while they visited and worked with local cadence or compas artists. You had Maestro experimenting with calypso and cadence. Sadly a year later Maestro would die in an accident in Dominica and his loss was palpably felt by Shorty, who penned "Higher World" as a tribute.
In Dominica, Shorty had attended an Exile One performance of kadans, and collaborated with Dominica's 1969 Calypso King, Lord Tokyo and two calypso lyricists, Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron in the early 1970s, who wrote him some Creole lyrics. Soon after Shorty released a song, "Ou Petit", with words like "Ou dee moin ou petit Shorty" (meaning "you told me you are small Shorty").
Soca's development includes calypso, cadence, and Indian musical instruments—particularly the dholak, tabla and dhantal—as demonstrated in Shorty's classic compositions "Ïndrani" and "Shanti Om".
Etymology and characteristics
Also known as compas direct in French, or konpa direk in Creole or simply konpa is a modern méringue (mereng in Creole). It is often incorrectly spelled as kompa when translating from French to Haitian Creole, as there is no m in front of a b or p like in French and some other languages and therefore an n is used instead.
The word “compás” in Spanish means “beat” or “rhythm,” and one of the most distinctive characteristics of compas is the consistent pulsating beat tanbou, a trait common to many styles of Caribbean music. Compas is easy and fun to dance to, incorporating musical traditions like méringue, which propel dancers around the floor with lively, active beats (though compas has a slower beat and dance than méringue). You may hear the notes of Compas in a community of Haitian immigrants anywhere in the world, and where there is compas, dancers are usually not far behind. Compas / Konpa is a genre of music that is emulated throughout the Caribbean and parts of Africa. In North America, compas festivals take place frequently in Montreal, New York, Miami, Boston and Orlando.
Notable compas or méringue artists
- 1st Klass
- 5 Etwal
- 718 Boyz
- Alan Cavé
- Alix Jacques et son Cole Cole Band
- Antidote de Montréal
- Arly Larivière
- Back Up
- Barikad Crew
- Bel Reelax
- Black Parents
- Bossa Combo
- Brothers Posse
- Caribbean Groove de Toto Laraque
- Caribbean Sextet
- Claude Marcelin
- Cleana Pierre
- Coronto International
- Coupé Cloué
- Créole Mix, Montréal
- D.P. Express
- Daan Junior
- Dan Junior
- Daniel Larivière
- Digital Express
- Dixie Band
- Djakout Mizik
- Djazz La
- Do-La (ou Dola)
- Dr. Love
- Elie Lapointe
- Emeline Michel
- Ensemble Webert Sicot
- Eric Virgal
- Evans Jean
- Evens Mead
- Exile One
- Experience 7
- Fashion Color
- Feeling Star
- Foxy Dana
- Gazman Coulè
- GM Connection
- Gracia & Richie
- Gracia Delva
- Greham Mead (Lovaluv)
- Groov' La
- Harmonik (ou Harmonick)
- Ibo Combo
- Invincibles de Jacmel
- Jean-Baptiste Nemours
- Jocelyne Béroard
- Jouvenceaux de Jacmel
- Jude Jean
- K-Ress Konpa
- K-Tel Kryeol
- King Posse
- Klean de Montréal
- Kompas Du Sud
- Konpa Kreyol
- Kool Konpa
- Kreyol La
- Krezi Mizik
- L'Orchestre Septentrional
- L'Orchestre Tropicana d'Haïti
- La Perfecta
- Les Ambassadeurs (band)
- Les Difficiles de Pétionville
- Les Frères Déjean
- Les Gypsies de Pétionville
- Les Leopards
- Les Scorpio
- Les Shleu Shleu
- Les Skah Shah
- Los Diplomáticos de Haiti en Santo Domingo
- Magic Konpa
- Magnum Band
- Marckens Amazan
- Massillon Guerinos
- Michael Benjamin (Mikaben)
- Misty Jean
- Mizik Kreyol
- Mizik Mizik
- Model Kompa
- New York All Stars
- Nu Faze
- Nu Look
- Nu Star
- Nu Vice
- Nu Zone
- Original H
- Panique de Pétionville
- Ralph Conde
- Ralph Tamar
- Richie (Jean Herard Richard) & Zenglen
- Ricot Amazan (T-Tanbou)
- Robert Charlot (Raymonvil)
- Scorpio Fever
- Scorpio Universel
- Shoubou (Roger M. Eugène)
- Steel Groove
- Suav Mizik
- Sweet Micky
- System Band
- Tabou Combo
- Tag Musik
- Take Off
- Tanya St-Val
- Taxi Color
- The Gents
- Ti Doz (Jeff Policard)
- Ti Manno
- Ti Mitou
- Tito Paris
- Top Vice
- Top Adlerman
- Top Digital
- Volo Volo
- Zouk machine
- Pintade, Wikipedia editor
- Peter Manuel, Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, 2nd edition, Temple University Phila 2006
- Gage Averill, A day for the Hunter, a day for the Pray, University of Chicago Press, 1997
- Peter Manuel, Musics of the Non-Western World, University Press 1988, p72-74
- Haitian, French Antilles, Cape Verde
- Manuel, Peter with Kenneth Bilby, Michael Largey (2006). Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae. p. 161. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Pintade, Wikipedia editor, 2010
- Pintade, Wikipedia 2010
- Dominique Janvier, introduction in Nemours' Album cover 1980, long vie to Nemours
- Dominique Janvier, introduction on Nemour' album cover 1980, long vie to Nemours
- A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey: Popular Music and Power in Haiti. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
- Jocelyne Guilbault. Zouk: world music in the West Indies. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
- Most of these bands featured separated calypso, reggae and cadence tunes. Review Exile one CD 40 anniversary, Grammack collection 74-76 and others available at amazon music
- Peter Manuel, Musics of the Non-Western World, Chicago press University 1988p74
- Pintade, Wikipedia
- "Martha Jean Claude". Another Side of Haiti. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
- A review of many kizomba tunes has shown a very strong similarity , even too much with méringue-compas music. Kizomba all stard; o4 Nta Amado (Neusa) 02 Nha Joya (Nichol) Kizomba Benefica: 1 Sexual Healing slan 3 Ameyatchiki (Mathey 4 Cherie mon amour/Manulima & Mark G remix (Gilsemedo) 6 Voce Vai ver (Feat. Juka) kizomba Brasil Juka kizomba hits vol 2. 7 Pause kizomba Axel Tony Pause kizomba 8 Heven (Mark G; s kizomba remix) Kaysha Bailar kizomba Sushiraw 11 Real Peu pen kizomba Bruno Pereira Danca de verao kizomba 12 Heaven remix 13 kizomba de roda DJ christiano 15 Samora kizomba Bruno Pereira danca de verao kizomba 17 Eu Sei (Eeat Helvio) kizomba Brasil Helvio kizomba hits vol2 21 Soho 2012 remix light ou DJ Usidora kizomba Afro Latino 24 A Cabeca Doi kizomba Exitos vol 1 30OH fala Bem kizomba exitos vol 1 36 Mal acostumado feat Mikas Cabral kizomba Brasil ke vo2 39 Sonho A Dois Kizomba Grandes exitos de Brasil vol 2 42 Velha infancia Mikas Cabral, Neusa kizomba Brasil viva kizomba-flamkim ta sta Sempre Kaysha kizomba life 17 Musiquarian feat Jacob Desvarieux Keysha 19 Acabeca Doi, etc. are real méringue-compas music. A review of "Zekle", a powerful Haitian méringue band of the 80s and most compas music band from Haiti or the French Antilles will further show that kizomba is in fact strongly influenced by méringue-compas music.
- "Haitian Creole-English Dictionary with Basic English-Haitian Creole Appendix". Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- Manuel, Peter (2006). Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae (2nd edition). Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 1-59213-463-7.
- Experience Haitian music on Mizikpam Internet Radio Accessed May 18, 2010
- Gage Averill (1997). Caribbean Current: A day for the hunter. A day for the prey. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.