From Jukebox to Haitian Jazz

Emeline Michel speaking with fans after performing at the Brooklyn Public Library. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Emeline Michel speaking with fans after performing at the Brooklyn Public Library. (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

By Nicosia Smith

In great weather, what does an art and culture lover do, get out.

Howbeit my umbrella was necessary towards the end of the day.

My first stop was at the Schomburg Center in Harlem to view ‘Motown: The Truth is a Hit’. It was like treading on familiar territory.

Last year I attended Motown, the Broadway musical, which is the same name of the label founded by Berry Gordy Jr., in 1959. This exhibit traces, chronologically, the growth of the Motown sound, complete with songs playing in the background. While the musical gave a much wider spread of the events leading up to the creation of Motown, the exhibition gives snippets. Life size photos of the Supreme, Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, Mary Wells, the Temptations and many others told this Motown story.

However, the exhibit did delve into the latter years of Motown. That is, showcasing pop singers like Vanity and Lionel Richie. If you can, it’s best to see the musical and also view the exhibit which runs through July 26.

Then it was off to Brooklyn.

To an evening of intoxicating lyrics, that took me from the American Jukebox, to the Caribbean island of Haiti.

International Haitian Jazz singer Emeline Michel kicked off the Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival at Brooklyn Central Library. Jazz is not her only genre; she combines Haitian compas and rara, in pop, samba and bossa nova.

Michel sings in French and Haitian Creole combining these rhythms to create her unique sound.

It is an intoxicating soulful infusion of instruments (piano, guitar, and drums) that gives a powerful yet smooth blues/jazz feel. This is complimented by Michel’s voice – that takes you up to a high or simmer you down low. And at times leaves you within yourself to contemplate. It’s the type of sound that makes you want to sing, dance and listen all at once.

And if you do not know Haitian Creole or French, no problem, you will feel as if you know what is being said. Michel is also very good at explaining the concepts behind her songs, which covers from the personal, social to the political. And moving to her lyrics comes natural, as I found out.

Both the Schomburg and Central Library have continuing events and I will be keeping my ears to the ground.

It’s a blessing when you can absorb your surroundings and learn from things around you.

 

 

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