David Dupoux, the leader of the band Krezi, is like the protagonist in a 2000′s underdog novel, who gets beat downs, left hooks left and right, side stabbings, and even skull crackings, and somehow still manages to stand upright in the closing chapter.
Dupoux once led Kompa Kreyol, which dissolved into two bands: Kreyol La (with a new leader), and Krezi. Krezi released its debut album Ayiti San Manti in 2005, one of the best albums of the 2000s, but after the departure of several musicians including Mika Benjamin, its prized lead vocalist, and subsequent litigation, some wondered if there was still hope for Krezi. Unwavered, Dupoux then recruited the services of two new singers James Clermont, and Stanley Georges who in all fairness make a great team on the group’s newest opus, Zafè Yo…It’s All About Business ,an 11-track album that proves that comebacks are possible, especially when one has all the right ingredients.
And for Krezi (or Nou Krezi, as the band officially calls itself) the ingredients seem to be a huge dash of Georges, a tablespoon of Clermont, a teaspoon of Marc-Belande Jacquet on percussion, Jean-Junior Zilé on congas, Jean-René Sainrald on bass guitar, Nixon Sonne on drums, Watson Jean-Baptiste on guitar, and of course a sprinkle of Dupoux, well. everywhere in the pot.
With this album, Dupoux who has earned the reputation over the course of his career, as being one of the the most capable songwriters of his generation—and rightfully so—co-wrote 7 out of the 11 of the album’s total tracks. Somehow though, his presence is not felt too strongly—no he’s there, but it’s almost as if he’s not there, as if Krezi isn’t his band—as if he deliberately wanted to make the album a collaborative affair, and wanted to make his musicians shine more than himself. “Plus Près de Toi” (with Haitian music veteran Fabrice Rouzier playing saxophone) is probably one of the most memorable songs of the Dupoux-penned songs. “Sponsò” tries hard to hard to grab a top stop for itself on the album, but at the end it is no more than an apology letter from a musician husband to his long-suffering wife, detailing the double life he’s leading. He has to depend on his boss, a sugar mamma who furnishes him with money and material goods to feed and support his family.
As a songwriter, Dupoux seems to have an obsession with the subject of infidelity and double lives. That these dual situations are a favorite subject of his, is more than apparent: from songs like “Pamela et Manuela” to “Sesame” on the Kompa Kreyòl Gen Gen Geng album, it’s practically an obsession; but it’s an obsession that has paid off more than once for him. Music fans always seem to eat it up.
The songs “Kouzen” and “Vakabon Repanti” should be examined side by side, if only to dissect the double standards of Haitian culture. In the former, a concerned fellow cautions his cousin about a former whore, who is now his (the cousin’s) wife. The fellow is skeptical about the cousin-in-law’s supposed change of spots. Is she still a leopard, but just one without the spots? Can a harlot really be reformed? She talks in her sleep about her, um, previous adventures, to the dismay of her new husband, who may have unknowingly (and who knows, perhaps knowingly wifed up a harlot, who might be apt to suffer some promiscuity relapse!)
Kouzen, se yon maladi
Madanm ou pa janm geri
Menm si li di’w li repanti
Tout sa li di se manti
Pa okipe’l, pa okipe’l
La’p di ke se pa fòt li
Li pa-t reflechi
Pou dosye’l pa pran lari
Cousin, I tell you it’s a disease
Your wife ain’t never gonna get reformed
Even if she tells you it’s a thing of the past
She’s telling you a bunch of lies
She’ll tell you, “Oh, it’s not her fault”
Don’t pay her no mind
She just don’t want her background files to hit the streets
Now, this song, written by Dupoux, is obviously not an artistic coincidence, and seems to have been inspired by real-life happenings, so while one’s mind runs on and on about the true identity of the woman, and just who “kouzen” might be, one is treated with some serious grooves.
Now with “Vakabon Repanti” (which expertly showcases the talents of James Clermont), it’s a male whore who’s reformed. Listen to the lyrics to see the differing approach: “Mwen repanti, mwen repanti, m’pa vagabon ankò,” sings Stanley Georges, “I’ve repented, I’ve repented; I’m not a player no more.”
The verse continues, this time sung by co-lead singer James Clermont, “Nan chak katye, mwen te gen yo demwazèl/Lè’m fin pran kèl, m’vire male. Si mwen chanje se pou lanmou/Mwen damou fou/Map di Bondye mèsi/An verite’m chanje” which translates to: “In every neighborhood I had me a girl/Soon as I win her heart/I turn my back/If I’ve finally changed/It’s for love/I’m crazy in love.” The change is met with empathy, not like the one-time harlot whose lifestyle change is met with massive doubt.
Since in Haitian culture, a man can be as promiscuous as possible and still be seen as respectable, this transformation of the “vakabon”/player is met only with skepticism by his girl, not by his family though, who are relieved about his lifestyle change, not because they were worried about the hearts he was breaking, shattering and stabbing, and the lives he was ruining, right and left, but because they no longer have to worry about him catching a venereal disease. Naturally, things would have been different, had it been their daughter that he was duping. And the different reaction that the reformed harlot gets versus the one that the vakabon/player gets! The verses in “Vakabon Repanti” are very playful, whereas the ones in “Kouzen” are very accusatory. Boys will be boys, as society has always claimed to excuse unfaithful men; men are swiftly forgiven, whereas women, not so much. Men are given various (if not countless, if not endless) chances to reform, whereas with Haitian women, it is generally considered that if getting the “coveted” ring didn’t do the trick of turning the woman around, nothing else will (and of course the notion that she doesn’t deserve anything good because of her past promiscuity, will be among the list of accusations).
“Kouri Dèyè” is easily the album’s star track. It’s infectious, it’s catchy, and the singer delivering it Stanley Georges has a very distinctive falsetto, that will have you fall in love three times over with him, his vocals, his stylistic delivery. Surprisingly enough, Georges is also the composer of the song and the lyrics, making him quite the package. The whole premise of “Kouri Dèyè”, that of us humans always wanting what we can’t have, is an aspect of human nature that has puzzled psychologists and sociologist for years. Why are we into people who are there to mortify us and use us? Why do we keep chasing after them, in spite of their indifference, and their cruelty? Why do we make sacrifices for them, when they’ve barely acknowledged our existence? But as Georges sings in one verse, the day has come for those who have been chasing relationships and love for years to revolt.
Yes, indeed a revolution is necessary! (“Nap toujou kwè nan lanmou/San nou pa’p kite pyès moun pase sou nou”…”We’re gonna still believe in love/Only thing is we’re not gonna let ourselves be stepped on anymore.”). But smitten and infatuated can they rise to the heart-altering challenge?
Resentment has built up over the years, so it is first necessary to do a heart spring cleaning: (“Efase rankin nan kè-w/Pou’w kapab avanse zanmi mwen…”…”Get rid of the resentment in your heart/So you can move forward my friend,” Georges advises, but as the leader of the Spurned Hearts Club, Georges already anticipates that the job will not be an easy one.
Li difisil, pou’w renonse’l
A moun sa-a, men sa-w vle.
Tout panse’w se pou li.
Tout chante-w se sou li.
Li menm li pa’p men-m wè-w.
Eske ou pa santi’w imilye’w.
Tout priyè-w, se pou li
Ou rayi-l, ou renmen-l
Ou pa bezwen pè
Fò’l peye tout mizè’l fè-w pase
It’s not easy to give up on them.
All your thoughts are on them.
All your songs are dedicated to them.
Meanwhile, they don’t even know you exist.
Aren’t you the least bit ashamed of yourself?
All your prayers, are for them.
You love them, you hate them.
The day has come for retribution.
The revolution of the Spurned Hearts, having been fully realized, has brought some changes. No longer will the Spurned Hearts chase after the heartless, nonchalant ones, but will, instead turn to those who return their love! Georges’ nasal-inflected voice is so smooth, smoother than the surface of freshly shaved mahogany wood one might say, one could probably listen to him all day. He’s extremely gifted as both a singer, and songwriter.
The song “Manman” is a great runner-up to “Kouri Dèyè”, with its sentimental and touching lyrics. Hantz Mercier Sr., does an awe-inspiring job on the piano on that song. Mercier’s contributions are indispensable to the album; that’s him playing the solo keyboards on “Kouri Dèyè”, a song whose praise should be sung endlessly. The songs on the Krezi album are pretty much formulaic Haitian pop, for the most part, and very uniform in their delivery. The song “Haiti” begins with a West African-styled chant before dissolving into a more traditional kompa song; the song feels out of place with the other songs on the album; it’s very experimental when compared to the other songs, but perhaps it was placed on the album so that the album wouldn’t be monotonous. The song is quite a surprise, after listening to mostly upbeat Haitian pop songs.
The Krezi album is about all about business indeed; musical business, and it’s quite a deal.