Chapo Ba...in which we pay a small written tribute to someone who has had a huge impact on Haitian culture. Today’s Chapo Ba goes out to…
…Maurice Sixto… Born on May 23, 1919 in Gonaives, Haiti, Mr. Alfredo Maurice Sixto was a great-grandson of Baron de Vastey, a nobleman in King Henri Christophe’s kingdom, and during his lifetime, he produced a string of spoken word recordings in his trademark resonant voice that would earn him the reputation of the country’s foremost original storyteller.
He was the special guest of Jackie Kennedy O’Nassis for a governmental fundraising dinner in the 1970’s, among other honors, including the Medal of Honor from the Haitian government. During his lifetime, Sixto would have many careers, as a radio announcer, an ambassador, as a public relations agent, and at one point he taught English, Latin and French in Africa, mainly in Congo, formerly known as Zaire—during a nearly decade-long stay in Africa. He also lived in Paris in the 1960s.
In later years, Sixto was recognized as an advocate of the Kreyòl language, and an ardent opponent of Haiti’s child slave system. Like his television equivalent Théodore Beaubrun, Sixto had a ball ridiculing the follies of the Haitian elite. But Sixto differed somewhat in that his recordings were aimed at every segment of Haitian society, and that he used Haiti’s history as a background for his many works. His clear, trademark voice touched upon everything from feminism, to the French vs. Creole debate to child labor, to exile life, to everyday situations of his time. Through his spoken word recordings, he coined phrases, and created characters that would become part of Haitian life, characters like Ti Sentaniz, a long-suffering child slave, whose very name would become synonymous with the word child slave, Mèt Zabèlbok, a ruthless attorney and Gwo Moso, a useless playboy. He used stories like “Bos Chaleran” to address overpopulation and overcrowding in Haiti’s capital city, and to show his support for decentralization, and used Haiti’s locales and cultural traditions of Haitians in his stories to give them an unmistakeable authenticity.
Sixto died of a heart attack in 1984 while living in the United States (Philadelphia), after delighting fans for decades with his slices of Haitian life. He had been blind since the 1950s, and was survived by his wife Marie Thérèse Torchon.
After Sixto’s death, La Fondation Maurice A. Sixto, a non-profit whose main mission is to help educate young girls in Haiti was established to fulfill Sixto’s wish that the nation’s kids be adequately prepared for the future.
You can listen to “Le Jeune Agronome”, one of his acclaimed classic recordings below.