Legends of Haitian Music Spotlight: Gérard Dupervil, A Life in Music

Written by Kat with 8 Comments

Are you familiar with Haiti’s singers? You have to learn about Gérard Dupervil, a star whose career started in the 1950s, and whose career lasted well into the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Early in his career, Dupervil was a member of Jazz des Jeunes [the Young People’s Band] a musical group that was the hottest of that generation, (and which at one point had the now-legendary Lumane Casimir, as a guest singer). During his tenure with the band, it was also known as Super Jazz des Jeunes and Immortel Jazz des Jeunes. Dupervil left the band at one point after an altercation with one of the members. He went solo for a time, only to return to the group. He ventured solo again, and later turned to gospel music, fully disillusioned with what worldly music had brought him.

Dupervil was a native of Cap Haitien, and was at the right place at the right time, as Haiti’s musical scene begin to explode in the 1950s. But he also was a man of great talent, possessing a tenor to die for. His talents as a singer are best showcased in the songs “Fleur de Mai” [Flower of May], and “Machann kasav”, the latter which was released in 1969. Both songs were extremely sentimental in nature, and helped cement an immensely romantic aura around Dupervil. The story line of “Machann kasav” had the singer celebrate the beauty of the mountain peasants on the coast of Petit Goave. In short, Dupervil was expressing his approval for romances and alliances between Haiti’s peasantry and city people.

His career had times of immense frustration, as the Haitian music industry was just evolving, and like the artists of the early days of Motown in the US music industry, Dupervil had contributed so much to the music industry of his country, but had nothing to show for it.

Some of his song titles like “Kout Lang” [Tongue Wag] became catch phrases in the Creole language.

According to Dupervil’s biographer Guerdy Preval in the book Gérard Dupervil, ou, La voix d’une génération, Dupervil was a big-time womanizer. He married at least twice, and had countless romances with a string of women. He even made a song titled “Denise”, a tribute to a woman who at one point, was supporting him financially.

“Ou Trompe Mwen La Vi” would become one of the most memorable songs of his career, if only for its depressing chords.

Throughout the 1970s, Dupervil performed in the United States as a solo act, and performed in many of the cities where the Haitian Dyaspora proved to be a welcoming market. In 1979, he released one of the first tribute collections from one Haitian artist to another entitled Gérard Dupervil Interprete Les Chansons Immortelles de Dodof Legros. Legros was a predecessor of Dupervil, and was no doubt a strong influence.

Dupervil, having gradually lost his sight to glaucoma, died in 1994. One of his most popular discs is Et Les Succès D’hier, [The Successes of Yesterday] a compilation of his greatest hits at the height of his career, was release more than a decade before his death, and contained the songs “Je N’ai Pas Changé”, and “Ma Brune”, two hits that are considered signature songs. One of his daughters Gina Dupervil, grew up to be a recording artist.

Photo Credit: Haitiens Disaprus

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8 comments on “Legends of Haitian Music Spotlight: Gérard Dupervil, A Life in Music”

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