With an album with a title like Welcome to Haiti, one would expect the band T-Vice to have crafted some sort of concept album centering around Haiti, but no, the title is merely just that. The song though is bouncy enough to overlook the fact, and features rapper Black Dada, and a very nicely-done Middle-Easternesque intro. But more than anything it has a message of Haitian renewal, starting with Haiti’s underveloped tourism industry. “This is It” has T-Vice collaborating with Joe Zenny Jr., the lead singer of Kreyol La. Other than the fact that “This is It” brings Martino together with Zenny (they co-wrote the song), it isn’t exactly memorable; the pairing is inspiring; the song…not so much, though that bit part where both singers take turn rapping is rather unexpected, and, dare says I, welcomed.
Zenny: “Mwen se chèf Apach la/Nimero dis la/Nèg lèl monte sou stage la/Li fè yonn ak piblik la/E mwen se toutis la/Nèg lè match la sere ya ki bay pas pou fè gòl la.”
“I’m the leader of the Apaches/Number 10/I’m the dude who when he gets on the stage/Becomes one with the fans/The People’s person/The one who makes way to strike a goal/When the game gets hard.”
Martino: “Mwen se mèt beton an/Chèf revolisyon-an/Nèg lèl fè kòlè sou-ou ki ka tounen demon-an/Mwen se sa ki pa pè chay la/Nèg ki jwe brital la/Nèg lè l bay signal la/Ki fè piblik la pran kriz la.”
I rule the stage/I’m the leader of the revolution/I’m that dude who can turn into a demon/When he gets mad at you/I’m the dude whose not afraid of responsibility/The dude who plays dirty/I’m the dude who can give the cue for the fans to get into a frenzy.”
Demon, huh? Thanks for the warning, Nephilim.
If there’s a star on Welcome to Haiti, it is co-lead singer Olivier Duret (Duret has since left the group). His style is much, much more eclectic than Martino. On the song “Toi et Moi”, which by the way is the track to look out for on the record. Want to have an idea of how important and vital this song is to this album? Had it not been on the record…well…Picture Coca-cola without its malty flavor, think of tasting labouyi without kanèl, think of your childhood without those ruffled dresses, think of Haiti without the mountains, think of Australia without the kangaroos and you will get an idea. The writing of the song is solely credited to Duret, but a great deal of credit should be given to Serge Turnier, known in musical circles as Power Surge, who produced the melody. The song’s unpredictable arrangement (courtesy of Turnier and the other Martino—-Reynaldo) takes one aback, considering the fact that Haitian pop music is so often based on formulas. “Toi et Moi” doesn’t rely on formulas. No siree! It makes an exhausted person want to get up and dance; it makes one to sing along. How can this song be explained in just one sentence? It just has that continuous factor. The subject it treats is rather familiar, the don’t-listen-to-what-your-friends-say-about-our-relationship story line, though the song’s melody isn’t.
Duret proves his worth a songwriter time and time again, co-writing “Fè-m Vole” with Mika Benjamin. That song has a nice guitar intro, the kind of soft song-entry that has become one of Benjamin’s trademarks.
“Mwen Damou” tries to be in the same league as “Toi et Moi” and “Fè-m Vole”, but it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps it is a case of too many cooks? Jonathan Perry, Duret and Martino all sport the chef’s hat for that one. Or maybe not, as with “Welcome to Haiti”, there are four co-writers, and yet the song doesn’t come out bland as it does on “Mwen Damou”. Lyrically though, it is worth noting somewhat. A man has been in love with his best friend for the longest. The feelings are getting more intense everyday. Should he make a move on her and risk ruining their lifelong friendship? After the coupling of synthesizers and guitars, his heart is decided! Onward, he goes! His beating, lacerated heart is willing to take the plunge.
Now we’ve said that Duret steals the show, but Martino isn’t exactly a wallflower on his own album. Martino knows the limit of his voice and “Pou Mwen Sèl” which doesn’t make any heavy demands is the perfect showcase for him, but beware it is not one of the album’s best tracks, just a groovy little number. He shares vocal duties on “Tanpri Souple” with Duret, the two making a great team. Songs like “Kif Kif” and “Epi’m Pa Bon” are typical of T-Vice, in the sense that they are there just to be there; they don’t really give any contribution to the growth of T-Vice musically. Tracks like those tracks are an impediment to the growth of T-Vice, but one supposes that they are placed on the album as to not isolate fans that are expecting those type of songs (“those type of songs”…as in songs that don’t really say anything of substance, but are designed to add ambiance to a bal, or dance party).
At ts best moments, Welcome to Haiti is without the doubt the best album of the long career of the band T-Vice., and certainly the most experimental, the most risky yet, especially for a band known for sticking to proven formula. The album makes you want to sign up for the extended vacation package. American Airlines…or Spirit.