"KONPA SWAYS SOBS IN NEW
TABOU COMBO -
30 Years of Konpa Music and Still Reigning
Tabou Combos recent performance to a packed house at New
S.O.B.S proved just why the band is the reigning Haitian Konpa band.
Promoting their new album, "360°," which icidently is their finest album
since 1990s "Zap-Zap," Tabou Combo (T. C.) was clearly in top form and
sounded reinvigorated by its mix of youthful and veteran musicians. On
the crowded stage, lead singer Roger Eugene exchanged vocals with Yves
Fan Fan Joseph and the two could be seen grinning and even slapping
hi-fives as the crowd unanimously grooved to their tunes.
The twelve member band was tight and emitted a deep
Pan-Carribean sound which
stretched the musical boundaries of Konpa by mixing in elements of zouk,
mérengué, salsa, rock, soukous, samba and biguine. But T.C. really
shined that night when they stepped the tempo up a notch and introduced
the soon-to-be hits, "Sa Li Ye" and "Mako," to the enthralled
crowd. This wealth of new material, along with the groups commitment to
promote their Konpa world-wide, convinces me that Konpa music is alive
and positioned to make inroads into the next millenium.
Speaking with the bands spokesperson, Yves Joseph, in S.O.B.S
basement before the show, I gained insight into how the legendary group
views itself in light of its recent accomplishments and their "360°"
release. Yves explained, "We consider ourselves more of a Carribean band
than exclusively a Haitian band, so we try and raise whatever musical
influence that floats into the Carribean... its truly Pan-Carribean -
Salsa, Konpa, R&B, cause of all the new generation musicians that we
have. There is also soukous [in the sound,] which is basically African -
you cannot separate the Carribean from Africa musically. So in this
album I think we just kind of respected everyones opinion [in the group]
and everyones feelings in this album."
I was curious to learn from Yves what elements made "360°" unique
from the groups previous albums, and his overall impressions of the
publics response their latest project. Yves replied, "As far as the
response of the new album is concerned, its been fanstastic. Since [our
1990 album,] "ZAP-ZAP," we havent had such a large response as with
"360°." From my own perspective, the only thing we did different in this
album is that we made it a little faster than the other ones - thats the
difference. We went to Martinique to record this album, which has 12
songs on it, [and] we had just two songs written before we left New York
to go to Martinique. They were "Sa Li Ye" and "Mako," and thats
basically it... we had some ideas but we didnt have a direction that we
wanted to take with this album. But what we intended to do different was
make it more groovy, you know a lot of grooves so people can dance to it
a little bit more... and it came out to be a success."
When I explained to Yves that the only other T.C. album I owned
was their all-time classic hit, "8th Sacrement," he smiled and shed light
on the parralels to that classic recordings success and the recent
"360°." "8eme Sacrement," is basically a live and spontaneous band
recording. That was our first number one hit. You see, every successful
album that Tabou Combo has made has not been premeditated... its like we
[just]did something and then [the publics] response was great." Urging
Yves to elaborate and explain a bit more about the timing and group
dynamics behind "8th Sacrement," and the groups early years. Yves
continued, "we are talking about 1974, and we had just arrived in the
United States beginning in 1970. We were all young and just playing
music... whatever we felt like saying we just said it in the music...
there was no real construction of songs, we just got on stage and started
singing." But what was it about "8th Sacrement" that made it a hit and a
million copy seller?
Yves: "This is basically what 8eme Sacrement
youthful statement from a group having just migrated to the U.S.], and
the song, "New York City," that made a number one hit, was [really] a
nostalgic song... we had just left Haiti and come to New York City where
people have no feeling for each other... everyone is doing their own
business, and we just wanted to go back [home] to Haiti. New York was a
hard place for us, we werent used to that type of atmosphere, and so
thats what we sang in the song. It all fell into a Disco rhythm that
was in style at that time, and a big French label, Barclay, in Paris...
they loved it, and they [decided] "New York City " this will be a hit for
the Summer of 1974, and they made a hit out of it." Surpisingly, the
song was only a huge hit in throughout Europe, and made few inroads into
the United States. According to Yves, "T.C. has never had a hit in the
United States... well, locally [in Brooklyn and the Carribean communities] we have... we are known in small pockets everywhere, weve
been around for 30 years, so I think everyone who is into the music
business, especially into the world music, has heard once of Tabou
The unique this about T.C. is that it pushes the boundaries and
continues to be innovative despite its veteran
status. But in Haiti, there has been competition from the "nouvelle generation," or the younger
generation Haitian bands. Yves believes that "They are just translating
our ideas in a more modern way, putting their two cents into it, but
these are basically our ideas, and when its been carried on by newer,
fresher musicians, it tends to attract a younger crowd than if we were
doing it by ourselves, but these are basically our ideas that they
translate. We dont get too far behind them, you know, in fact, we feel
a little bit ahead, because we listen to whatever modern music is out
there.. as far as Rap is concerned, weve been doing Rap since 1978...
"voulez-vous vouk les joues" and we had a trombone player, an American
guy named Dr. Black, and he did all the rap.
So Rap is no thing strange
with us. But remakes, we never did remakes. Beacause what is going on
now is all remakes... we always write our own songs... (like the
Fugees)... whatever I achieve doing my own music, you know I think I
should be proud of it 100% because I it is my own inspiration, it my own
word, its my own feeling, and wherever it takes me I should be happy.
But I wont be satisfied selling my own music and repeat my own words and
that kind of stuff. But you know everone has their way to make money,
and measure success... to each his own... it seems as though the New
Generation of musicians right now they are of short inspiration, then
guys like Marvin Gaye, they have done all the work, and now it is time to
harvest (whats been done)... short of inspiration. So I always admire
somebody who is singing his own thing.
We have just been playing local gigs and stuff. What we consider
a tour will be like in March, March 15 we will play in Antewerp, in
Belgium. And then we are basically we are going to stay here until the
half of the summer, and then in July, we will go on our 30th Anniversary
Tour, which starts June 20th in New York...Best Western we will do July
11th in Boston, July 18th in New Jersey, June 25th we going to do it in
Miami, and eventually we will do it in Haiti...
Martinique and Guadeloupeare going to be in
August... in November we are going to do a grand
concert in Paris, so I cant say that we have started a tour aleady, just
local stuff right now and we are getting our stuff together and staying
here most of the time because we want to be playing in New York cause
the Haitian publics complaining that the past couple of years weve been
like evading them, so we will spend most of the summer here.