Ti-Coca et Wanga-Nègès Haitian mizik twoubadou Port-au-Prince, Haiti While to Haitians the lilting sounds of mizik twoubadou, are warmly familiar, this delightful musical style with rural roots is virtually unknown to U.S. audiences. Both the style and Haiti’s premier twoubadou ensemble, Ti-Coca et Wanga-Nègès, make their Richmond debuts at this year’s festival. Charismatic singer Ti-Coca […]
- Haitian mizik twoubadou
- Port-au-Prince, Haiti
While to Haitians the lilting sounds of mizik twoubadou, are warmly familiar, this delightful musical style with rural roots is virtually unknown to U.S. audiences. Both the style and Haiti’s premier twoubadou ensemble, Ti-Coca et Wanga-Nègès, make their Richmond debuts at this year’s festival. Charismatic singer Ti-Coca (David Mettelus) is one of Haiti’s finest singers and foremost exponents of this charming, rustic music. Originally from Port de Paix in northeast Haiti, he acquired the nickname “Ti-Coca” (little bottle of Coca-Cola) because of his diminutive stature. For 34 years, Ti-Coca and his accordion-led acoustic quintet have created twoubadou in the traditional style, one of the few professional ensembles whose music has retained the distinctive character that Haitian historian Jean Fouchard described as “the gentle Congo pastorals.”
Misik twoubadou has an important place in Haitian culture, one that transcends rural-urban and class divisions. Twoubadou is the Kreyòl word for “troubadour,” which refers to the medieval lyric poets of the Proveçal court or a strolling minstrel. In Haiti, singer-composers who accompany themselves or sometimes perform with a small, string-based combos are called twoubadou. Their songs convey the bitterness, irony and humor of life and love, often employing ribald lyrics. There is a Haitian expression, voye wóch, kache me, which means “throw the rock, hide the hand.” Twoubadou delights in lyrical camouflage – of sending the point, but hiding the message.
The role of the twoubadou is the popular equivalent to that of the rural Haitian song leaders of work brigades and rara parades, or their counterpart in Vodou ceremonies. These song leaders are expected to provide perceptive, often harsh, comment on important people, local events or scandals, and issues of local or national significance. Songs that censure, criticize and cast aspersions (usually indirectly) are called chan pwen (“point song”). This tradition became a part of twoubadou, and some artists have used their music to raise the social and political awareness of the nation.
First-time travelers to Haiti might have their initial encounter with a twoubadou ensemble on the tarmac of the Port-au-Prince airport, where they are sometimes hired to perform for arriving passengers. Twoubadou can be heard in the cafés and on the street corners of Port-au-Prince. Twoubadou groups perform at fèt patwonal (patron’s day feasts), during Carnival, at private parties and in hotels and restaurants frequented by tourists, but only rarely outside Haiti.
In addition to David (vocals and tcha-tchas), the ensemble consists of Belony Benis (accordion), Mathieu Chertoute (tanbou), Wilfrid Bolane (bass), Joreste Tranquillis (drums), and Richard Hector (banjo and guitar). The Richmond Folk Festival is excited to bring this very special ensemble and uniquely Haitian art form to new American audiences.
Bio provided by the Richmond Folk Festival