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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

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Various Artists
FRENCH CARIBBEAN
Putumayo

By PAUL-ÉMILE COMEAU

Published May 5, 2006

The French Caribbean refers to Haiti, Guadaloupe and Martinique, as well as to several smaller islands. Many artists mix and match various genres, such as compas and zouk to create their own “kreol” brew. Taxikréol draws from salsa and soca (and half a dozen other genres) to create an indefinable regional sound. Michel Martelly, a popular Haitian artist, sings a song based on “Angola,” originally popularized by Cesaria Evora. Ralph Thamar (lead singer of Malavoi and later Kassav) mixes Martinican beguine with African rhythms and French chanson. Kali’s “Parfum des îles” is a very catchy beguine instrumental with banjo as lead instrument. Emeline Michel is the only female singer included, but “Moso Manman,” her tribute to mothers, makes for a refreshing contrast to other selections. Zin and Carimi represent the Haitian community from New York. The album contains merely 10 tracks, seemingly all recent, except for the closing live track by Kassav circa 1986.

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