vendredi 17 janvier 2014
Emeline MICHEL....A big voice and a big heart for Haiti, in Montclair
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 15, 2014, 3:47 PM
BY GWEN OREL
When she was a little girl in Gonaïves, Haiti, Emeline Michel would sing so loudly after school her mother would say, "I am paying you to be quiet."
Emeline Michel, who headlines the 5th Annual Concert for Haiti on Saturday, Jan. 25, tells stories in her songs.
Paul Beaubrun, left, and Cynthia Casasola make up Zing Experience, who will perform at the 5th Annual Concert for Haiti on Saturday, Jan. 25.
"The loudest spot in the house would be my microphone," Michel told The Montclair times with a laugh. That big voice got her noticed at school and she was often pulled out of class to sing "Happy Birthday" for a teacher's birthday, Michel recalled.
Jon Pareles of The New York Times described Michel as having a "dusky, sensual voice that floats through the suave groove of the compas and other Haitian styles."
On Saturday, Jan. 25, Michel, dubbed "The Haitian Joni Mitchell," will perform at the 5th Annual Concert for Haiti in the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Church atMontclair, 67 Church St.
A 'STRONG AND GENTLE SOUL' Other acts on the bill include local Haitian-American band Oxygen Box Band, rocker James Maddock, Jazz House Kids, and the Haitian act Zing Experience. Cindy Stagoff, who organizes the concert and booked the musicians, said of Michel, "She is a brilliant and engaging woman. She has deep connections to Haiti, and understands its culture and political issues, and the needs of the Haitian people." Stagoff said she heard about Michel through the many Haitian artists she's met organizing the concert over the years, who speak lovingly and fondly of her. After watching Michel's internet videos, Stagoff said, "I fell in love with her music and her words." When they first spoke on the phone, the two women chatted for over an hour.
"Her heart lies in Haiti, but she's also firmly planted on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near the place where I lived as a young law student. We connected as mothers, and as people who care about the world beyond our borders. She's a very gentle, strong soul. I like that in women," Stagoff said. Michel is one of the biggest Haitian artists Stagoff has ever booked.
Particularly exciting for Stagoff is that she is also presenting the next generation of Haitian musicians. Paul Beaubrun, who sings with his wife Cynthia Casasola in Zing Experience, is the son of two artists from the famous band Boukman Eksperyans.
Michel said that she was impressed with Stagoff's musical ear, and that the Concert for Haiti will be a community event, involving local children. It's important to Michel to encourage the next generation. She conducts workshops with students in Haiti, "to give them a sense of hope," she said.
Michel and her son Julian had just left Haiti after visiting for a month when the earthquake hit, she recalled. Nine days earlier they had been swinging in a hammock by the beach, telling stories, enjoying the simple pleasures of life without the Internet and machine-based entertainment.
"I have a feeling that the press is not present as it was when the earthquake first happened. I really thought something was drastically going to change, with all those eyes on Haiti, but a lot of the change has dragged," Michel said.
"I am a storyteller. All my music always has a story, whether it is a love story, or an eye-opener lyric. I start with the lyrics," she said.
"Mesi Lavi," which is Haitian Creole for "Thank You, Life," is a song Michel wrote as a reminder to be thankful for all of the beauty in the world. "I realized we as human beings always have something to complain about," Michel said. "We have goals, we look at another person, in comparison to the life we want. We never assess that now we're healthy, or not running to the hospital for chemotherapy. We have all of the blessings and don't count them. It's seeing the glass half-full, saying 'Thank you, life.' In the video I'm sunbathing in a myriad of colors."
Even before the earthquake in 2008, many people conceived of Haiti as a dangerous, dirty place, noted Michel, but today, when she returns, or brings a friend, she "can't believe what I see. People love to laugh. They are curious about where you are coming from. It's important for me to portray that side of Haiti, a place that has a great sense of humor. The country is still alive."
Last March, on her birthday, Michel launched her latest album, "Quintessence," in Haiti, She put an ad on the radio that said "I want to give you a gift for my birthday," and "everybody came!" the singer exclaimed. "One thousand people showed up for my birthday. I had a wicked time! People in Haiti realize, you don't just disappear. You don't love a country from afar. what you can give, you come back and give it."
One day, Michel intends to go home for good. She has told her son, "As soon as I see you can fly with your own wings, you can come and visit me by the water. "I want to wake up with the birds singing, and the dog barking."
Go and See • 5th Annual Concert for Haiti- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/community/240331971_A_big_voice_and_a_big_heart_for_Haiti__in_Montclair.html?c=y&page=2#sthash.nAl36Xks.dpuf