HB- Tell us a little bit about your background?
DS- I was born and raised in the southern part of Haiti (in the outskirts of Saint Louis Du Sud, more specifically a town named Cherette) and began developing a love affair with music very early on. I started playing percussions at the age of five until I fell in love with the guitar that became the thread of my musical career. In Cherette, I was surrounded by all kinds of rhythms, such as Rara and church music and was fascinated by what I used to listen on the AM radio. I remember experiencing a feeling of bliss each and every time I heard someone singing our traditional songs rich with such beautiful melodies. I developed an insatiable curiosity to understand all the elements of music around me.
HB- What are your musical memories growing up?
DS- Listening to the bands that came to perform during “fete champet” was always the most beautiful time of the year. Another one that comes to mind is meeting Liney Edouard R.I.P. who was at the time one of the greatest guitar players in the area. I had asked my mother to allow me to attend a “kermes,” and during his performance, Liney handed me his guitar and said loudly “this boy is going to replace me.” A couple of months later he passed on. I felt as if he had handed me the torch... This encounter was a very special and determinant moment of my musical life. I would be remissed if I did not mention the beautiful and powerful “KOMBIT” melodies that we call “boula” (sung while farming). Last but not least, discovering European music while being exposed to the catholic liturgy.
HB- Did you come from a musical family?
DS- Indeed. My mother, who had a tremendous influence in my musical upbringing, was the leader of the local choir. As a child, I regularly attended her choir rehearsals. Being immersed in this environment permitted me to learn the basics of vocal harmony.
HB- What does konpa mean to you?
DS- It means beauty, joy, music that we can dance to and also a powerful tool that can and should be used to transform our society for the better.
HB- Who has influenced you most in your music writing and playing?
DS- I can say that I am influenced by a diverse array of musicians from Dadou Pasquet to Pat Metheny from Robert Martino to Joe Satriani... Frantz Casseus to Andres Segovia and by a great friend of mine Jimmy Jean Felix. From time to time I discover new players around the world that fascinate me. As for writing... Stevie Wonder, Roger Colas, Bob Marley, Juan Luis Guerra, Djavan, Beethovas Obas, Manno Charlemagne, Boukman Eksperyans, Emeline Michel, Adele, The Beatles, Tabou Combo, Papash, Zenglen, klass, Harmonik... :) too many to name.
HB- Are there any songs you play that have special significance to you?
DS- yes!... songs like:
Mwen te pati Papash
David Ti Manno
Tande Boukan Ginen
Last train home Pat Metheny
Zimbabwe Bob Marley
Siwo Tabou Combo
Nan male m ye Manno Charlemagne
I can keep going... those songs basically have shaped me while growing up in Haiti and some of them basically expressed the charged, transformative but chaotic and intolerable socio-political moments and upheavals we were enduring...
On the other hand, some others made me feel and understand, at an early age, that music can make us experience divine feelings ...
HB- You have helped produce many songs for different artists and bands, do you enjoy the production side and do you plan to do more?
DS- Of course. I thoroughly enjoy the production aspect because, as a creative person, I love to explore with other talents; it’s magical. I hope to continue producing artist/bands. I also intend to go beyond producing for others. It is as you can imagine the natural course of things. I currently love performing and hopefully in the near future I look forward to sharing some of my new compositions with the public.
HB- One of the songs that is considered a hit on the Klass’ album is “you don’t want me”, which you co- written with Pipo, can you take us through the producing process?
DS- When Pipo came with the idea, I told him: “lets develop it...” it was just a regular song for his album... I went back to the studio in order to find some poignant melodies like “ se kom yon maladi l ye, le w ke finn tombe l pran tan pou li leve l mache” and some cool arrangements and grooves. I was a bit reluctant to actually use those personal lyrics but I decided to be honest... “Honesty usually works in songwriting.” That song came “like a rain” and I sent it to Pipo. The rest, as you know, is history. I frankly did not imagine the song was going to have such a huge impact. I’m grateful and humbled!
HB- There have been many rumors that you are in the process of forming your own Konpa band, can you put those rumors to rest or can you confirm them?
DS- I’m still thinking about it... but one thing for certain is that I will be playing live when I release my project.
HB- Do you balance your musical style? Who would you say is your biggest musical influence that is not a guitarist?
DS- I’m still looking for that balance. The goal is to remain authentic; true to the art. Of course I wont depart from my Haitian roots ... rhythms... melodies etc. but I evolve everyday ... I’m exposed to new genres, artists, styles all over the world so it’s hard to label myself. My biggest influence would be Stevie Wonder.
HB- How have your approaches to practicing guitar evolved over the years? What did you focus on when you were first learning to play guitar and how has your focus changed between then and now?
DS- You know with time I have learned to express more than I impress. As I’m constantly growing musically I’m learning to dig within for the most expressive and meaningful melodies, progressions, Lyrics and pulses rather than playing a lot and saying less. I practice daily and usually start with a simple scale or playing a classical piece that I love.