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Flashback Interview; The legendary Boulo Valcourt

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"Boulo Valcourt (1946-2017 ). Born in  Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, Boulo has been

a central pillar of the jazz landscape in Haiti and its diaspora for more than fifty years. The vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and arranger has been a founding member of such noted ensembles as Ibo Combo, Caribbean Sextet, Pikliz, Djanm, and Haïtiando. He has regularly collaborated with past and present musical greats such as Azor (Lénord Fortuné), Réginald Policard, Jean Jean and Philippe “Toto” Laraque, Lionel Benjamin, Mushi and Joël Widmaïer, and Ralph Thamar. His ensembles have shared the stage with Danny Glover and Wynton Marsalis, and he has been a featured artist at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. He has mentored many of the most popular Haitian vocalists of the past two generations, including Emeline Michel, Beethova Obas, Tifane (Tifany Sejour), and Alan Cavé, each of whom have catapulted on to international careers. He has written dozens of hits for these and other performers, frequently using texts by acclaimed poet Syto Cavé, including “Fè van pou mwen” and “Jounen” for Emeline Michel and “Limit Solèy” for Tamara Suffren. Valcourt’s “Tante Nini,” written in collaboration with Cavé, generated overwhelming excitement when Caribbean Sextet first released the recordings in the 1980s. These tunes remain a prominent and beloved part of the Haitian soundtrack."

 

Who is Boulo Valcourt?
I have been an artist since I was very young. I am a musician, a composer, a guitarist, a singer, and a painter.
 
What was the first thing you learned about singing, do you still adhere to it?
I began singing when I started to learn how to play the guitar. The guitar helped me find my voice and I still practice singing by using this instrument today.
 
Your resume is consist of many different projects or bands have you been part of?
My career began when I was 16 years old where I participated in and started several bands including: Gilbreteir, Pepe Bayar, Les Copains, Les Carraibes,  Ibo Combo, Horizon 75, Carribean Sextet, and Piclize. 
 
What was your most memorable moment with Caribbean Sextet?
When we played at a festival in New Orleans and also during the times when we worked together to introduce a new style of music; Haitian Modern Kompas, with a lot of my compositions and lyrics.
 
What is the main ingredients in your formula for success?
A touch of Haitian Music, a little bit of Jazz and Brazilian Music, and Racine Music (Creole Folklore). This is the essence of my cocktail.
 
Which do you like best, singing or playing the guitar?
When I do both at the same time it creates an equilibrium that gives me the ability to express myself the best. 
 
What is your favorite song?
First of all, the songs that I compose are all my favorites! I also love a lot of the songs that are sang by Nat King Cole and Henry Salvador.
 
What are some of your other interests outside music?
I love to paint, I love to entertain, and I love to spend time with my family, my friends, and my pets… I also love working on my creativity.
 
Who in your opinion are the best Haitian songwriters in the business today? 
Syto Cave, Raul Guillaume, a few others and, of course, myself!
 
During an interview you did a few years ago, you stated that you practice at least 4 hours a day and you were not too happy seeing some of our musicians more interested in their look/clothes rather than their craft, what did you mean by that?
With advances in technology upcoming musicians have become very complacent and they don’t work as hard to improve their technique. Thus suppressing their creativity and sensitivity.
 
What’s the difference between this era of Haitian music, compare to your era, for example during Caribbean Sextet days? 
Today it isn’t the same musical approach because before you had a lot of practice sessions where different musicians put their heads together to create a new song. Now a lot of music is created in private on the computer by one person and then; after the song is made, it is given to the other musicians to practice.
 
When writing a song like “Coq Gagè”, what inspire you for such lyrics?
Honestly, I wrote “Coq Gagè” over 25 years ago and I cannot remember the inspiration for it. I hope that it continues to be a Haitian classic because some popular groups have performed that song over the years.
 
 Can you give us an update concerning the Boulo Valcourt  Foundation?
The foundation entails several different areas. The ultimate goal is to promote artistic and

musical growth. We focus on improving the abilities of each student so that they can achieve spectacular performances. We are also working on building a television and internet platform to showcase the work of our students.
 
Last time I saw you performed you announced that your daughter was one of the top youngest entrepreneur in America, how is she doing?
My granddaughter is doing well! She is traveling all over the world doing public speeches to inspire others to follow in her footsteps. I am extremely proud of her and everything that she has accomplished so far…
 
What is your future plan?
I just finished producing a new album that will be released soon. I think is one of the best works that I have created.
 
If reincarnation was possible, would you still want to be a musician? If yes, why?
I was born a musician and if I was reincarnated I couldn’t be anything else. This is because I cannot imagine my life without music.
 
Any advice for an upcoming young musician?
Even if you have talent as a musician, you cannot progress without technique. Never forget that you need 25% Talent, 25% Luck, and 50% Hard Work.
 
Last word?
I hope that I will have enough time to share all of the music that is in my soul for all of you to enjoy. 
 
I would also like to thank all of my fans who have motivated me. I love you all. 
 
Thank you Boulo, we'll chat soon!
 
 

Media

Peze Kafe ft. Boulo Valcourt Lakou Mizik Session

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