Skip to main content Menu Menu

Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics

Login   |   Signup

Haitian Band Lakou Mizik in Residency at Duke

April 25th, 2017
12:00 PM


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Forum for Scholars and Publics (Old Chem 011)

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Light lunch served at 11:45 a.m.

Lunchtime conversation with members of the Haitian band Lakou Mizik to discuss music, culture and politics. 

Band Members Steeve Valcourt, Sanba Zao, and Jonas Attis will present alongside creative director Zach Niles. Moderated by Dasha Chapman (Duke, African and African American Studies). 

Formed in the wake of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Lakou Mizik is a diverse coalition of musicians representing a cross section of generations, faiths and musical styles. Their music reflects the African, French, Caribbean and U.S. influences that collide in Haiti. In Haitian Kreyol the word lakou carries multiple meanings. It can mean the backyard, a gathering place where people come to sing and dance, to debate or share a meal. It also means “home” or “where you are from,” which in Haiti is a sacred place filled by the ancestral spirits of all the others that were born there. Lakou Mizik’s music invites listeners to join them in their lakou, to share with them the historical depth, expressive complexity and emotional range of the Haitian people. Emerging from one of the darkest periods in the nation’s history, Lakou Mizik presents sentiments of joy, hope, solidarity and pride that they hope will serve as a beacon for a positive future in Haiti.

Stay for a participatory song workshop with Sanba Zao and Steeve Valcourt! 1:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the Forum for Scholars and Publics.

Later that evening, Duke Coffeehouse will host a Lakou Mizik performance at 8:00 p.m. Optional RSVP here.

Sponsored by Duke's African and African American Studies, SLIPPAGE:Performance|Culture|Technology, the Haiti Lab/Franklin Humanities Institute, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Center of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Duke Department of Music, the Duke Dance Program, and the Duke Center for International and Global Studies.

Steeve Valcourt

Lakou Mizik

Steeve Valcourt is the son of Haitian musical legend Boulo Valcourt a blues, jazz and roots musician who found fame in the eighties with the band Caribbean Sextet and has even played the White House. Steeve grew up partially in Haiti and partially on Long Island where he went to high school and college. Steeve grew up surrounded by the top stars of Haitian music and absorbed it all. He cites influences as varied as Carlos Santana and George Benson to Haitian protest singer John Steve Brunache. His love for Haiti runs deep and while so many Haitians are looking for a way out of the country, Steeve has tasted life in America and now wants only to be in his homeland. Steeve had some fame as an artist with his compa band Vod’k but found his niche working with his father producing young artists, often for free. The list of artists that Steeve has produced in Haiti reflects a who’s-who of the biggest stars of this generation. One can’t walk through the streets of Port-au-Pince with Steeve with- out people calling out greetings from a passing tap tap taxi, being inundated by people wanting to shake his hand or have their picture taken with him. But it’s through Lakou Mizik that Steeve is finally getting a real star turn of his own - coming out from his dad’s shadow and getting the popular respect as an artist that he deserves. Steeve is pushing the rediscovery of traditional Haitian music through Lakou Mizik while showing his deep appreciation and respect for those that he learned from. Steeve currently teaches music production and Haitian music history at the Artists Institute in Jacmel.

Sanba Zao

Lakou Mizik

Sanba Zao (Louis Lesly Marcelin) is a legend of the racine (roots) music movement in Haiti. A founder of the Sanba and back to the earth movements in Haiti, Sanba Zao has been on the musical scene for nearly 30 years. He is not only a master drummer with an encyclopedic knowledge of traditional songs and rhythms; Zao is a ferocious front man with the energy of artists half his age. Zao became involved with the Lakou Mizik project through mutual friends. Originally, he came to give guidance and suggest collaborators, but as time went on Jonas, Steeve and Nadine started seeing him as their mentor and a portal to the lost traditions that they were seeking to revive. Jonas’ soulful pop sensibility blended with Zao’s deep knowledge of traditions immediately gave youthful rebirth to old songs that had long been relegated to the archives. As the Lakou Mizik collective began to take shape Sanba Zao invited his son Woulele in to the group. Zao is a professor at L’Ecole National des Arts, Haiti’s national arts school, and he devotes his life to teaching and promoting the culture and music of Haiti. He is a musical guide and mentor to the younger members of Lakou Mizik and provides the essential cultural foundation for the band’s music.

Jonas Attis

Lakou Mizik

Jonas Attis was born in Jeremie on the southwest coast of Haiti. Known as “The City of Poets,” Jeremie has a history of spawning politically engaged artists. Raised in a musical household with faiths split between Vodou and Protestantism, Jonas was surrounded by many of the country’s deep traditions from a young age. He started writing songs as a child - including a local rara band hit when still in his teens. In 1993, Jonas embarked on an ill-fated voyage with his grandmother, a famous leader of a local rara band. They boarded an overcrowded ferry called the Neptune that shuttled passengers from Jeremie along the coast to the capital city of Port-au-Prince. When bad weather caused the ship to capsize, the voyage turned into one of the greatest maritime disasters of recent times with the loss of as many as 1500 lives - including Jonas’ grandmother. Jonas spent 3 days floating on a barrel of oil, a bucket of charcoal and on the back of a bloated cow carcass before being saved by a Cuban rescue team that brought him back to Jeremie. He arrived on the wharf in Jeremie just as his family was saying their last prayers for him, thinking he was among the many who had perished. In his 20s Jonas moved to Port-au-Prince to follow his musical dreams. He has earned a reputation as a passionate and soulful singer with infectious energy onstage. Though he is often called upon to sing on the hits of other stars, Jonas has developed his own unique songwriting style that blends traditional rara and Vodou with reggae and Haitian pop styles. He is one of Lakou Mizik’s lead songwriters with lyrics that blend pointed political message with sing-a-long choruses that never fail to get a crowd moving. He says that to this day his grandmother inspires him and he thinks of her every time he is on stage.

Zach Niles

Lakou Mizik

Zach Niles is an award-winning filmmaker, band manager and most recently the director of the Audio Institute in Jacmel, Haiti. His documentary film, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, won awards at 12 international film festivals and under Zach’s management, the musical stars of the film have gone on to produce four critically acclaimed albums and continue to tour internationally. Zach oversaw the opening and construction and then became director of the Audio Institute, a tuition free vocational school to teach Haitian youths the art of audio engineering and Music production. Zach is the co-founder of WeOwnTV, a film and multi-media educational program for disadvantaged youth in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Zach has worked with Lakou Mizik since 2011. He has also worked on the production and promotion of major music tours by artists such as Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and Paul Simon. Zach lived in Haiti from 2011 until 2016 and is currently based in Burlington, VT. 

Dasha A. Chapman

Duke University

Dasha A. Chapman is the Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University, working alongside Duke’s Haiti Lab, the Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, and Dance. Dasha’s research engages African diaspora theory, performance studies, ethnography, and the queer Caribbean. She received her PhD in Performance Studies from New York University, and is a dancer who works in African diasporic techniques and collaborates with choreographers in New York, Haiti, and Durham, NC. Her writing appears in The Black Scholar, Dance Chronicle, and Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory in a special issue she co-edited, Nou Mache Ansanm (We Walk Together): Queer Haitian Performance and Affiliation.