Carimi still wants to promote Haitian music in the world

Go tell your ex by Dadju, Quickdraw ofAya Nakamura… But where do the danceable Afro-Caribbean sounds that dot these pieces come from? No, it’s not just zoukbut also compass (konpa in Creole), straight fromHaiti. A musical genre that has not ceased to renew itself since its creation in 1957 with groups like Carimi. Founded in 2001 by three friends, Carlo Vieux, Richard Cavé and Mickael Guirand, Carimi has made Haitian music shine throughout the world, with songs that speak both of love and of the difficult situation of their country (Ayiti/Bang Bang).

Separated since 2016, the trio meet again this Saturday on the Accor Arena stage for a single date, on the occasion of their 20-year career, postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19. As Afro-Caribbean sounds (like zouk and konpa) are heard in the French music industry, they are coming back for 20 minutes on the weight of their heritage, their joy of returning to the stage and address recent violent events in Haiti.

There have been a lot of rumors about your big comeback. How do you apprehend this reunion, six years after your separation?

Michael Guirand: Carimi is the project of three friends made with a lot of heart. We made a lot of sacrifices. Our bonds were really strong. Separation was hard for all of us. To have the opportunity to relive such a moment is truly extraordinary. It brings back a lot of emotion, to be so awaited by the fans, to have their love.

Charles Old: Even after the separation of Carimi, with Richard we had discussed it a lot. We knew the meeting was going to happen. It’s just that we took a long time because Richard and Mickael have their own band now, so they had to get organized. Carimi’s 20th birthday was just the right time. I think it will be a very big success. People are super excited to see us back on stage. This Saturday, I think it will be a very good time that we will spend with the fans, maybe for the last time.

Richard Cave: We will be the first Haitian group to fill Bercy alone. We did it with groups, but there will only be us. We will be the first and that is extraordinary.

How did you experience the postponement of your show, twice, because of the Covid-19?

Charles Old: We were disappointed, because we didn’t want to postpone the date twice. As Richard and Mickael live in New York, me in Miami and our musicians everywhere, it was not easy to bring everyone together. When activities resumed after the pandemic, the number of people admitted to Bercy was really limited, so we had to postpone again because we really wanted to sell out.

Michael Guirand: Covid is hot. Just to go through that moment, it was difficult. We lost a lot of people, personalities in the world of music (Jacob Desvarieux from Kassav’, Isnard Douby from System Band…). To be alive today is already a blessing. We experienced the postponement with great sorrow. We had to wait and we are finally in a position to really prepare the concert. Most of the musicians there are original musicians. We spent a lot of time preparing for the concert.

Richard Cave: Yes, it bothered us to postpone on one side, but it suited us on the other.

Michael Guirand: We will try to present people with something good, up to their expectations.

Carimi is one of the faces of Haitian music: how did you carry this responsibility?

Charles Old : I think we should above all remain humble, so that it doesn’t go to our heads. There are artists who think at some point that they are more than God, but Richard, Mickael and I are simple people. We love the contact with the public and I think that was also our strength, that people appreciated us a lot for that. We already know that the work we do is not just for us, but also for Haitian culture. We had that in mind, to promote our culture. That was our main objective and we did it until the end.

Richard Cave : That’s the difference when you do things for love. We realize that what we have done, that our songs have had an extraordinary impact on Haitian society. Pieces that I was able to compose touched people, their romantic relationships. I indirectly take responsibility for it.

Michael Guirand : When Carimi stopped, I was told in several interviews: “How dare you? Carimi is a national heritage, it does not belong to you”. It means that Carimi was very important for the community, that depriving them of such a group is daring on our part. How to make disappear a group of such a scale which brings so much happiness? Today, we try to repair even if there will always be people who will have a bitter taste, there will be others who will have a certain satisfaction.

Faced with the security crisis and the cholera epidemic, how do you experience the current situation in Haiti?

Charles Old : I haven’t lived in Haiti since 1997. It’s very difficult. Now I can’t go back to live in my country, play in my country, go on vacation in my country because there are security and kidnapping issues. I would have liked politicians to try to find a solution to the problems, because the “able people” will just leave and leave the country with “unable people”. I think so far our music Ayiti, Bang Bang is topical [sortie en 2011, elle décrit la situation sociopolitique du pays en proie à l’insécurité, la misère, l’armement des ghettos ou encore les assassinats], since nothing has changed since its release. It is a difficult and sad situation for me as an artist and a Haitian.

Michael Guirand : We have fans all over the world and everywhere we go, we wave our Haitian flag. To always have this negative connotation or problems attached to our country is difficult. We have so many beautiful riches, beautiful things to show, an extraordinary culture… but there is this double facet to manage. We hope that the country will get through this bad moment. We are only here for a moment. We hope for the best for future generations. We can continue to do what we know how to do and to inspire them.

Richard Cave : Personally, I am the only one of my family to live in the United States. My mother and my father are in Haiti. I talk to them every day in a chat group on WhatsApp. There are days when my mother tells me “we’re not going out today, everything is closed” or “Someone has been kidnapped”. At some point, you start putting money aside in case there’s a kidnapping. It’s super scary. My parents can’t leave Haiti, they don’t have American nationality. And then, the question is not to make everyone leave the country and leave it in this state… My first home is in Haiti. It’s hard.

Naikamusic, Joe Dwet Filé [compositeur de Va dire à ton ex de Dadju], Oswald, Phyllisia Ross… There is a new generation of Haitian artists emerging. Is succession guaranteed?

Richard Cave: Oswald is a friend, I love what he does. Phyllisia has an extraordinary charisma. They do exceptional things. And then it’s another concept not to focus on one band [il y a beaucoup de groupes en Haïti comme Carimi, Tabou Combo, T-Vice, etc.] but to be a solo artist. They sing live, they have talent and they don’t need technology to show it. It’s a nice succession. I am proud to have them.

Charles Old : I think these artists bring another color to Haitian music, like when we arrived in 2001 to show new ways of playing. I think the succession is assured, I’m not afraid and I’m super satisfied with what I hear.

Michael Guirand : Recently, I was listening to a song by Carimi which said ” yo di konpa an danje (“they say the compass is in danger”), but relief is there. At one time, the next generation was us. Today, even if our career is not over, we played our part and we continue to push the limits. I hope they will go even further, that they will draw on our experiences, our mistakes and push harder. Haitian music is music that is very rich and still unexplored. We know so many other trends, especially now with the emergence of Afro music. I hope that our artists of tomorrow will take advantage of it, with the advantages they have today.

Carimi, is it really over? What are your future plans ?

Charles Old : We just wanted to focus on this October 15th. Richard and Mickael have their own band. Personally, I took another path that has nothing to do with music [il travaille dans le secteur de la data analytics intelligence] and I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I spend a lot more time with my family and I don’t want to go back. Have with gigs like Saturday? That is likely, but not certain. We’ll see… And maybe even a last album…

Richard Cave : This meeting taught us a lot. We didn’t talk often enough. We experienced things we hadn’t experienced for six years and we realized that we are good about ourselves. Carimi is an institution, she’s not going to die, but we’re not going to continue playing every weekend before. For my part, I had an exceptional year with my group Kaï. We did about 118 dates and next weekend I’m playing in Arkansas (in the United States). I was truly fulfilled and I am blessed.

Michael Guirand : To say that Carimi is over is to lie. To say it’s not over is to lie. I think that our history is a book that continues to be written, and that today we are at the chapter where we are trying to reconnect, at all levels. A full-time Carimi won’t happen. But if there are opportunities that arise, we will study them. With my group Vayb, we are finalizing our album. Since the Covid-19, we have not played in Paris, so we will soon announce a date. Then we’ll see how things go…

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Carimi still wants to promote Haitian music in the world

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