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Haiti and Cuba are close musically as well as geographically. Both countries have musical styles that layer Latin, jazz, and other influences on a foundation of West African rhythm. While Cubans must necessarily use subtlety in their political activity, however, the turbulence of Haitian politics has spawned some great outspoken protest music. Key among these artists are worldbeat groups RAM and Boukman Eksperyans, both of which are represented on this compilation. With six US-released albums (the first two issued from exile after Haiti’s 1991 coup), Boukman Eksperyans may be the Haitian group best known in world music circles. But most tracks on this CD are from groups preferring Latin and Caribbean styles (and often keeping their politics to themselves). Representing the upsurge in Haitian hip-hop—largely inspired by the success of Haitian-born Wyclef Jean (of Fugees fame)—is the group Masters of Haiti, with an upbeat, melodic song not unlike feel-good Jawaiian music. Thanks to BBC radio host Andy Kershaw for compiling this fine collection.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

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