Lakou Mizik and Joseph Ray
Leave the Bones
Leave the Bones is the result of a series of happy accidents. Joseph Ray is a Grammy-winning electronic music composer and producer. While visiting a friend who was working in Haiti, he happened upon the Audio Institute, the only school for audio production and engineering in the country. He met one of the instructors, Steve Valcourt who invited him to check out his band, Lokou Mizik at a local club. Ray loved what he heard and wanted to sample some of the sounds for his EDM tunes. He very quickly realized he couldn’t just slap these sounds on top of a club mix and set out on collaboration with the Haitian musicians.
Lakour Mizik is a nine piece band whose music is rooted in the Voodoo tradition. Many of the songs they do are traditional Voodoo spirituals used in ceremonies. The collaboration appealed to Lakou Mizik because since their founding in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti, they have worked to bring the traditional songs to a new generation. Still, Steve Valcourt wondered if mixing Voodoo spirituals with EDM was going to far.
Steve Valcourt explained to Scott Simon on NPR’s World Café that “Our first song that we made in Lakou Mizik was “Peze Kafe.” And, you know, we would had to go to the tribe, to the Lakous and say, so this is what we did to it. How you like it? And did we not destroy the song and everything? But now, since we have the feeling of it, the hang of it – and then we understand that there is no walls between artistic and music and culture. So we starting to put down the walls and connect some bridges, and then there it is.”
Leave the Bones is a beautiful blending of tradition and technology. The songs on the album may be centuries old, but Lakour Mizik plays the secularized arrangements with pride and passion. The songs are built up from the rhythms of the drums and the call and response vocals. Joseph Ray uses his electronics and production to accentuate the atmosphere and cast the sounds in an augmented reality. The vocals are up front with just enough reverb and echo to give them an unnatural depth. The rhythms and melodies are dominant with Ray’s instrumental contributions coming as washes of sound and unobtrusive melodic flourishes. The overall impression I get is Lakour Mizik playing their Voodoo derived music in outer space. The spirit is strong and unconstrained by things like gravity.