Melissa Laveaux Announces New Album & Single

January 9, 2018


Mélissa Laveaux
New album: ‘Radyo Siwèl’

(Nø Førmat!)

Album release date 23 March 2018 
3-track EP release date 2 Feb 2018
New track ‘Nan Fon Bwa’ now streaming

‘The most exciting music of 2018’  BBC Culture

Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Mélissa Laveaux, releases her new album ‘Radyo Siwèl’ on Nø Førmat! on 23rd March.  The album has already been predicted by BBC Culture among ‘the most exciting music of 2018’. A digital EP with three songs will come out on the 2nd February. To celebrate the release, Mélissa is making a track, ‘Nan Fon Bwa’,  available for streaming here from today. The song is about celebration and is a reworking of Frantz Casséus’ original composition.  

In April 2016, Mélissa Laveaux headed to Haiti in search of her roots and on a mission to honour her ancestors. Born in Canada to Haitian parents, she did not know what would emerge musically from her pilgrimage although she had a particular interest in the period of American occupation of the island between 1915-1934. Two decades had gone by since she had last set foot in Haiti when she was 12 years old. She felt like a stranger and yet, at the same time, she experienced the thrill of an exile returning home, for Haiti is an intrinsic part of her identity.

She returned home to Ottawa with a head full of sounds, melodies, moods and stories of distant times. From these she built Radyo Siwèl, a unique album steeped in Haitian history and culture and yet which is also highly personal and intimate.

Draping the songs in an indie rock aesthetic, Mélissa’s reinterprets Haitian heritage, taking traditional tunes, vodou anthems and scraps and phrases discovered in old songbooks, and sewing them together like a patchwork of intersecting identities.

Recorded over just five days and mixed as the tracks were being laid down, Mélissa’s distinctive voice and sinuous guitar playing are burnished further by the shining presence on guitar and cuatro of Drew Gonsalves, leader of Trinidadian band Kobo Town, and the sound is given a dramatic, live feel by the French production team A.L.B.E.R.T. (Air, Tony Allen, Charlotte Gainsbourg).

Radyo Siwèl is very important to me because there’s the whole part about remembering your ancestry and honouring your ancestors and elders,” she explains. “I’m getting reacquainted with parts of my heritage my parents left out when they were raising me.”

The period of the American Occupation was particularly interesting to Mélissa and she was looking for songs sung at that time. These were dark days, during which the first Black Republic – which had emancipated itself from slavery and proudly seized its independence from the French – was once more tormented by the oppressive presence of a new and unwanted colonial power. Popular songs became weapons of resistance once more. Inextricably intertwined with the spirit of resistance was the presence of vodouand its many loas, or divinities, who were summoned to protect the Haitian people and to aid in the fight against their oppressors.

Another inspiration for the album was the voice of Martha Jean-Claude, a legendary Haitian singer-songwriter who was imprisoned for the militancy of her songs and then forced to leave her native island for Cuba in the 1950s. Martha’s records had provided the soundtrack to Mélissa’s childhood and although there were considerable differences in their experience of expatriation there was enough in common for Mélissa to feel an affinity.

The album’s title, Radyo Siwèlcomes from the concept of radio and the idea of transmission. Siwèl is the Creole word for a kind of hog plum that grows in the Haitian mountains and is also a reference to the itinerant troubadours and rural orchestras, called Bann’ na Siwèl, who used to peddle the songs from village to village.

EP tracklist:
1. Lè Ma Monte Chwal Mwen
2. Nan Fon Bwa
3. Angeli-ko

Album tracklist:
1. Lè Ma Monte Chwal Mwen
2. Nan Fon Bwa
3. Angeli-ko
4. Kouzen
5. Simalo
6. Jolibwa
7. Tolalito
8. Twa Fey
9. Legba Na Konsole
10. Lasirèn Labalèn
11. Nibo
12. Panama Mwen Tombe

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