It’s that time of year when South Florida celebrates Haitian Heritage Cultural Month and music fans get to overdose on the island’s sensuous soundtrack at the biggest music festival outside of Haiti.
This year, the 19th annual Haitian Compas Festival will be held on two days, May 20-21, and that means plenty of konpa (also spelled compas) at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd, in downtown Miami.
We’ve put together a little primer on the music for those of you who still want to keep dancing past the last act, or for those who’ve always been curious about konpa but were too shy to ask.
Consider this Konpa 101, pulled from 10 of the 25 acts in this year’s festival lineup.
1. "Cheri Benyen M'" - Harmonik
This song’s double connotation keeps the mind racing with images of steamy shower scenes and late night booty calls. The title literally translates into “Darling, Bathe Me.” Just one look Harmonik’s lead singer Mac D and his shirtless six pack getting doused with a water hose in the song’s video helps you to see why “Cheri Benyen M,” from the group’s new album “Degaje,” is so hot. The song has inspired countless parodies, from getting doused by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel version, “Jezu Benyenm,” to women throwing themselves at the singer during live performances.
2. "Heartbreak & Misery" - dISIP
You heard it here first: We’re glad Gazzman Couleur and band dISIP are back after a two year hiatus. The band’s recently released second single, “Lanmou Pi Fo” (“The Power of Love”) off its third album, Kleré Yo, is giving its zouk-R&B fused konpa hit, “Heartbreak & Misery,” some stiff competition. But love-torn fans are still feeling Gazzman’s pain and envy in this heartbreak testimonial, underscoring why Kleré Yo has been called the best konpa album last year by several Haitian music industry insiders.
3. "Malade" - KAI
Richard Cave is sick, or rather malade and not because he’s no longer part of one of the hottest Haitian bans, CaRiMi, which broke up last year. Cave, who reinvented himself last summer in Miami as the lead singer of new group KAI, explains in the band’s first single that he doesn’t need to go to a hospital to know what ails him in this sensual hit about being love sick.
4. "Moving On" - T-Vice
If you’re a divorced parent then you will gain an appreciation for Roberto Martino in this deeply personal testimonial about not wanting to get divorced or break up his family. The first single off his band T-Vice’s newest album, “Nou Tounen Pi Fò,” (“We’ve Returned Stronger) Moving On” is a far cry from the themes T-Vice fans have become accustomed to (like political unrest, musical rivalries and hopes for a better Haiti). This softer, unexpected side of Roberto and his brother, composer Reynaldo – dad is konpa pioneer Robert Martino of Top Vice – is much welcomed.
5. "Until When"- NuLook
Some call him the maestro, others, the Michael Bolton of Haitian music. NuLook’s lead singer Arly Lariviere defines the word passion, with his sultry deep voice and his sensual lyrics that make women fantasize about being with him and frustrated men ditch their dates on the dance floor. The band’s new single, “Until When” is classic Arly, who has perfected the art of love making through song.
6. "MaBouya" - Tabou Combo
If you’re a fan of guitarist Carlos Santana’s song, “Foo Foo” off his 2002 Shaman album, then you’ll love “MaBouya” by Tabou Combo because it’s the original song that Santana fell in love with. Known as the Rolling Stones of konpa, the international superstars have no shortage of hits offering vodou beats, banging drums and blaring horns.
7. "Map Marye" - KLASS
Lead singer, Pipo once joked during a Miami performance that this song is the other national anthem of Haiti. Indeed fans are still clamoring to KLASS, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, and “Map Marye” is one of the reasons why. The band takes an old theme, getting married, and adds a defiant twist as Pipo delivers on the vocals and declares his love on one hand, and defiantly stands up to his family on the other.
8. "Turn Me On" - Kreyol La
Kreyol La was involved in a pretty juicy scandal – the band was declared the winner of the National Carnival in Les Cayes by the country’s leading entertainment publication, Ticket magazine, but T-Vice’s Robert Martino immediately contested. But this band has always kept a youthful sound. And while its 2017 Carnival hit, Voyem Anlè isn’t available on Spotify, songs like “Turn Me On” demonstrate how they appeal to teens fans. Diehard fans will smile at the familiarity of the track’s lyrics while newcomers will enjoy its soft flow and attractive grooves.
9. "La Familia" - Djakout
They are the first Haitian konpa band to perform on the MTV stage, joining Haitian-American hip hop artist Wyclef Jean on New Year’s Eve 2007. Djakout continues to put out high energy vibes that get you off your feet even if you don’t understand the Creole lyrics. And while they have no shortage of hits, “La Familia” with its harmonic flow and English rap lyrics gives you a taste of how this band brings its own flavor to konpa.
10. "Denye Okazyon" - Sweet Micky
Haiti’s former president Michel Martelly is no stranger to controversy. And his alter ego, Sweet Micky’s two post-presidency carnivals songs attacking two prominent Haitian journalists who have been critical of his reign have been nothing but controversial. But to understand why Sweet Micky remains popular and can get even octogenarians dancing at a Little Havana ballroom, one simply has to listen to classics like “Denye Okazyon.” Recorded back when Sweet Micky wasn’t yet president of Haiti, this track reminds rivals that he was definitely the president of konpa.