Interview With Fanfan TiBot of Tabou Combo

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How and why you guys formed Tabou Combo?

The year was 1962, a musical revolution was taking place in Europe, precisely in England. Groups like “the Beatles and the “Rolling Stones “were taking Europe and the United States by storm. Haiti was chosen by the French music industry as a potential market for French Rock and Roll as a former Colony. In every upper class and some middle class neighborhoods a group was being formed. They started playing rock and then came back to Konpa. Tabou Combo was formed at the image of new generation of Haitian musicians called the Mini Jazz. The first Mini Jazz was “Les Shleu Shleu.”

What is the precise date when Tabou Combo came together?

We started in 1967 as “ Los Incognitos “ and then renamed the band “Tabou Combo in December 1968 in order to participate in a Mini Jazz contest organized by Radio Haiti.

What’s the story behind the name Tabou Combo?

The name Los Incognitos was not original enough. We wanted a more Haitian name for the band. Albert Chancy chose the name TABOU since at Rue Pavee in Port-au-Prince there was a florist named “Tabou Fleurs” he found it cool. The Combo part came from “Ibo Combo “ a musical band that were our idols at the time.

How did you get that nick name Fanfan Tibot?

In my neighborhood there were two Fanfans and we both wore boots to go to school. The other Fanfan was much bigger than me so to differentiate the two, our friend, Jean Geneus who is the actual Minister of The Disapora gave us the name Gros Bot and Ti Bot.

What differentiates Tabou Combo from all other Konpa bands?

Tabou Combo has always been an experimental group in a sense that we always want to break into the international market. Therefore we sing in English Spanish ,French and Creole . Our stage work has always been dynamic. We are more focused on Concerts than bals. We had a taste of the World market very early in 1975 with “New York City “.

While doing some research for this interview, I found out that you started out as the conga player for the band than moved up front as a singer…what was this transition like?

I started as a Congas player indeed and I was a good one too. I think I can still kick it if I wanted too. The change began when our friend Renald Valme the actual congas player came to New York and I was the sound-man for the band. I could not do both so I gave up my position and worked as a back up singer and a sound-man until we hired a full time sound-man. When I wrote and sang the song Aux Antilles, I became a full front-man.

For the new generation, give them a little background history lesson of the musical feud that existed between Tabou and Skah Shah…what stand out the most about that polemic?

Hill. We both fought for that position as much as we could. I think Skah Shah won the battle in the Haitian Community whereas Tabou captured the rest of the world from France, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Panama, Japan, St.Martin etc… that was our dream from the get go. We conquered the bigger market. The polemic was a lot of fun and very benign we did not shoot at each other.

Who were some of your greatest influence and why?

As a song writer I listen to a lot of Rock and Roll until now. Stones ,Beatles, Hootie and the Blow Fish. I listen to, Earth Wind and Fire, The O’ Jays, Curtis Mayfield, Isley Brothers. I listen to African music also my idol was Franco a guitar player from Zaire; he’s the one who inspired me” Mario Mario.” I listen to lyrics that make sense since I strongly believe that God gave us the gift of music for a reason. My reason is to pass messages to my people and I think I have fulfilled that mission. I could have been a human rights lawyer after graduating from College but I think that my music allows me to send a stronger message. I want to be a role model for the Haitian people. We lack role models in the Community.

What would you say as far as events in your life or career that had the greatest impact on you?

There are a few that I can remember until now:

1- The first time we came back to Haiti as a group with Dadou Pasquet

2-When we had our first gold record in 1975 in Europe

3- When we landed in Panama for the first time

4- Tabou Combo Kassav at Djoumbala in Haiti

Do you remember your first gig as a professional musician? What was it like?

My first gig with Tabou Combo was at the “ Presbytere “ of L’Eglise St.Pierre in Petion-Ville. It was a little chaotic but a lot of fun. Each of us got paid the equivalent of one quarter in gourdes.

How many countries have Tabou Combo been to?

Too Many. I can name a few: France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, England, Panama, Costa Rica, St Croix, St.Thomas, St Martin, St Kitts, Martinique , Guadeloupe, Guyana, Aruba, Curacao, St. Domingue, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Barth.

What have you learned from so many gigs outside the Haitian Music Industry?

One basic thing . On a professional World musicians are respected by both the promoter and the public. Therefore well treated, well paid. The Organization is more professional.

What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

Dodoph Legros, Tipico Cibaeno, Jazz des Jeunes, Nemours Jean Baptiste, Webert Sicot. Then as a teeneager I listened to: Charles Aznavour , Dick Rivers, Johnny Holliday , Ray Charles, Ibo Combo Shleu Shleu ect…

Any musician you would love to work with but have not had the opportunity to?

Not really, I think that I play in the best band.  As a congas player I liked Mongo Santamaria , Ray Baretto I like the rhythm section of Carlos Santana and Ruben Blades. I don’t think I would have been a musician without Tabou Combo.

What inspire you when you are composing a song?

It could be a fictitious situation like “Aux Antilles ‘ or a real situation like “ Prejuje “it can also be a dream like in “Banbou Panche “any situation is good as long as I am inspired.

What are your top 5 songs out of all Tabou Combo’s albums?

Mabouya , Aux Antilles , Bolero Jouk li Jou , Banbou Panche , Kitem Fe Zafem.

If you had to form a dream band consisting of past musicians and present musicians…who would it consist of?

Joe Charles “ bass “ Richie “ drums “ Ernst Marcelin, Fabrice Rouzier “Keyboards “ or Dany and Nickenson on some songs , Jean Claude Jean Rhythm guitar, Dadou Pasquet , Ralph Conde ,” Guitar “ myself on congas , Kino , Shoubou , Emeline Michel , Jocelyne Berouard “vocals “ and Patrick St Elie on Percussion.

Do you find your composing process nowadays to be introspective as you grow older?

Not really, I write for others. I don’t think of myself at all in songs. I can express a personal experience but only for the sake of teaching others. My songs are for the people.

You are stuck on an island alone, what 10 albums you would have wished have brought with you?

The Best of Santana, the best of Jimi Hendrix , Tabou Gold , Rolling Stone, Kassav, Happy 50 Konpa, Nickenson, the best of Earth wind and Fire, Haiti Twoubadou 1 and 2 , Juan Luis Guerra and Ruben Blades.

Here are some names that I would like you to give an opinion of with the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear those names:

 Coupe Cloue …. the best twoubadou from Haiti

 Ti Manno ….. a sensational Haitian singer with strong messages

 Cubano – Had a good run as a konpa singer mixed salsa and konpa, fits skah shah very well

 Emeline Michel –the best Haitian female vocalist since Lumane Casimir

 Misty Jean –has potential but needs a good songwriter

 Alan Cave –The master of konpa/love

 Richie (Zenglen)- Good drummer and good songwriter needs to explore the international market more ….too local

 King Kino- Could have been the biggest Haitian superstar had he had time to listen.

 Armstrong Jeune- Very Zouk need to be more original. Good singer though .

 Gazman –Good look and good stage presence

 TanTan-Very Michael Jackson and good singer

 Isnard Douby-Very good Haitian entertainer fits System band well.

 Roberto Martino- (both jr and sr) Robert Sr. started in a good foot until he started playing with the drum machine. Jr. is a good show-businessman.

 Mickael Guirand-Very improved singer with lots of talent but needs to explore some other style.

 Dadou Pasquet-Good stage presence needs to be more open.

How many songs in total does Tabou Combo have in its catalog? And how many have you written?

I wish I had time to take an in-depth look. I can say from the top of my head that Tabou has about 150 songs. I probably wrote about 50 and contributed in most of the rest.

Were you in any other band beside Tabou Combo?

No! I would not have been a musician without Tabou Combo.

What do you think is the state of the Haitian Music Industry?

I think doing very well for some and very bad for others as usual. We never had good promoters and producers just fly by nights. There is also a lack of imagination in this business and no real money.

Many have criticized Tabou for not opening doors to newer generation bands to the world market…some even go as far as saying that you guys suppressed opportunities for up coming bands…what do you have to say to those critics?

They are just crazy. Tabou Combo does not hold the key to the World Market. Nobody opened the door for us we did it by taking chances in our songs. We had an album with four songs written in English. Name a Haitian band who is willing to take chances and I will work with them. Carimi is very close but needs to open up more. Buy all the labels and most of the radio Stations in Haiti. There is no power without control. There are no set rules in this industry. We need regulations as in any other markets. No ethics at all in this market.

Can you describe the concept and sound of the up-coming Tabou Combo album?

The new Tabou Album will be out for the 40th. Anniversary. It’s going to explode. It’s going to be extremely professional and done by professionals.

What is the most important thing you want people to know about Tabou Combo?

Tabou Combo is an example of: tolerance, togetherness and altruism. It is the best band that this Country has ever produced.

What is the best live show Tabou Combo has ever done?

Tabou Combo 30th. Anniversary “ Live au Zenith”. We played for four hours non stop. The public was shocked.

Is there any trend within the new generation that you just cannot stand  or wish disappears?

Stop the Konpa/Zouk mechanical type of music and get into some real Haitian music with lots of percussion and energy.

What project are you working on right now?

We are preparing the 40th anniversary tour we need to do four Zenith in a row.

Any tours coming up?

Yes. Dominica Festival, California, Haiti Reunion Tour with all the former members to celebrate Radio Superstars 20th anniversary. Ivory Coast, Switzerland, France. Haiti again with Skah Shah probably.

 What is the plan for the band as you guys reach your 40th anniversary?

A super album with many guests’ artists and a World tour.

What do you consider to be a milestone for Tabou Combo musical career?

When New York City reached the # 1 spot in Europe, when our songs are played in three or four movies, when Carlos Santana recorded Mabouya and played it at the Super Bowl.

 Do you have any advice for musicians who want to even make a reasonable living in the industry?

Think outside the BOX. Reach out for the World.

Shoubou announced his retirement for 2008… any replacement for him yet? And will you follow suit?

Shoubou knows that Tabou has to go on. He has to start reaching out for a new singer.

How do you manage to juggle your musical life and your family life?

Very easy my wife knew me when I was a musician and herself travels a lot for her job. We are happy when we get together.

On your off time, what do you do?

Play tennis, ride my bike, jog, read about Haitian history, help my son with his homework, cut the grass, clean the house, and watch big concerts on dvds.

Thank you Fanfan! 

Thank you Opa…it was a pleasure.

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Rutshelle Guillaume

Biography of Rutshelle Guillaume …
Born in Port-au-Prince on July 28, a family of three children, Rutshelle GUILLAUME is the only daughter of her Father. At the age of five, she began to sing at the church of God of Boulard directed by Pastor Louis DESTINVAL. His passion for music takes him to 19 years, in the group “REL”, a musical formation composed for the most part of young musicians of the National School of … Arts (ENARTS). She was able to meet her husband, Walner O. Registre (Doc wor) band leader of the group Rèl, father of her beloved daughter (Ruth-Warly O. Registre). Rutshelle is one of the most listening and charming women’s voices on the air today. Her opus “KITE M KRIYE” is asked and asked again in the shows to which she is invited to produce. This song, according to her, comes out of the particular to reach the social. Rutshelle, Philosopher of formation, joined the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) of the State University of Haiti (U.E.H) in 2008. After completing her studies, she is currently completing her research in order to obtain her degree in philosophy. – Former Professor of Grammar and Philosophy at New Bird College. Rutshelle Guillaume currently works as: Protocol Officer attached to the Kiosk of the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad (MHAVE) at TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE International Airport. – During a training on vocal techniques organized by James Germain, Emmeline Michel and Stevenson Théodore at the Fokal in 2011, his performance on stage enabled him to surprise Yole DEROSE, in search of young female talents for his project “Haiti Heart of Women “. She chose to be part of her project. While awaiting the release of her album, she presents to the public the opportunity to discover it in her song titled “KITEM KRIYE” which is video-clip. In addition, Rutshelle had already participated on numerous projects with several artists and musical groups, such as: – Roosevelt SAILLANT, known as BIC Tizon dife: “Mesi ti cheri doudou” a song from his latest album entitled “Kreyòl sings Kreyòl Konpran” . Doc Filah: “Trèv pou amoni”, a song from his album “Akrilik sou twal rezon” – Eunide Edouarin dit (Eud) and Aristor Oberson says (Dad Crazy): “Fòk mwen fete”, a song of their album “Limyè wouj” – Jean Bernard Félicien dit (Hurricane) and Valkency Décembre dit (K-lib): “yon lide”, a song from their album “Knock Out” – Barikad crew , konplèks, bafon plafon “, songs from the album” RED “. To name but a few

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Neefah Song
Biography

Prior to launching her musical career, Neefah got her start by auditioning for the Brooklyn High School of the Arts; a specialized arts school where she majored in vocal music. In addition, she took Music Theory for she believes reading and writing music should be a very important factor in any musicians training.

Neefah excelled in the program and later attended the AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts where she graduated in 2006 with a degree in Musical Theater. She also graduated from the Barbizon School of Modeling the same year. Upon both graduations, Neefah began pursuing music full-time.

Stephanie “Neefah” Fontus was born on February 21st in Brooklyn, NY to a Haitian mother and a Haitian and Bahamian father. Her father, a professional bassist didn’t give her much support or encouragement when it came to music and her mother supported his decision because they didn’t want their daughter to make a career in music instead they encouraged her to complete her studies and have a normal and stable life and career. Neefah heeded her parents’ advice however it was in school where she actually found the drive and necessary encouragement that she needed and it came from her music teacher. Through her teaching and mentoring, Neefah finally felt secure enough to pursue her dream in entertainment.

Neefah went on to perform at some very prestigious events and places such as the United Nations, FAME on 42nd Street (Broadway Musical), VH1 Hop Hop Honors where she opened the show, she sang the national anthem at the Yankees’ stadium for the Mets twice to name a few.

With her career looking bright Neefah still felt the need to please her parents and obtain a degree in criminal justice but her heart still remains in music.

Neefah’s musical training and experience may be outside of the Haitian Music Industry’s (HMI) realm, she is no novice to the industry. Neefah’s collaborations include Dola Mizik, Clinton Benoit, Madman JP and Charlot Maitre on lead vocals.

Neefah’s new single entitled “Nobody but you” is officially released and Neefah is currently in the studio adding the finishing touches to her album slated for a Summer release.

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Written by Cheyna Pierre

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Yves Joseph

Yves Joseph

Background vocal

A Native of Petion-Ville, Yves Joseph, better known as Fanfan, is one of the original members of the band. Fanfan started with the band in 1968 playing the congas. In the 80’s, he moved to the front as an additional vocalist in support of Shoubou. The two have formed an impressive singing duo for the last 45 years. Fanfan is, undoubtedly, one of the most important and versatile members of Tabou Combo. Apart from being the band background vocalist, he’s also the band’s manager and main songwriter. Fanfan is a graduate (Cum Laude) from City College with a major in International Relations and a minor in Education. In the Summer of 2000, Fanfan became the first Haitian artist to land an endorsement deal with a major U.S. company when he signed with LATIN PERCUSSION (LP). Fanfan said his most positive experience with Tabou Combo was when the hit single NEW YORK CITY was released. ‘It is a good feeling to hear your songs everywhere you go in Europe, in jukeboxes, major radio stations, and Clubs,’ said Fanfan. ‘The attention you get, the pampering and the fame is unbelievable…’

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Yvon Andre

Yvon Andre

Percussions/Vocal

It was in 1968 when then fifteen year old percussionist Yvon Andre, known to all as Kapi, became a member of Tabou Combo. Back then the young musician had to sneak out of his family’s home in Petion-Ville to play with the band due to the fact that his parents were determined not to let their son become a musician. However, his love for music was too strong to be stopped. Kapi said he could have become anything, but he chose to be a musician because he loves music. It is that love that has motivated him to stay with Tabou Combo for so many years. Kapi is not just a mere percussionist; he’s also a pianist, vocalist, and songwriter. Kapi has penned many of Tabou’s hit songs. He has also written most of the band’s Spanish songs including FIESTA and PANAMA QUERIDA. The latter he co-wrote with Fanfan. Kapi said his most memorable moments as a member of Tabou was in 1998 when he traveled to the Ivory Coast to receive a lifetime achievement award on behalf of Tabou Combo, and again when RFO (French radio/television) honored Tabou Combo in Martinique; those, he said, were historical moments.

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Tabou Combo

BIOGRAPHY

“Rhythm is the essence of Tabou Combo,” says Tabou Combo’s co-founder and ex-drummer Herman Nau. The infectious rhythm of Haiti’s national dance music, Konpa (con-pah), has propelled the country’s preeminent dance band around the world. The 12 members of the band have covered many territories since leaving Haiti and relocating to New York City in 1971. By that time, Tabou had already established itself as Haiti’s number one group, and as the “Ambassadors of Konpa.” Tabou Combo now has worldwide fans and followers from London to Paris, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, South America, throughout the Caribbean and in North America.

It is easy to understand why Tabou Combo’s relentless and high-energy style of Compas dance beat knows no language barrier. Singing in English, Spanish, French or their native Creole, Tabou serves a hot mix of grooves and textures with roots from around the world. You will hear a strong dose of the Dominican Republic’s national dance music, meringue. In addition, there is Haiti’s dance-till-you-drop carnival music, rara, the hypnotic drums of Haitian voodoo rituals. Add to that quadrilles and contra-dances from Haiti’s French colonizers and funk from the American soul era to James Brown for good measure. The mixture of all these influences makes for a serious bass line that brings new meaning to the word bottom; layer upon layer of accents courtesy of drums, percussion and congas; the constant intertwining of two guitars with the feel of West African Soukous topped with bright piano riff and the brassy sound of a 3-man horn section.

Tabou Combo got started in 1968 in Petion-Ville, a town just outside Port-au-Prince, by Albert Chancy and Herman Nau and some friends, all in their teens. They began by naming themselves “Los Incognitos” because they were unknown at that time. They changed to Tabou Combo in 1969, in order to bear a name closer to the Haitian culture. That year, the band won first prize in a televised talent contest, gaining a national reputation in Haiti, and by 1970 it was one of the island’s leading bands. Then the Chancy’s parents stepped in, and Albert, the band’s guitarist, and original, leader was sent to college in Montreal and gave up music. The band dissolved and its members drifted to the United States. Early in 1971, however, an unexpected meeting led to a Tabou reunion with rhythm guitarist Jean-Claude Jean as the leader and the band has been together, with a few changes, ever since.

Employing the repetition and breaks of Afro-American gospel music, TABOU COMBO entices the listener to become listener and dancer. Almost four decades after TABOU COMBO’s establishment, the band has audiences dancing everywhere from concert halls to the streets and in nightclubs around the world. Says Fanfan, the band’s background vocalist and main songwriter, “We want people to dance and forget their sorrows.”

There is no doubt, the music is made for dancing, but Tabou also features lyrics that focus on social issues of the day. For example, the lyrics from the title cut of the group’s 1991 release ZAP ZAP deal with uplifting the image of Haitian people in the wake of bad press connected to the AIDS epidemic.

It was 1974 when the band captured Europe’s attention with its million-selling hit single NEW YORK CITY. Tabou steadily has been building its international followers ever since. The 1989 release, AUX ANTILLES (The Antilles), topped European and Caribbean charts for six consecutive weeks. AUX ANTILLES also won Best Album for Haitian Dance Music at the 1991 1st Annual Caribbean Music Awards at New York City’s famed Apollo Theater. Tabou’s release, KITEM FE ZAFEM (Let Me Do My Things), was voted among Beat Magazine’s Best of 1988. In 1989, KITEM FE ZAFEM, along with ZAP ZAP were used by the film director Jonathan Demme in his movie MYSTERY DATE. The song JUICY LUCY was chosen by French movie maker Maurice Pialat for his movie POLICE (1985). In 2002, world known guitarist Carlos Santana recorded the song MABOUYA (Foo Foo) on his album SHAMAN.

After traveling around the world with Tabou, Fanfan says he has found that people everywhere are all the same and they all love music. TABOU COMBO seduces the people with rhythm that does not let go. Konpa’s unrelenting dance beat is contagious and there are plenty of witnesses. Many of the thousands of TABOU COMBO fans around the world eagerly will testify… that is if they can stop dancing long enough to talk!

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Dat7

Biography

Based out of Hollywood, Florida, Dat7 is a Haitian band with a style deeply rooted in the finest tradition of Compas Direct with Zouk and R&B influences. Dat7 came into existence in late 2014 when former bandmates and longtime friends, Ricot Amazan (conga drums), and Eddy Viau (percussionist), join forces and created the band. They were later joined by Vladimir Alexis (drums), and Olivier Duret (vocalist), to complete the ensemble. Dat7 has created quite a stir since releasing their debut album VERDICT in October of 2015. Having been awarded the “Revelation de L’année 2015” award and the Haitian Academy Award in 2017, Dat7 continues to position itself as one of the most notable new bands, especially for their superb live performances.

Je-veux-M’envoler

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