Toppa Top ’15: The 15 Best Caribbean Albums of 2015

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13. Beken – Troubadour

During the two Duvalier dictatorships, a boulevard named Portail Leogane became Port Au Prince’s center for guitar playing in the street and in bars, and of the production of both romantic and political lyrics. Portail Leogane, “Portay,” was where truck drivers dropped their passengers off, and walked to the nearest bar for a drink, and where the elite and the middle classes socialized with the poor. The Portail even had a cuisine, Poul Logey (Ze Bouyi, Soup Joumou, Bega) to match the drinking and the talking. Jean-Prosper Dauphin, a courageous troubadour with one leg known as Beken, is the best musician that the Portail has produced. His songs like “Kwa Pa m” have become classics of Haitian song. Right after the Earthquake in 2010, Beken’s music became the most played in the streets of Port Au Prince, during a time of tremendous pain and grief. His first release in the US, after a long hiatus, Troubadour (Thirty Tigers), is a showcase of his guitar mastery, as well as the Portail scene that has all but died. All of the songs on the album are great. “Ton Nwel” is a standout, and is a sad Christmas song. Troubadour is an album to listen to as an example of artistic mastery, but also as the product of a subculture that has almost died with the times. —Adolf Alzuphar