Toppa Top 20: LargeUp’s Artists to Watch For 2016

Follow Jah (Haiti)

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Haitian Carnival is a celebration of personal freedom full of biting satire, and the sounds of traditional bands known as bande a pye. Each bande a pye (who can also be found playing during Easter and other special occasions) is generally associated with a specific neighborhood; a number having etched their place into Haitian history, such as Otofonik, Titato, and Soul Rasta. A new name to add to this group of elite bands is Petion-Ville’s Follow Jah. Follow Jah has 18 members, some playing different instruments at the same time, showing incredible mastery of an almost 100-year-old tradition. Their name firmly established in Port-au-Prince, Follow Jah are now taking bande a pye culture to the world. They are perhaps the only bande a pye to have played in Europe, and were recently featured in this documentary with Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste. —Adolf Alzuphar

How would you describe your sound?

Our music is festivity music. It is Carnival music. Every year, during Carnival, bande a pye members come together, compose, practice, produce our songs, and we proceed to play them all round the city. Our instruments are either made locally or from found objects. Our music is a mix of wind instruments and percussions. We are rooted in tradition, very close to the rara tradition, all the while being unique and influenced by others.

Tell us a little bit about the place you come from…

Follow Jah is from Petion-Ville. We are a neighborhood band, true to Petion-Ville, and also a family band; many of our members are related.

What were your highlights in 2015?

We’ve had a very productive 2015. We collaborated with the French jazz pianist Laurent de Wild at the International Jazz Festival of Port Au Prince, and we presented a staged performance for the first time at the very first Rencontres Des Musiques du Monde in Port-au-Prince. We collaborated with James Germain and Emeline Michel. Carnival and Easter was great for us this year as it is every year!

What should we expect to see and hear from you in 2016?

We are going on tour in France, Belgium and in Switzerland. We are touring for two months starting in April. Planning the tour has been hard for us in terms of traveling with a reduced band (ten people) and we’d really like to wow European crowds. We’ve also produced our very first video.

What artists are you watching in 2016?

All music interests us! We are just starting an international career, so we are particularly watching musicians that we can collaborate with. The list includes marching bands steeped in tradition, groups that are open for collaboration and artists that are original and very creative. None of our doors are closed!