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Malou Beauvoir talks about her new collaboration with Paul Beaubrun, "Rasenbleman," it's heritage and what it means to her

Posted: December 3, 2018
Category: Interviews
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Singer-songwriter, Malou Beauvoir, has recently released her latest album, SPIRITWALKER, which is infused with her Haitian culture through her music and lyrics. Her latest single, “Rasenbleman,” is the perfect example of being connected with her roots. On her new single, she sings with fellow singer and good friend, Paul Beaubrun, and on “Rasenbleman,” she sings about “communion with the victims of slavery and oppression who haunt the imaginations of people far beyond the geographical confines of Haiti.”

Malou’s video for “Rasenbleman,” showcases the beauty of Haiti, and the souls of the Black Maroons who fought against the slavemasters in the Haitian Revolution. The clip was shot at Lakou Bovwa, also known as the Peristyle de Mariani, a beautiful and mystique-drenched Vodou temple south of Port-Au-Prince. 

Discover what all Malou Beauvoir and I had to discuss about “Rasenbleman,” and what it’s heritage means to her, the collaborations with the music director for the single and her guest singer Beaubrun, and more.

How did your collaboration with Paul Beaubrun come about, and what’s it like singing with him?

Malou Beauvoir: Paul is amazing and a wonderful friend and a great musical partner!

How did we meet?: In Nov 2016, we were each invited to perform separately in L.A. at a fundraising Gala for FONKOZE Foundation (an organization focused on bringing financial inclusion and development services to the poor (especially women) of Haiti, through micro-financing and training). I was in New York working on SPIRITWALKER with a friend and fellow singer, James Germain, who kept saying that I should meet Paul….we finally all met for coffee and started playing some music. Paul and I then realized during the conversation that we were both going to be performing at the same gala in the following week. He was so talented and such a “for real” musician that I was captivated on the spot.. He ended up accompanying me (with his guitar) on my songs and then he went on to do his. It was a great! As we spoke, we realized that we shared common values and a belief that it was time to fight for change in Haiti with music… with art… with words and with actions.

I was slotted to perform at the JazzMag “DIVAS” Festival in Paris, with Cecile Mc Lorin Salvant and Yillian Canizares only 2 months later. I chose that opportunity to introduce some songs from SPIRITWALKER and invited Paul Beaubrun and James Germain, to come to Paris and be my special guests. After that trip, Paul and I knew that we were destined to write songs and work together because it flowed so naturally and in the same direction. His talent, his fresh vision of Haitian music and his openness are just really inspiring. I love to fusion different styles and sounds and describe what I’m looking for by how it makes me feel (like “laying on a quiet beach” or “walking through a thunderstorm” or “driving through mad traffic with horns and whistles”) Paul (as do my co producers Chico Boyer and Cheff Loncher) just gets it…goes with it ..encourages it and it’s fun and inspiring. We both have a tendency to be perfectionists and, our musical references go beyond traditional Haitian music into different genres including Rock, Country, Broadway, African, Arabic and the list goes on… Coupled with his incredible professionalism and drive….it is a joy and a privilege to work with him.

“Rasenbleman” is a very compelling song, which is a “religious celebration for Haitians and an opportunity to connect with the land, the spirits and each other.” Can you discuss more on this profound matter?

Malou: Rasenbleman was written by Toto Bissainthe, a gifted Haitian singer and actress. Her connection with the roots of Haiti, through the people and their Vaudou culture, always touched me deeply and struck a chord because of my father’s family’s attachment with the Haitian Vaudou culture and my mother’s love of Haitian Music. Although the author’s original version of “Rasenbleman” were very slow and almost acappella, I always heard within the notes, a cry for Haitians to unite, put aside their differences and heed the voices that led their ancestors to accomplish so much with so little. Living in Europe and America, during these troubled times of terrorism, social dis-satisfaction, environmental issues and economic imbalance, I realized that Haitians were not the only people who felt “disinherited” and I realized that the song, though in Creole, was meant to have a wider reach and touch all those in need of encouragement and self love despite difficult times or circumstances.

The words speak of “rallying together to discover what became of our ancestors. It goes on to say that we were divided, our cultures shattered and our people scattered far apart. We did what we must to survive, but these thoughts are too harsh now for us to bear.”

My interpretation of this last line, has always been positive. For me, it expresses a need for us to let go of past rancor and rebuild the future all together, hand in hand based on respect of our differences and love, not hatred.

What, specifically about “Rasenbleman,” draws you mentally and physically to it, especially when you sing?

Malou: The optimism of the song. Its strong spirituality that transcends time. The promise it holds. The energy it conveys!

Was the vision behind the video for “Rasenbleman” a joint effort of yours, Paul’s and director, Hugue-Robert Marsan?

Malou: MA creative work is always a joint effort as it evolves so organically when artistic people are involved!

I must say that the concept and the story were initially my idea and I really wanted that video to reflect an ancient spiritual warrior awakening (with the aid of a mystical object) the spiritually-minded souls of today’s world to lead a battle against greed, prejudice and indifference. I went so far as to have the intro filmed in another location (also an old fort) about a month before meeting Hugh Robert Marsan. However my concept was a vision that was hard to create with a budget and Hugue-Robert Marsan, incredible Artist and Director that he is, really shaped the concept into the video that exists today. He came up with the idea of the Black Maroons coming out of the Fort Alexandre to symbolize the past, found the means to tell the story and organized every aspect of that shoot!

The amazing thing is the way it happened. Paul and I were speaking while I was in Haiti for family business and said “Malou, we have to shoot this video in Haiti!” I had no idea where to go in Haiti to find a film crew and director…and shoot in less than a week! Paul put me in touch with MIKABEN’s ( another Haitian artist) manager, Lionel Benjamin, and we managed to organized the shoot in 3 days. Hugh-Robert Marsan and his team from Graphcity pulling together the crew, locations and logistics (even finding water, electricity and gas in Haiti is really difficult in some locations!). The spirits helped also as my uncle’s home, was the only place that I could ever imagine filming the temple scenes. Home of the late ATI Max Beauvoir (Supreme leader of Vaudou), The Peristlye de Mariani (now: LaKou Beauvoir) is a sacred place for Haitian Vaudou because Max Beauvoir was amongst the first to proclaim that all Haitians had to have a voice in their governance and that the most effective way to enable this was through their common language, Vaudou. He fought this battle all his life, as did his daughter Rachel, who passed away in 2018, 2 years after her father). It was a difficult decision to break the mourning after 2 successive deaths, before the traditional 1 year period. The decision was made 1 day before and the filming began the next day!

Hugue-Robert Marsan understood my relation to this home and the message we were trying to put across. He artistically took it from there and went far beyond what I could have had hoped for with the means we had at our disposal. Graphcity is a highly professional team of artistic individuals, photographers, videographers, musicians and they were incredible. …..finding solutions for lighting, food for 120 people overnight…makeup in pickup trucks with headlights for lights…

Paul Beaubrun flew to Haiti with a day’s notice, juggling his activities to make it all work in the stifling heat, rolled his sleeves up, carried materials, organized the dancers and transportation, etc and was, as usual…stellar in his performance!

The present day Haitian King of Vaudou, Augustin St.CLOU, with 2 days notice, managed to find a means to bring a community of 65 Vaudouisants (Troupe Racines Papayes) from 4 hours away… via Public transport..to ensure that the first “video” after Max’s and Rachel’s passing was carried out properly and with respect for the love that we hold for Vaudou.

The video was a creative work on film, but also worked it’s magic on the ground reuniting communities that might not have met and appreciated each other otherwise.

Can you tell us your some of your most memorable experiences filming “Rasenbleman”?

Malou: See above!

It was a wonderful experience…soon to be repeated in another sacred place in Haiti for “Papa Loko”.

Fun Questions

Who was your first concert, and do you have a particular favorite, thus far?

Malou: I grew up with a hard rock musician brother, listening to Kiss, the Eagles, Chicago competing with Janis Joplin, Edith Piaf, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Barbara Sutherland on my parent’s stereo in the living room! I know the first performances that rocked my world were the Jackson 5, undeniably. I love American music with great singers (Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, ), also World music singers (Miriam Makeba, Cesaria Evora, Ismael Lo, Toto Bissainthe, Martha Jean Claude) and so many others ..Chicago, Queen Barbra Streisand, Andra Day, Kathleen Battle, Celine Dion). I don’t think I am the type of artist that is just influenced by one style…I appreciate many different artists for many different reasons (emotion, voice, lyrics, sound..)

What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?

Malou: My first vinyl album was from the French singer Mireille Mathieu. I went on vacation in Haiti and fell in love for the first time …my “boyfriend” and I were so chaperoned that nothing could happen, but we listened to her music all the time….while sitting there staring at each other. I came back to NY with the album.

Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?

Malou: Whitney Houston, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Miriam Makeba, and Amy Winehouse all touched me deeply through their songs (indelible memories) and voices.

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