Listening: Frantz Casséus

by Nicholas Laughlin on August 2, 2010

Your Antilles blogger is spending the long Emancipation weekend at his desk, slogging away at CRB correspondence and copyediting, and kept company by the wistful, sometimes eerie melodies of the Haitian composer and musician Frantz Casséus. Specifically, I’m listening to the Haitiana album he made with the soprano Barbara Perlow, originally released in 1969 and now available from Smithsonian Folkways.

I can’t find any of the tracks from Haitiana on YouTube, so instead here is Casséus playing the “Lullaby” from Haitian Dances, recorded in 1954.

Cover artwork for Haitian Dances, by Frantz Casséus

There’s a lovely memoir of Casséus by his protégé Marc Ribot in the Winter 2003 issue of BOMB. As a lagniappe, here is Harry Belafonte’s celebrated 1956 recording of Casséus’s song “Mèci Bon Dié”:

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

neil o'neil July 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for the post. I’ve been a fan of Casseus since Marc Ribot brought him to my attention in the 1990s, but I never knew about the Belafonte recording. It’s great. Just got my copy of Haitiana today, hence my exploration of MBD. It’s one of a few compositions that pop up under different names on Casseus’s small discography. It’s “Coumbite” when he recorded it instrumentally as a part of his Haitian Suite, and it’s “Harvest Song” on his 1953 recording with Lolita Cuevas . Likewise, the Haitian Suite’s “Yanvalloux” turns up as “Nan Fond Bois” on Haitiana.

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